One of the great things about Netflix is that they constantly update their lineup and bring in some of the greatest sports documentaries, whether it is ESPN’s series 30 for 30 or the one I just recently found EPIX’s The Road To The Winter Classic (TRTTWC for short, not that it’s really that short! We’ll call it Road). So “Road” focuses on the lead up to the meeting of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals on January 1, 2015 in Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
If you can believe it, I’m not really a fan of either team so you are going to ask me why I even bothered to watch it. I have a history with both teams, so you’re gonna have to go back in time with me. Back to the early 90s and the growth of a teenager in an area filled with high school football. While I did love college football, pro football and basketball, I developed this special love of hockey thanks to a team in the East Coast Hockey League known as the Hampton Roads Admirals. Admirals hockey brought me into the world of hockey thanks to hard hits, huge goals and something to get excited about. I can still remember the first time I ever sat ice side, I wasn’t even old enough to drive, but there I was right by the ice watching some short guy from Wheeling get sandwiched in between two Admirals players and punched while the ref didn’t see. It was nasty and it was intense and I loved every single second of it. The Norfolk Scope hosted the Buffalo Sabres playing an exhibition game and I was there. Alexander Mogilny was one of the first stars I ever saw and it was amazing. The Admirals were my thing, I mean, I loved the Admirals so much I stayed after a game one night to join in on the fan appreciation skate with the Admirals night.
Sooooo…you are asking, what does this have to do with the Capitals and Blackhawks? Well, the Capitals at the time had ties with the Admirals. Plus, the local sports station played Capitals hockey, so guess what? I got into the Capitals. I can remember watching guys like Kolzig and Bondra and Juneau and the tail end of Iafrate’s career. Then there was my favorite capital of all time, Chris Simon. Never the guy that would score 30 goals (came close once! 29 goals!) or 100 points, but the guy gave you everything he had and battled night in and night out.
For a while there I was everything Capitals. But then I saw this goalie play, Jocelyn Thibault, and he happened to be traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. A place I never thought I’d be a fan of. But damned if I didn’t become a fan of every club of Tbo’s. But with the ‘Hawks, Tbo found a place, he went to the All Star Game and he showed all those flashes of brilliance that Montreal had demanded way too early in his career. I always thought the shoes to fill in Montreal were too big, Patrick Roy could never be replaced and the next guy in line was always destined to be the scapegoat for the GM who traded him. Unfortunately Tbo ended up being the guy who took all the crap from the fans.
So because of my history a part of me was curious, and because these things are always interesting, so I started watching. I have three of the four-hour long episodes down and let me tell you, Barry Trotz is one of those coaches players must love playing for and if I played for Joel Quenneville, I’d have a hard time not laughing. These are some of my favorite quotes from “Coach Q” in the game against Minnesota December 16, 2014:
“Fuck on pickles!”
“I’m gonna go fuckin’ mental!”
“It’s a fuckin’ goddamn motherfucker tonight!”
How do you sit on a bench with a guy screaming that stuff behind you and not laugh? Seriously?
He yells at a ref during one of the episode and reels off a blue streak that hangs above the Blackhawks’ bench and the ref says “Are you done swearing at me now?”
“Yes I’m done.”
Barry Trotz meanwhile, he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He throws in the f bomb every now and then but he does it when he has to. When he does it’s for a reason, he wants you to hear what he’s saying. He’s not afraid to give his star player a good ribbing either. Where Alex Ovechkin goes, so too does the Capitals and to be fair, before this I wasn’t a huge “Ovi” fan. But damned, three episodes in and I think I might just like the guy, don’t tell anyone, but I think he might just be alright. Talk about leading by example, not only does he score, but he goes out there and runs guys into the boards and gives guys hell. It’s incredible. Plus he’s pretty funny too. Santa Ovi gives out Wireless Beats headphones for Christmas to everyone, I mean come on!
After one particularly bad loss in overtime, Coach Trotz yells at a ref (who himself is mic’ed up) and the ref screams back “you were on the power play the whole fuckin’ night.” Absolutely hilarious. At one point the ref is leading two players to the penalty box and gets so annoyed he doesn’t even hide that he’s not bothering with the player’s number.
It’s an amazing series, I haven’t even seen the last and part of me doesn’t want to watch it because it’s been such an incredible journey I honestly don’t want it to end. Seeing how these players live their hockey lives, giving signed jerseys as Christmas presents (yes please!), seeing the sadness of losing a member of the Blackhawks equipment staff as he passes away at 34 to how they spend time on their off days. It’s incredibly well done and the interaction is great, if nothing else, watch it to see Coach Q “go fuckin’ mental!”