Last year, Hulu struck a deal to bring a ton of Russian TV programming stateside via their VOD service. Of course, I don't speak or read or really understand Russian (which was half the fun of trying to blog KHL games), so there isn't too much that really appeals to me. However, I did stumble upon the hockey drama series Junior League, and have been watching a few episodes. Spoilers ahead!
Junior League follows the Bears, a team that plays in a never-named league. Seeing that they often talk about winning promotion to the Youth Hockey League, I would assume that the Bears play in, or on the same level as Russia's MHL-B, which is roughly the same as Junior A in Canada. It's also never noted where the Bears play. Judging by their uniforms and the opening of the first episode featuring among others, Slava Fetisov and Ilya Bryzgalov, it seems implied that they're probably affiliated loosely with CSKA Moscow (most MHL and MHL-B teams are in a system with a senior club either in the KHL, VHL, or third-tier RHL). There's also usually a KHL title card at the beginning of each episode, so I guess the league has signed off on this show. Again, with there being very little English-language media out there about this show, it's hard to tell for sure certain facts. Thankfully the episodes are all subtitled in English, but the translations are sometimes in very broken English, and some idioms are too literal and just don't make any sense (see the title of this post).
Off the ice, it's just your normal teen drama series. Think of it like Friday Night Lights, but about Russian hockey. You have the typical relationship drama, mostly a love triangle between two of the team's top-line forwards and a cheerleader. See also Misha overcoming his shyness to talk to Alina, a figure skater that trains at the same academy. Family drama is also abundant. Misha lives with his grandmother because his dad is an alcoholic, Kislyik's dad getting involved in his love life and cutting off his cash flow, etc..
There's also the overwhelming Russian-ness of it all. Not just that the team is plagued by shady front-office dealings, either. When the coach cuts seven kids from the team, one of their fathers (who supplied the team with free gas for the bus) hires two men to attack him outside of his apartment.
The on-ice product is a big selling point. Sometimes the play can be a little sloppy (especially the goaltenders), but we're talking about Russian kids here. The game and practice scenes definitely hold their own (even if they all do have the same lame guitar riffs playing throughout).
Since you've got this far, you might as well watch it, right? Good. I'll give you a brief rundown on some of the characters, so you're not too lost:
Andrei Kislyak: Boy, what an asshole! He's the cocky, smartass forward who clashes constantly with coaches and teammates. His father is a hotshot lawyer that doesn't take any of his crap.
Sergey Makeev: Sergey replaces Stepan, the former head coach, in the first episode. He played 7 games for Montreal before a severe knee injury ended his career. Definitely a bit of a hardass, and is on a bit of a mission to sort out the club's higher ups, especially Vadim, the director of sport.
Misha Ponomarev: Another forward. Sergey kicks him off the team when he shows up to practice without skates. Turns out his dad stole them and pawned them to buy alcohol. Because Russia. Also works on the side as a delivery boy.
Semen Bakin: The backup goalie that idolizes Patrick Roy. Is also allergic to fish, and not good at the internet.
A lot of the show's comic relief comes from Semen's father, Nikolay. He's a bit delusional, and thinks he can convince Sergey to kick all the "rich brats" off of the team so that his son will start. At times, I wish there'd be an English version of this show, so that Rob Brydon could play this role.
Egor and Dima Schukin: Egor is the team's captain. His brother Dima is the starting goalie. Dima realizes a few episodes in that he probably will never go pro, and struggles to find time for both hockey and his schoolwork.
Sasha Kostrov: Yet another forward. There's not much defenceman love on Junior League. He runs away after getting in an argument with his parents about quitting hockey and going to college. Probably clashes with Kislyak the most out of all the team's players.
Vasiliy Frolov: aka "Vasgen". The team's trainer. Also clearly the One That Cares. When Sasha runs away, Vasgen lets him sleep in his office for a few nights. He also gives Misha a pair of his skates after he's kicked off the team. Also in my favorite part of the entire show, he calls almost everyone "Astronaut".
Yuriy Romanenko: Stepan's #2, who keeps his assistant job under Sergey. Is definitely in cahoots with Vadim, and occasionally tries to undermine Sergey.
Anton Antipov: Played on the team the year before, but quit after an incident involving Yuriy and his mother. After a few losses, Sergey goes on a mission to get him back on the Bears.