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The Malik Report

George’s HBO 24/7 quick take: Show, don’t tell, and Babcock’s himself

Spoiler alert: This is full of 'em:

I was the son of a probation officer who worked in Detroit in the 70's, 80's and early 90's (was, as in my dad passed away 21 years ago), I also happen to have to write up a wrap-up of tonight's Wings loss and the Wings' prospects Saturday outings, and I know that the Wyshynskis of the world do a abso-*#$%@&-loutely fantastic job of breaking down the 24/7 phenomenon (no BS on my part--Wysh and company do a wonderful job), so I'm not going to get you an HBO: 24/7, Red Wings-Maple Leafs, Episode 1 recap (though I will note that MLive's Brendan Savage posted the alternate showings thereof)...

But I can assure you that you won't be disappointed with the episode if you missed it and want to watch it--and if you're a Canadian who has to watch until tomorrow's 7:30 PM EST airing on Sportsnet, you're not going to hear many bleeps, save one f-bomb from Mike Babcock, Daniel Alfredsson wondering whether it was the *#$%@& puck or whether he's *#$%@& old, Daniel Cleary complaining about the goal that was waived off because Tim Thomas flopped in Florida, Stephen Weiss complaining about being penalized, a few from Randy Carlyle and a significant amount of "*#$%@& your shit you *#$%@& shit *#$%@& *#$%@& shit *#$%@& shit!" during Joffrey Lupul's fight with Slava Voynov.

As an English degree-holder who took as many "writing classes" as I possibly could, however, I will strongly suggest that the episode fell victim to the, "Show, don't tell" rule, with far too much exposition taking place. The episode seemed to spend forty-or-so minutes of time, save showing Randy Carlyle valliantly battle a toaster and Dion Phaneuf have a beautiful wife, setting the table for the next three episodes.

The intro, as posted by CBS Sports' Chris Peters, was beautiful, hanging perhaps a little too heavily upon the bankruptcy/unemployment lines after this 3-minute'r...

But it was a set of narratives meant to provide oodles of context for future episodes instead of an episode whose context was set to play out over the course of the remainder of the series.

Were there some frameable moments for Red Wings fans who weren't interested in how wonderfully fashion-oriented Dion Phaneuf was, what a salt-of-the-earth guy Randy Carlyle might be, how super excited Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson are to be in Toronto or how much it must have sucked to blow that lead against Boston last spring (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA)?

If you wanted to see Jimmy Howard kiss the "JHIV" inscription dedicated to his son on the back of his mask or incessantly play pretend catch with the tops of his pads before talking about his struggles, if you wanted to hear Daniel Cleary talk about how much he loves Detroit, if you wanted to hear Stephen Weiss talk about returning to Florida and if you wanted to view the adorably awkward cuteness that was Danny "How Are The Ribs Here?" DeKeyser, Kyle "We Won't Do Shots But We'll Do Fish Tacos" Quincey, Darren "Yeah, I Thought My Ear Fell Off" (when I got cut by a skate at the same time I injured my shoulder) Helm, Brendan "When I See #13 In The Defensive Zone I Just Pass To Him" Smith and Justin Abdelkader gush about Pavel Datsyuk being amazing...

Or if you didn't know that Red Bird III caters to the players so very much that they bake cookies with the players' names and numbers on the back, and pass them out..

There was a lovely, lovely vignette of Alfredsson addressing the fact that his move to Detroit has been hard on his family while setting up a Christmas tree with his four kids, and then taking them down to the Joe, where they were the only people for whom the rink was opened on an "off day," that stuff was great.

You got the sense that Alfredsson is both grateful to be in Detroit, is delighted to have joined the Wings, and that he's also worried about the fact that his family's having to make such a hard adjustment after 17 years in Ottawa.

Mike Babcock may have despised his close-up, but his half-hour jog around the Joe, encouragement of Tomas Tatar to make fun of the Wings' starters, that's-a-fact statements about the fact that the Wings haven't won a Stanley Cup since 2008 not being good enough in Detroit, 60-to-90-second pre-game and intermission comments toward his players before hauling ass out of the locker room (he's just as brief, blunt and well-spoken as he is with reporters), as well as the sense that the man who holds the ship's rudder is preaching a steady hand through a chaotic time (if there was a theme, it was that both the Wings and Leafs find themselves amidst tumultuous seasons)...

Babs was Babs, on 100% of the time 100% of the time, and aside from one f-bomb's worth of encouragement, his best line came when the Cleary goal was waived off due to "incidental contact": "I JUST KNOW IN THE LEAGUE WE'RE TRYING TO GET MORE GOALS, NOT LESS!"

Straight-shooter, alpha-alpha male, ultra-competitive, etc. etc. Babcock is exactly who you think he is: himself. As the Hockey News's Adam Proteau Tweeted during the broadcast, there is indeed a bit of Forrest Gump in Babs, but the life-long learner and teaching coach runs like a train. Straight and on time.

