Tonight the NHL Network debuted the new series “Behind the Glass: Inside the New Jersey Devils Training Camp” and it was a solid look at what goes in to a National Hockey League training camp.
The episode opened giving viewers an overview of where the Devils have been and where they were recently by subtly showing the Stanley Cup banners hanging in Prudential Center and head coach John Hynes talking about the recent lack of success for the team until making the postseason last year.
The opening establishes that they will be following captain Andy Greene as the grizzled vet looking to get one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup; 2017-18 NHL MVP Taylor Hall and the veteran core of the club as well as the young prospects and talent that is coming in trying to find their way on to the team.
Hall is shown at the NHL/NHLPA media tour in Chicago where he is doing interviews and other appearances on behalf of the league and the team. Hall said that he was “happy to be in New Jersey” and felt that the fans and franchise have really accepted him. He reiterated a few times during the episode that hearing the “M-V-P!” chants at Prudential Center down the stretch was a motivating factor to him and one of the coolest things to happen in his hockey career.
We then hear from Greene and see him arriving at The Rock for the opening of training camp. Coach Hynes then gives a pep speech before camp begins, preaching to the players about competing and starting with a clean slate: no one cares about what they did last season, they need to prove themselves fresh in 2018-19.
Hynes’ home life is profiled as we see him playing basketball and ping-pong with his family and he speaks to just being able to come home and not feel too much of the pressure he has during an NHL season.
We then switch to the goalie problems the team has been having due to Cory Schneider’s hip injury. Keith Kinkaid is trying to stay sharp and show that he can play well if needed again this year, should Cory need extra time to heal. We see Cory working out in the weight room and rehabbing.
John Quenneville’s road is covered. He was drafted by the Devils four years ago and feels this is his make-or-break year. His dream is to play in the NHL and he feels he could make the Devils out of camp. Quenneville’s grit is highlighted as he chirps teammates during scrimmages. Hynes mentions that he is “not a quiet kid.”
The story of Blake Speers making the opening night roster in 2016 is recounted and then his regression the following year as he felt he put way too much pressure on himself to make the team in 2017. He wants to make a push to make the team this year, but his plans hit a snag when he breaks his nose on the first day of camp. He, of course, would play through it and was wearing a full face shield in Montreal for the preseason game up there.
Kurtis Gabriel and his toughness and grit are profiled next. He is the kind of player that Hynes likes and will be given a chance because of what he brings to the team. He is shown during the Rangers game that would follow engaging the opposition and trying to get under their skin.
We then get to the preseason games, as the team has a split squad pair of games home against the Rangers and in Montreal against the Canadiens. The Devils, of course, lost in both games, but as the narrator points out, preseason is about finding a rhythm for the vets and for the rookies to make an impression. Speers did just that, scoring the lone goal in the Montreal game despite his injury.
That leads us to the final scene as management are all huddled together in a room giving each player a performance grade on a scale of one to five for the games the night before.
Overall it was a great start to a series that is groundbreaking for Devils fans. Although this has been done in the NFL and in the Road to the NHL Winter Classic, this is something totally different for the Devils. Under Lou, we would never have seen anything like this and the (semi)transparency is amazing. Although the team is only letting you see what they want you to see, it is still so much more of a connection than we would have gotten.
This franchise has come a long way in marketing and promoting itself. Success on the ice will hopefully continue to build because now, you really feel you want these guys to succeed on a human level.
The next episode airs at 7:30 PM on Monday, October 1 on the NHL Network. We will have a recap of the episode up for you here shortly after.