Some people think the best part of the Road To The Winter Classic series is the access to the coaches.
There have been some standouts (both on HBO and Epix) in the past such as Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma, Joel Quenneville, and John Tortorella. Randy Carlyle struggling to operate a toaster was a moment Maple Leafs fans will never forget.
On the other hand, there’s definitely been some serious letdowns. Mike Babcock, we’re looking at you.
So that got us thinking at the NHL desk: Who would be the perfect coach for the show?
We polled a handful of our trusted NHL contributors to come up with our best choices.
See who our staff picked below:
Rory Boylen, NHL Senior Producer:
Dave Cameron, Ottawa Senators Who knows if the Senators will be featured in an outdoor game with Cameron still behind the bench, but he would provide some good sound bites for a Road To The Winter Classic series.
Especially if, like the Bruins and Canadiens did as the Winter Classic drew near, his team hits a slump.
With 13 years of head coaching experience between the OHL and AHL, and four years as an assistant behind Ottawa’s bench, Cameron may not go into any television series as a well-known coach to the average fan, but he sure would be by the end of it.
Need proof? You don’t have to look further back than Dec. 12 after a 3-1 Ottawa loss to Montreal. Cameron had to pull his starter Craig Anderson, who went nuts when he left the ice. But at the end of the game, Cameron spoke furiously in front of the cameras. Just look at that glare. Frightening.
Joe Pack, NHL contributor/history buff:
Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets If you liked Dan Bylsma in the first iteration HBO’s show, you’d love Paul Maurice. And not just because of their striking resemblance.
Maurice, like Bylsma, has always been a thoughtful and well-spoken head coach with a high level of comfort in front of the camera. And Bylsma’s performance on 24/7 was the stepping stone to the world getting to know him. He went on to win the Jack Adams that season.
Maurice became the second-youngest NHL coach to reach 500 wins, he’s been behind the bench for over 1200 games now, and it’s all the more impressive given he’s never led a powerhouse squad — the 2002 Stanley Cup Final appearance with the Hurricanes notwithstanding.
Plus, you’d have to have some nerve to coach in both Toronto and the KHL.
He’s also endlessly quotable:
“I am an incredibly funny man,” he said earlier this month. “No, I’m serious. I’m a bag of giggles all day long.”
Regarding his former charge:
“I liked Mike Frolik right up to the point that he didn’t want to be a Winnipeg Jet and I can’t remember what he looks like now.”
Emily Sadler, NHL Staff Writer:
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets Yes, he’s already had his time in the spotlight. In 2011, the then-coach of the New York Rangers was featured on HBO’s 24/7.
But drama and great Tortorella-isms seem to accompany the outspoken coach no matter which team’s bench he’s behind, and an opinionated coach like Tortorella deserves a little more camera time.
Sure, the Blue Jackets may not be the most enticing team for a Winter Classic… but oh, the possibilities.
We saw him unleash his temper on the Rangers a few years ago, and we’ve seen glimpses into his softer side since — his love for dogs, for example, as evident in his charity work with animal shelters (including his own foundation).
Any further insights into the life of such a fascinating hockey figure who can go from fired up to, well, this…
… would be welcome, in my opinion.
And if the cameras just accompany him as he plays with puppies in between locker room rants? No complaints here.
Jeff Simmons, NHL Staff Writer:
Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche I’m glad some of you aren’t TV producers. Cameron? Maurice? C’mon.
Let’s go with the most engaging figure of all the head coaches, Patrick Roy.
He’s fiery. He’s opinionated. He’s got great quotes. Just ask Jeremy Roenick. And once in a blue moon, he goes after other head coach on the bench.
Roy was especially known for his quirks during his playing days so one could only imagine what kind of antics he would get up to with an all-access look?
Remember, this is a man who used to talk to his goalie posts. Plus, think of all the exciting stuff he has around his house. There must be a hell of a memorabilia collection.
And unlike some of the picks on this list, the Avalanche are actually an interesting team. Roy and Colorado would make for TV gold. Sign me up.