Cleary proved to be himself as well in someone who got gushy about being a Wing, Howard played off the line between even-keeled and arrogant so well that his mentor, Chris Osgood, may have shed a tear, if not Mike Vernon, because Vernon taught Osgood before Howard to insist that all is well and that nothing bothers him even if Ozzie was literally on fire.

Henrik Zetterberg spoke very, very briefly.

Pavel Datsyuk was spoken of so very reverentially by the quintet of young, single Wings on the prowl for mediocre food in Miami, but he was shown and did not speak save this lovely picture:

I rather desperately want you to get to know Todd Bertuzzi, because the Wings' resident grumpy old man is remarkably thoughtful and articulate, but this is all we saw of him:

The Sporting News's Sean Gentile tossed off a superb set of "talking points"...

Phil Kessel, bubble hockey savant. Anything Kessel-related, really. The mere sight of him on an exercise bike is delightful. Watching him hang out with the other single Leafs at the team's Christmas party was particularly funny; "You only get so many chances in this game," he said. See? He's funny.

Dion Phaneuf's style. We've said this before — it's easy to dress well when you're a millionaire tens of times over. But Phaneuf didn't disappoint. His closet was the size of a small training room, and it was filled with cool stuff. Also, he drives a Bentley, because why not, and is married to Elisa Cuthbert. Scratch that, actually. Dion Phaneuf is the worst.

Daniel Alfredsson's kids. HBO pushed the "old guy on a new team" story line pretty hard with Alfredsson, and it had his moments. He and his wife were bluntly honest about the challenges of leaving Ottawa for Detroit, and at one point on the ice, he yelled, "I'm f------ old," to nobody in particular. Still, as is often the case with "24/7," it went for heartstring tugs with the kids. Playing hockey with their dad, trying to set up a Christmas tree — it was good.


Joffrey Lupul vs. Slava Voynov. Speaking of bad words, Voynov has a few American ones down cold. The Kings defenseman scrapped with Lupul earlier this week, and microphones were present.

*#$%@& your shit you *#$%@& shit *#$%@& shit *#$%@& shit!

"It was 4-1" gets the HBO treatment. You know what we're talking about.

But as much as Liev Schreiber's voice joins the pantheon of James Earl Jones, Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman as the one you hope narrates the universe, and as much as HBO makes what is truly an insanely beautiful game (in all honesty, I follow hockey because it is beautiful, it is violent and vicious, but it is also beautiful) even more gorgeous...

This was an episode of Schreiber talking and alternating Babcock-Phaneuf-Alfredsson-Leaf Collapse-Carlyle-Cleary-Lupul-is Pavel back-Panther Game-Howard gets hurt-Lupul quips vignettes.

The narrative drive, the overarching theme, was really absent, and that was disappointing, because you can really use a theme to thrust context into action, or action into context, and instead, it was context about context.

It showed. It didn't tell. That's good enough to titillate and intrigue--and perhaps that's the point given that the show's aimed at a non-hockey crowd--but not to truly "move" an audience.

As a member of the "hockey crowd," I was disappointed.

Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the Center of the Hockey Universe has weighed in in the form of the Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery:

Most of the attention focusses on the two coaches, Detroit’s Mike Babcock and Toronto’s Randy Carlyle. Babcock, one of the most accomplished hockey coaches in history, comes across as a cliche machine, a motivational speaker on skates. Carlyle a little more colourful, his choice of language a bit saltier. One of the best scenes is when they cut to a Leafs practice and Carlyle tries to make some toast before the team heads on to the ice.

“They force you here into healthy stuff,” he says, while searching for some peanut butter. “There’s no more peanut butter. There’s almond butter.”

His toast then gets stuck in the toaster and he has to yell for the Leafs assistant equipment manager Bobby Hastings to come to the rescue.

“You guys did this on purpose,” Carlyle says, with a laugh, at the cameras.

Not surprisingly, the HBO producers decided to concentrate on Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, he of the Hollywood actress-wife Elisha Cuthbert. Early in the show, the cameras goes into the couple’s Toronto home and later shows them playing pickup hockey at the Marlies Christmas party.

Also not surprising, the presentation focusses on the Leafs’ epic collapse against Boston in last year’s playoffs, but there’s nothing really new there in terms of reaction from the players, who still seem distraught at the loss, though Carlyle insists that the team will use the collapse as a positive force this season.

Ottawa Senators fans will get a kick out of a segment taped at Daniel Alfredsson’s suburban Detroit home, where the long-time Senator, who signed with the Wings in the off-season, talks about how much easier it is for him to adjust to a new team and city than it is for his wife Bibi and their four sons. Alfredsson’s best moment comes when he announces to his teammates during practice that he’s “F...ing old.”

As usual, the show reveals hockey players as “team first” guys. There are no selfish rants or me-first displays of egotism. And while that puts the sport, and the NHL, in a good light, it doesn’t always make for riveting television.

I disagree with Buffery's assessment that the show needs an Ilya Bryzgalov to carry it, but it certainly needs more personality.

