Nothing says in your face like a rigged nosed NHL hockey coach spitting profanity at his team of grown up hockey players. Welcome to the show, ladies and gents.
When Road to the Winter Classic premiered on HBO years back with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, the idea was simple. Give fans an unfiltered take of what goes on behind closed doors. The coaches, players, their homes, locker rooms, meeting rooms, and adventures around their home city and road trips. All access. It delivered and while it lost some of its velocity upon moving to EPIX, the juice of the series is still intact. Relentless up close action, moving music, and plenty of profanity. In case you missed the memo, cursing is a part of life in sports.
The series premiered for its third year on EPIX Friday night, featuring four teams instead of two. This proved to be a hang nail for St. Louis Blues fans, who wondered if the extra coverage of the Centennial Classic teams(Detroit and Toronto) would pry minutes away from the Blues-Hawks coverage. After hour one of the four part, I can report that is not the case. Here are a few highlights aka takeaways.
Reavo the Unlikely Hero
Ryan Reaves scored a game deciding goal in New Jersey, and the sound bite of the episode belongs to the ref telling him to calm down during a verbal battle near the bench.
“Don’t even talk to him. You got the game winning goal right, Reaves. For fucks sake, you’re a goal scorer.”
Reaves is one of my favorite players in the NHL. I have a soft spot for big guys who like to punch things, talk shit, and can back it up. Even he is still getting used to putting pucks in the net.
I’d love to follow a referee around on a three city roadie. These guys deal with so much bullshit and sideline garbage that I could pull together a book of jewels from a few interviews This is both hilarious and brutally honest. Reaves scored a pair of goals this past week, and even he has to adapt to that new reality.
Gorgeous St. Louis
I love my fucking city, and the cinematography used in this series is simply amazing. it captures the Lou at its best. The shots of the city are plentiful, and make our city look like a damn cathedral of sports action. Look for the one that catches the sunset piercing through the American flag towards the Arch. Wow. Thank you EPIX for these epic shots.
There’s a special moment in this series. Blues fans get to see the coach Doug Armstrong nearly replaced Ken Hitchcock with, Mike Babcock, work his rigged nose ruthless magic as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s a pair of cocks in one series. There’s another parallel. The last time the Maple Leafs won a Stanley Cup, the Blues were entering the league. Hearing Hitch spit out an F bomb during a fire them up speech is just weird. He always sounds knowledgeable, but also tired. Babcock knows how to make a “fuck” truly sing.
The young 20 year old kid got the spotlight, with his big night in New Jersey and on the road trip, and several interview quotes from the kid who almost grows a beard. Fabbri, Joel Edmundson, and Ty Rattie all venture out to a popular burger joint in Minnesota. After a bite, someone utters if there is a burger like that in St. Louis. They all laugh like little school kids. Attention boys, it’s called Joey B’s on the Hill, Stacked STL, or O’Connells on the Hill. Kids. Can’t shoot them. Can’t get them to play great hockey or know where burger joints are in their own city.
Complaint: Can I have some one on one time with Vladimir Tarasenko? The best fucking player on the team and the superstar stud Russian. Come on EPIX. Be better here. I’ve seen enough players with their kids at home playing. It’s cute and old.
Question: Can I see a family fight or will it always be lovely bunnies and smiles at a hockey player’s home? I want to see a player and his wife have a loud shouting match full of obscenities. Let’s get very real.
Okay, Eric Desjardins’ kid is pretty cool.
Closing thoughts. Solid first episode. The use of Lee Dewyze’s “Blackbird song” from the Walking Dead soundtrack at the end was signature placement, and the final images gave way to something truly promising. I want more Blues and more Tarasenko, but the first hour was worth the time.
Carry on, my wayward sons and daughters.