Blackhawks News

Road to the Winter Classic: Episode 1 Recap

By Ericka McFee

Sep 23, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; A general view of the rink layout during a press conference for the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game to be played between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Road to the Winter Classic: Episode 1 Recap

Leave it to the geniuses who schedule these things. The inaugural episode of the four-part series “Epix Presents: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” aired last night at 9 pm CST.

That’s right: it aired smack dab in the middle of last night’s Blackhawks game. At first, I thought perhaps a Washington Capitals fan was behind a conspiracy plot to force Hawks fans to choose between the two…and of course we’re going to watch the game. Duh!

Then I realized the Caps were playing last night as well, although their game ended earlier, despite going through a ridiculous, record-shattering 20-round shootout against the Florida Panthers.

I was engrossed in the Hawks game myself, when I glanced at the clock and realized it was already a couple minutes after 9:00. And there were still about three minutes or so left in the second period. Drat.

But I had a commitment to fulfill, so I scrambled to get my laptop out (it’s not aired on TV but rather a live stream online), and some pen and paper to scribble notes while the game played in the background. Fortunately, I didn’t miss much because the opening sequence was already shown in the teaser commercials that ironically were broadcast on TV.

I did, however, pull up the site just in time to watch the last goal of WCF Game 7 last year.

Okay, Epix. First, you decide to show the darn thing during a game, because you obviously never heard of a thing called published game schedules. Then to add insult to injury, you show probably the worst moment in Hawks history in years.

But never fear, post-production positive spin is here! Both the voice-overs and the interviews with Captain Jonathan Toews and goalie Corey Crawford talked about how the team is using that to stay hungry and motivated this season. They also talked about the contracts inked by Toews and fellow headliner Patrick Kane, just in case we all forgot.

Abrupt scene change to the Washington Monument in D.C. The voice-over talks about new head coach Barry Trotz (former head coach of the Nashville Predators) being “cerebral.” (Uh, okay.) They also present what is at stake for their team this season: having missed the 2014 playoffs, Trotz is trying to get a team that has heretofore relied too much on offense to start thinking more about defense.

Now we have the skinny about both teams out of the way. Back to the Hawks, where our anthem singer is preparing for a game at the UC against the Montreal Canadiens. I kind of wanted to smack the voice-over guy for mispronouncing his last name, especially when Gene Honda could be heard introducing him in the background. Derp. Still, it was great to see him showcased, because he has just as much to do with the positive energy in the United Center as the players themselves, in my humble opinion.

Some of the funnier moments of the episode came from Coach Quenneville is mic’ed up during this and other games. We all knew he could be pretty feisty, but he dropped so many F-bombs it would even have put Corey Crawford to shame. It wasn’t all foul-mouthed, however, and he could be heard saying funny things like “Back door Susan” and “Peanut butter” whenever the Hawks scored goals.

Because we have to be fair and give equal air time, the scene goes back to the Caps, where Coach Trotz is spending a day with his family at the National Zoo. Although I enjoy watching behind the scenes moments of games, and hearing the silly things that players and coaches say, the personal moments are some of the best. They talked about how they were facing the challenge of moving from Nashville to D.C. with their youngest son Nolan, who has Downs Syndrome.

Back to injury-riddled Chicago. At this point, after the team’s 6th straight win and with a clumsy Corey Crawford is still out, Patrick Sharp was just about ready to make his comeback (to which Kris Versteeg observed, “He’s gonna make our lineup prettier…more girls in the stands.”) One of the teaser trailer scenes, with Andrew Shaw giving Bryan Bickell a hard time about his face, was funny and great to see again.

There were some other interesting moments shown during the rest of the episode, which thankfully ended with enough time to switch my focus back to the third period of the Hawks game. The Caps’ goalie coach Mitch Korn, a resident of Florida, pretty much lives out of his car during the season. Brad Richards is settling in, not just to a new city and team, but to a new family life with wife Rechelle and infant son Luca. The Caps prevailed against the Tampa Bay Lightning but fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets (and apparenty Chicago native Pat Sajak is a Caps fan…who knew?).

Last but not least, there was the infamous Boston Bruins game and the questionable hit on Jonathan Toews, along with the even more questionable (or at least controversial) decision not to pull him from the game right away. I won’t opine on it here, because a lot of folks have strong opinions on both sides of the issue, but it’s something that would be worthwhile to watch if you didn’t catch the episode last night.

If you missed the live stream, you can sign up for a free trial of Epix to watch it on demand. The next episode will stream on Tuesday, December 23, at 9:00 pm CST (you guessed it – there’s another Hawks game on that night). You can find more information about the series here.

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