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SBD/Issue 161/Sports Media
HBO's "Broad Street Bullies" Tells Tale Of Rough, Tough '70s Flyers
Published May 4, 2010
|Watch The Trailer For HBO's
"Broad Street Bullies" Documentary
HBO's "Broad Street Bullies" documentary about the '70s Flyers teams that debuts tonight is "packed with intriguing stories" and is a "flat out treat," according to Jonathan Storm of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The one-hour film "looks at a crowd of blue-collar, life-loving Canadians who came cautiously to Philadelphia only to find a city full of like-minded individuals who loved them like a dog." It also "examines how savvy management recognized the potential for a new style of play under the old National Hockey League rules and exploited it for victory" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/4). FANHOUSE.com's Christopher Botta wrote the film, produced by George Roy and written by Erik Kesten, "works well because it is not a 60-minute collection of hockey brawls and interviews only with the Flyers' frequent fighters." The documentary "sets the stage with detailed background on the birth of Philadelphia's hockey franchise in 1967, illustrating how the team eventually came to mean so much to the City of Brotherly Love" (FANHOUSE.com, 5/3). In Buffalo, Alan Pergament wrote "Broad Street Bullies" emphasizes "how this band of Canadians -- who couldn't find Philadelphia on a map before they joined the expansion team in 1967 -- quickly became part of the fabric of the community and remain so to this day" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/1). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted the "former players and their owner, Ed Snider, speak with joy about mixing fisticuffs and filthy play with undeniable hockey skills to remake hockey in their image at the Spectrum" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/3). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote the documentary is a "good look back, an explanation and examination of the unforgettable and often unforgivable." Mushnick: "Unlike some HBO documentaries, this one presents mostly straight-ahead story-telling, a solid show-and-tell with little attempt to attach time-coded and time-coated socio-political significance to the tale of a hockey team. That's good, because the Flyers were what they were" (N.Y. POST, 5/2).
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY: In N.Y., Stu Hackel wrote despite its "sometimes graphic depiction of what the Flyers wrought, this film is anything but an overly violent or sensationalized portrait of a team." But the "larger issue, which goes unexplored in the film, is how the NHL and hockey came to be perceived as a result of the Flyers' style." HBO has transformed the Flyers' story into an "attractive, more narrowly focused feel-good story about a bunch of guys who went out and played for themselves and their fans, and what the rest of the world thought was and remains inconsequential." But "for those whose view and love for game extends beyond this one particular team, that's not the complete story" (NYTIMES.com, 5/3). Also in N.Y., David Hinckley notes the film "acknowledges that in some ways the Flyers did hockey no favors, reducing a graceful sport to a barroom brawl." The documentary "suggests several times that these Flyer teams changed the professional game, and that's arguably true," as professional hockey "matters less today, and part of the reason is that fighting drove away some fans who loved the speed and skill" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/4).
PUTTING A NAME TO A VOICE: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine noted actor Liev Schreiber "has been the voice of HBO sports since 1995," and since then he has "handled voiceover work for nearly 100 sports projects," including the "24/7" franchise and "Hard Knocks," as well as "Broad Street Bullies." Schreiber said of HBO, "We've developed a familiarity with each other and just know what we need." But Levine noted having Schreiber "physically able to provide voicework has sometimes proved logistically challenging," as while many documentaries "have extra days built into the sked, both the 'Hard Knocks' and '24/7' series are often done with a same-day turnaround." If Schreiber is "on location in a foreign country for a feature film or any other reason, he'll head to a local facility and read from there" (VARIETY.com, 5/1).