HBO 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic - Episode 1 Review

Saturday night marked the first entry in the popular HBO series "24/7," this year between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings as they gear up for the NHL Winter Classic.

Some look forward to the series more than the game itself as it provides plenty of uncensored behind the scenes footage. Essentially viewers are treated with a barrage of F-bombs and an inside look at the life of the average hockey player.

The first episode, which aired last night at 10 p.m., delivered on the use profanity and a few interesting, if not quirky, characteristics of some players. But let's start with the not-so-good:

The Red Wings coverage was, for the most part, dry. The sit down interviews with the players had them regurgitating clichéd responses you generally hear post-game. The saving grace came when the cameras fixated on Daniel Alfredsson. It provided a sobering thought to fans as the Alfredsson family discussed the adjustments related to moving to a new city, especially after occupying their previous home for 17 years. But truthfully, the lack of quality Detroit coverage made Alfredsson’s home life palatable in comparison. The camera crew struggled to capture any insight on the Red Wings beyond that, except that head coach Mike Babcock likes to job around the concourse of the Joe Louis Arena after practices. Also, Jimmy Howard goes into a strange, boxer-like trance before hitting the ice.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, proved to be the main source of entertainment in this episode. Viewers got a glimpse of Dion Phaneuf’s home life; particularly his walk-in closet adorned with plenty of, well… swag. Also note-worthy, the soft-spoken Phil Kessel displayed his expansive skill-set as he defeated James van Riemsdyk at table hockey. Then there was head coach Randy Carlyle who had his toast caught in the toaster. Instead of retrieving his half-burned breakfast himself, he called maintenance to do it for him. That’s just gold.

The highlight of the episode, though, came when the focus shifted on Joffrey Lupul’s return to the line-up. Specifically when Lupul dropped the gloves with Slava Voynov and, among other expletive-filled remarks, delivered this incredible insight: “You [expletive] piece of [expletive]. Keep your [expletive] stick down.”

Hopefully the next episode, which airs on Dec. 21, provides a more interesting look at both teams’ inner sanctums. The series could use some more Kessel weirdness and non-scripted interactions with the Red Wings. They have only scratched the surface here.