HBO 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Biggest Takeaways from Episode 2

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2013

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 21: Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets hit by Kyle Quincey #27 of the Detroit Red Wings during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre December 21, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Hockey, it seems, is a different animal.

While HBO’s 24/7 documentary series appears perfectly formattedin its series of three or four 30-minute burststo the predictable wind-down before a Saturday night superfight, the more cluttered run-up to one of 82 games midway through an NHL schedule feels forced.

And considering the teams had actually played each other earlier Saturday in Toronto (won by Detroit, 5-4, in a shootout), the timing issue seemed particularly awkward.

That’s not to say the second of four programs leading into the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs meeting on New Year’s Day at the University of Michigan’s “Big House” was without worthy moments, but there surely weren’t enough of them to carry 50 minutes worth of airtime.

Of course, the level of vocal gravity provided by narrator Liev Schreiber doesn’t change whether his subjects are in a Las Vegas casino or a Detroit ice rink. Nonetheless, the best stretch of Saturday night’s broadcast came when Schreiber simply stayed silent and let those subjectsnamely Wings coach Mike Babcock and Leafs boss Randy Carlylecarry the story.

The episode wrapped up with a pair of inglorious performances from Tuesday night, when Toronto was beaten, 3-1, at home by Florida, and Detroit dropped a 5-2 decision on home ice to Anaheim. And both Babcock and Carlyle reacted as expected, shooing the cameras from the locker rooms and letting the microphones tell the tale of their dissatisfaction.

Schreiber chimed in with a weighty “In the midst of a marathon season, the darkness of a single night can seem overwhelming” line to follow up the silence and close the show, and it’ll be interesting to see if the producers take the step-back tack more in the final two go-rounds.

Aside from that question, here are some takeaway moments from Episode 2:

A Happy Tune

If you thought all athletes favored new-school hip-hop or old-school arena rock, you were wrong.

The Maple Leafsor at least the powerful minority of them who control the locker room sound systemshowed some on-camera love in Saturday’s episode for the stylings of the modern-day queen of twerking, the lovely and moderately talented Miley Cyrus.

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 2:  Head coach Randy Carlyle looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on November 2, 2013 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 4-0. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI vi
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The one-time Disney staple as Hannah Montana has become equivalent to a “Mission Accomplished” sign in Toronto’s postgame gathering, now that her song, "We Can’t Stop," has become standard airplay after victories.

Still, while the song selection is at least moderately popular with the players, their 57-year-old coachhimself a veteran of a 17-year NHL playing careerwould go a different direction.

“A lot of their music is the techno stuff that I remember from the disco era a while ago,” said Carlyle, who played for Toronto, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg from 1976 through 1993. “I prefer classic rock. ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy or Black Sabbath.”

Showing Some Sandpaper

Anyone who watches or follows hockey is aware of the rough stuff.

NHL arenas rarely get louder than during the middle of a scrap on the ice, and the spate of concussions over the past several seasons in evidence that it’s not a game for the faint of heart.

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 21:  Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles with Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings during NHL game action December 21, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Get
Graig Abel/Getty Images

Still, the Leafs seem to be having some trouble walking the line of legality when it comes to hits.

Team captain Dion Phaneuf was shown early in the episode returning from a two-game suspension for boarding Boston’s Kevan Miller, while a hit laid out on St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka by first-year Leaf David Clarksona free-agent signee last summercost him a pair of games after it was reviewed at the league’s headquarters.

Clarkson, incidentally, was docked 10 games at the beginning of the season for joining a preseason altercation against the Buffalo Sabres.

It was a spate of rough play in a Toronto game with Pittsburgh on Monday night that prompted one of the top lines of Saturday’s broadcast, which came from Penguins captain Sidney Crosby during a pre-third-period chat session with Phaneuf.

Responding to Phaneuf’s charge that Crosby and teammates were instigating chippy play during a stretch Schreiber labeled “20 minutes of unyielding belligerence,” Crosby replied, “I don't hit anybody. I haven’t hit anybody in a f**king year.”

Feeling the Pinch

Babcock has coached 10 full seasons in the NHL, during which time his teams have gone to the playoffs nine times, played for the league championship twice and won it once.

Still, the Red Wings’ recent strugglesthey’d lost six games in a row through the end of Saturday’s materialhave got even the winner of more than 450 NHL games looking haggard.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 21: Head coach Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the San Jose Sharks during an NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on October 21, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. San Jose Sharks win in a shoot-out 1-0
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

And it certainly doesn’t help matters when the boss shows up to talk shop.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland dropped in to Babcock’s office following a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the coach offered little in the way of rationale when trying to explain the persistent lack of success.

“It’s nothing-nothing after two (periods) and we’ve got to find a way to get the job done, and we’re not doing that,” Holland said. To which Babcock replied, “I thought we did lots of good things, but we found a way not to win.”

The stress didn’t keep Babcock from a little gallows humor, however.

As he wrote and erased names on a locker-room white board, he recited the laundry list of injuries that have left more than a half-dozen regulars unavailable to play.

“These people don’t matter,” he said, referring to the list of injured personnel, before gesturing to the healthy list and adding, “and these people matter.”

“My 16-year-old daughter says she’s cleared and ready to get on the ice.”  

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from HBO's 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs, which aired on Dec. 21, 2013.

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