“Good teams are loud teams.” —Dan Lacroix, Montreal Canadiens assistant coach
If the latest installment of Road to the Winter Classic were a rink, the loudest voice on it would belong to P.K. Subban, by, oh, about 76 decibels. The spotlight-seizing defenceman is a no-brainer to play lead in the annual miniseries-slash-promotional-vehicle, and he puts a cherry on top before diving into the role.
Episode 1 of Epix’s docu-series counts down to the New Year’s Day outdoor match-up between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium, and producer Ross Greenburg wisely leans on the charisma jolt that is Subban — forever mic’d up and dressed to the nines — to give the show flavour.
He’s funny and chirpy, encouraging and critical, confident and loves nicknames. His in-game commentary is also a little more harsh than kids might expect. Earmuffs. When Subban blows his skate edge twice, he quips, “I had two glasses of wine last night.”
Here are the highlights of the first of four episodes, which debuted Wednesday night. Watch the full episode in the video player above.
It’s not a freakin’ yoga mat. It’s a suit carrier
The direction is clear from the outset, as the curtain opens on the biggest star, Subban, shirtless and grooming himself with razor and toothbrush. Both electric. Slipping on some fur before heading to the rink, he takes a glance in the mirror.
“Perfect,” he says.
When Subban arrives at the dressing room holding some fancy, rolled-up suit bag, teammates kid that he’s lugging a yoga mat.
“Maybe I’ll get you one for Christmas,” he smiles.
The rivalry is real
Boston-Montreal instantly brings something Epix lacked in Year 1 of its takeover from the HBO concept: rivalry. Whereas the journeys of the Capitals and Blackhawks appeared contained, separated by conference and lacking in historic significance, Habs-Bruins is one thing.
Historic reels of Guy LaFleur and Bobby Orr are flicked at, reminding us of the rivalry’s depth, but not overdone. And we meet Diane Bibeau, the Bell Centre organist, who says she wants to play until near death.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara gets spotted by tourists in Boston and chides them for being Habs fans, after posing for a photo. A similar scene would have never unfolded around the Lincoln Memorial.
“The hatred is between those two cities, and I don’t think that’s ever going to end,” says Brad Marchand. “You want to embarrass that team.”
Marchand loves his team, his country
In another scene with a hockey player shirtless at his home, we learn that Marchand has a tattoo honouring the 2011 Stanley Cup, in addition to a large Hockey Canada logo tatted on his upper back. Considering his audition for Team Canada’s World Cup team this season, we wonder if he wanted that shot included for foreshadowing.
Milt Schmidt cameo!
The oldest living Bruin, Milt Schmidt, stops by to meet the team.
“He’s 97,” says the guy pushing his wheelchair, “which is not too bad. And he just got a new girlfriend who’s 92.”
Puck luck—believe in it
The Bruins have a horseshoe framed and hung to the door of their dressing room. The players tap it as they exit between periods and head back to the ice.
Zdeno Chara is regular guy, according to Zdeno Chara
A staple in Boston, the captain goes for a neighbourhood stroll, slapping high-fives and doing regular-guy stuff like popping into the barbershop and buying a blue-collar lunch.
Chara’s barber shows a photo of him shaving off the affable defenceman’s playoff beard, and randoms on the street congratulate him on a good game.
“I’m just a regular guy, so I get a regular sandwich,” Chara says. “Large.”
Brendan Gallagher has Frankenstein’s monster’s hand
“This is the worst part of my morning,” says the injured forward, who must get his busted hand massaged for a half-hour every day.
Gallagher is holding onto a small chance of making it back in the lineup for Jan. 1, and the show would benefit from his easy smile and quick wit. Shame he’s on Epix’s sideline here.
The MVP is a no-show
With Carey Price injured, he does not appear in Episode 1. Bummer. It’s tougher to sell the game when its most dominant player is absent.
Baby Bergeron is pretty dang cute
Kids feature prominently here, as the show’s touchstone themes of family and community are present and accounted for.
It’s lovely to see Patrice Bergeron nuzzle with his eight-weeks-old son, Zack
“You’re the best. Daddy loves you!” Bergeron gushes.
Which, confidentially, is what Claude Julien says to Bergeron after defensive-zone face-offs.
The Bruins needed to break the ice
Both Julien and a couple of Boston players discuss how, with so many tweaks to the roster, it took a few weeks for the Bruins to start acting like themselves in the dressing room this season. The room was stiff, but now the chemistry and interaction is developing. The coach stresses how important that bond is to winning.
“Everyone is showing their true colours,” says Zac Rinaldo.