Winter Classic show is honest, entertaining
And you wondered what players say after a hockey fight, eh?
The long-awaited debut of HBO's "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" hit the airwaves Wednesday night, and, while I suspect the Washington Capitals took a pass after stretching their winless streak to seven games, I took it in.
And was thoroughly entertained.
Just a minute into the show, Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau dropped his first of many f-bombs. Now that's hockey, baby, whether commissioner Gary Bettman was squirming or not. Salty language is part of the environment, from the players to the coaches to the GMs; it's not PG by any means. You want real? You got it in this show.
The Caps welcomed the HBO crew in the middle of a brutal stretch.
"It's a tough month and HBO is in here," Broudreau tells his players. Well, you knew that clip was getting in there.
"But at the same time, I can't sit here and watch [what] we've been going through without saying what needs to be said," continued Boudreau.
With HBO still on his mind, the Caps coach then tells his players that the documentary will no doubt focus on one team struggling and the other, the Pittsburgh Penguins, having the time of their lives.
Yup, that sounds about right.
Boudreau's postgame address to his players following a third-period collapse and shootout loss to Toronto includes another f-bomb. Can't blame him.
"It's one thing playing defensive hockey and it's another to quit playing the game," Boudreau steamed at this players.
Inevitably, the show has to get to Ovechkin, who like his team is going through his struggles.
"I probably have the most shots in the league but sometimes the shots don't go in," he says.
There's an obvious attempt in the show to reach out to a wider audience and not just the normal hockey fans. That makes sense given the hype HBO and the NHL gave this. An example is when they explain how Dan Bylsma started his NHL coaching career in incredible fashion by winning the Stanley Cup. Old news for the majority of viewers, but a needed component for newbies.
The show shifts at one point to a Caps' community event. Showing perhaps how far Washington has come as a hockey market, a young fan that could not have been older than eight years old reminds Nicklas Backstrom of the team's losing streak as the Capitals' center signs an autograph.
"I know, we have to turn it around," Backstrom responds to the young fan without missing a beat.
Classic moment Part 1: Pens forward Max Talbot telling a baby girl, "Never go out with a hockey player."
Classic moment Part 2: The single Talbot whispers to Santa Claus at the team's Christmas party, "I want for Christmas your two little helpers." (Needless to say, Santa's two little helpers were good-looking.)
A rare glimpse for the viewer: Bylsma and GM Ray Shero having one of their regular chats, an honest assessment of players. "Cookie [Matt Cooke], didn't like his game," Bylsma says.
As you might expect, media-friendly Caps owner Ted Leonsis also makes an appearance on the show.
"We need to win a Stanley Cup, that's the pressure that's on us," Leonsis says bluntly. Yup, that pretty much describes the pickle your team is in.
Highlights from a Caps loss to Florida comes up next. Then, a pull-no-punches Boudreau tirade in the dressing room postgame.
"I have never seen a bunch of guys look so f------ down when something bad happens. What are you guys, prima donna perfect that you can't handle adversity? So s---- not going right. It's not f------ working the last 10 days. F------ get your heads out of your a-- and f------ make it work by outworking the opposition ..."
There was more to the rant but you get the picture. Classic hockey coach stuff. Love it.
Pens winger Pascal Dupuis is driving to the rink when he's asked about a linemate named Crosby.
"He's always behind me, he's a slower skater than I am," Dupuis says with a smirk.
Then he gets serious on No. 87.
"He's a special player and a special guy, too. He does everything the right way."
We find out Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, by the way, always have the same seats on the plane. Who knew.
The Pens arrive at their Buffalo hotel room. Fleury drops another bombshell about his roommate Talbot.
"Max always gets naked," Fleury says.
Some Pens take in a meal at the Buffalo Chophouse. Been many times. Yummy.
While some of them are eating, other Pittsburgh players continue a time-honored tradition, moving the beds and furniture of rookies Mark Letestu and Ben Lovejoy from their rooms and into the hallway. I'm just happy Talbot wasn't naked on one of the beds when the rookies discovered the prank.
Finally, about 40 minutes into the show, we get to see Ovechkin's terrific sense of humor. During yet another loss, this time to Colorado, the refs explain to him that teammate Alexander Semin received a major because he cut John-Michael Liles with a crosscheck.
"Well he probably has sensitive skin, no?," Ovechkin tells the refs. Ha.
After this loss, Boudreau goes easy on his players, saying it was a good effort. And then famous last words.
"If we play that good tomorrow, I can guarantee we'll get two points," the coach said.
Tomorrow would be a 7-0 loss to the Rangers. Ouch.
The way the Caps are playing right now, they will have wished HBO never came to town. Good news is, only three more shows, boys.