No, really…they’re just like everyone else.
Episode 3 of the iced version of HBO’s 24/7 reality series went to great lengths to show that the players—some of whom make more in a year than the average layman brings home in a lifetime—were just regular guys when it came to the workday and the holiday season.
Toronto’s David Clarkson takes the subway like any other commuter and walks through Union Station in the Maple Leafs’ home city with nary a glance in his direction. Detroit’s Brendan Smith shared a room as a kid with his brother Reilly and had frequent arguments about prevailing sports-team loyalties.
And multi-decade NHL veteran Daniel Alfredsson has the family over for Christmas and revels in snapping pictures and making memories with the little ones—both his own and those of his siblings.
Such were the topics touched on during the latest installment of the behind-the-scenes documentary, which is stepping out of its traditional boxing character to again chronicle the league’s annual outdoor game—scheduled this time around for the University of Michigan’s football stadium on New Year’s Day.
The game will take place Wednesday, while the series finale is set for Saturday.
The longer the series goes, the more it makes a star of Toronto’s Randy Carlyle.
In his third season behind the Maple Leafs’ bench and ninth overall as an NHL coach, the outspoken 57-year-old has been the off-color soundtrack behind the majority of the memorable scenes thus far, thanks largely to an apparent absence of shyness when it comes to adjacent camera crews.
His locker room presence, particularly when the Leafs are coming off a bad game or a bad period, is one of an angry gym teacher using something other than the King’s English when it comes to making a point and trying to create a competitive spark.
His six-plus season run as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks featured a Western Conference finals appearance in his initial year and a Stanley Cup win in year two. Then came a long slow fade, which saw no more playoff series victories, before he was axed in 24 games into 2011-12—perhaps indicating a short shelf life for the straightforward approach.
He was hired in Toronto later that season and coached 18 games before winning 26 of 48 games in last year’s lockout-shortened season.
“When was the last time you were pissed off and cross-checked someone in the faceoff circle?” he said, during a Dec. 20 practice session that opened the episode. “F*cking get mad, Get f*cking pissed off. Remember that motherf*cker is taking money out of your pocket.”
Following a trend set in earlier episodes, in which the non-game footage was by far the most interesting of the 50-minute shows, the third installment gave a rare look at what goes on in the league’s “Situation Room” at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
There, Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice president of Hockey Operations, oversees a small staff tasked with keeping tabs on each game on a given day’s schedule and being prepared to make a video-replay call on whether a goal was legitimate or in need of a call-back.
Murphy is by no means a novice when it comes to the NHL game. He played 831 games with St. Louis, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles, then spent two seasons apiece coaching the Kings (1986-87 and 1987-88) and the Maple Leafs (1996-97, 1997-98).
The HBO cameras were conveniently on hand during the Wings-Leafs game on Dec. 21 to see Murphy and his team review a goal awarded to Toronto’s Clarkson that gave the hosts a 4-3 lead. Thanks to the plethora of replay angles available, it was easy to see that Clarkson’s stick directed the puck in before it was smothered in the crease for a stoppage of play.
Amid the holiday scenes and locker room obscenities, it was the episode’s most informative moment.
Crunching the Numbers
Speaking of former players now in executive roles, there’s Claude Loiselle.
A veteran of 616 games with five teams as a player, Loiselle became an assistant general manager with the Maple Leafs during the tenure of Brian Burke in 2010 and maintains the same job title these days under new boss Dave Nonis.
The main item on his agenda is a contract negotiation with Toronto defenseman and team captain Dion Phaneuf, who’s in the final stages of a six-year, $39 million deal he signed prior to his trade from the Calgary Flames in January 2010.
Loiselle was shown updating Nonis via cell phone on the progress of the talks with Phaneuf, whom Loiselle said had agreed to the number of years and the salary offered by the Leafs but was still haggling over the particulars of a no-trade clause.
“It’s important to have him signed for a long period of time to continue the track we’re on,” Loiselle said. “The (salary) cap is going up, but everybody wants a raise, and my job is to make sure we get fair contracts for players that leave enough money to bring in better players.
“The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and you can’t do that without having cap space.”
The Ontario-based National Post reported Friday that Phaneuf is close to agreeing on a seven-year, $50 million deal to stay in Toronto.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from HBO's 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs, which aired on Dec. 28, 2013.