And Babcock IS a cliche machine--but the intensity with which he delivers those cliches is why he still has a fresh voice, and I guess that's where you'd argue the fact that he's got a young player, "Embellishing the starting line-up with as many insults as he wishes" as an experiment showed, even ever-so-briefly, that he is always trying new things to stay fresh.

Update: Here's NHL.com's Dan Rosen's summary...

Babcock had words for an official who waved off what could have been a goal for Daniel Cleary against Florida because of contact with the goalie.

"I just know in this league we're trying to get more goals, not less," Babcock pleaded, his voice booming from the bench as it typically does.

The next day in Tampa, HBO caught Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard being helped off the ice due to a left-knee injury that will keep him out of the lineup for 2-4 weeks. Howard was shown limping out of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and later with his leg propped up on top of pillows while he lay in his hotel bed watching television; the image of a struggling goalie without the physical ability to get his game going for the next little while.

But the vulnerabilities of the teams weren't all that drove the dramatic first episode. Viewers had a chance to see rookie Tomas Tatar read the Red Wings' starting lineup before the game against Florida at Joe Louis Arena. He was encouraged to insert his own brand of comedy and snark, a new Red Wings tradition created by Babcock.

On an off day for the Red Wings, Daniel Alfredsson, his wife, Bibi, and their four children were featured in their suburban home putting up holiday decorations. Alfredsson took his three older boys to Joe Louis Arena that day so they could skate. It's quite a contrast from what the Alfredsson family was used to during the 14 years in which Daniel was the captain of the Ottawa Senators.

"I think we were all so super-excited when we first got here and then we realized this is it, we're staying here, and this is what we're doing," Bibi says. "Then they started missing their friends and the regular life that they had. So, it's been a little bit challenging, but overall I think it's been good."

And here's the "Did You Know?" Department:

* Did you know that Babcock goes for a 30-minute run through Joe Louis Arena after every Red Wings practice? How about the fact that Red Wings players sometimes get to eat cookies with their names and numbers on them during their flights to road games?

* Did you know that Detroit's dinner crew of Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith talks about Pavel Datsyuk when they're dining?

The Toronto Star's Mark Zwolinski covered "the Toronto moments that matter."

Update #2: The Free Press's Steve Schrader's weighed in:

Behind-the-scenes stuff included:

■ Babcock’s fiery — but clean — dressing-room talks.

■ A nice segment on Daniel Alfredsson’s family making the transition from Ottawa to Detroit.

■ Going to dinner on the road with Justin Abdelkader, Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Kyle Quincey.

■ Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf’s extensive wardrobe — including bow ties — and actress wife Elisha Cuthbert.

■ Even when he’s not around — and he was injured for much of this episode — Pavel Datsyuk dominates the conversation. Like, his teammates wonder, when will he be back.

Episode 2 is Saturday night at 10 p.m. — pretty much right after the Wings and Leafs play an indoor game in Toronto.

Update #3: Via RedWingsFeed, does DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's take serve as an official endorsement?

The best segment might be when HBO’s cameras tag along with Daniel Alfredsson during an off day last Sunday. The veteran forward and his wife, Bibi, discuss the family’s decision to leave Ottawa after 17 seasons to begin a new chapter with the Red Wings before Alfredsson heads downtown to play hockey with his four young sons.

Cameras also show Babcock during one of his 30-minute jogs around the concourse inside Joe Louis Arena, as well as the team’s supper club with members Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith, Darren Helm, Kyle Quincey and Justin Abdelkader dining in a south Florida restaurant where a man at the bar recognizes them and offers to buy a round of Jose Cuervo.

During the Babcock segment, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall praised the coach’s leadership abilities, saying “There are going to be times during the year when things don’t go the right way. But I think he’s been very good at keeping everyone grounded, making sure that everyone stays positive and sticks with and believes in what we do.”

For the parents of small children, be warned there is adult language sprinkled throughout the first hour, especially from Maple Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul who has words for Los Angeles defenseman Slava Voynov.

A scene that showed something that nobody in the media was even aware of is Babcock’s latest method of keeping the players loose prior to each game. The coach selects a player to announce the starting lineup to the players in the dressing room. Last Saturday, against the Florida Panthers, it was Tomas Tatar, who added his own adlibs, cracking jokes about Daniel Alfredsson and Jonathan Ericsson.

Part 1 also shows sit-down interviews with Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Cleary, Jimmy Howard, Drew Miller and Stephen Weiss. Overall, Part 1 shows fans a glimpse into the human side of Babcock, Alfredsson, Weiss and a few others who went to dinner in Ft. Lauderdale.

And CBS Sports' Chris Peters posted a Vine video of Jimmy Howard doing his...Thing...

Update #4: YAY COOKIES!

Update #5: From MLive's Brendan Savage:

Rookie Tomas Tatar also provides some humorous moments when Babcock has him read the starting lineup to his teammates, complete with quips from Tatar that include his claim that defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has been named the best-looking athlete in America by GQ Magazine.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Daniel Cleary also talk about what it's like to play in Detroit.

"This building alone just breathes hockey," Kronwall says. "This has been a winning organization for years and years. It's just what's expected. You bring it every night. That's how it works here."

The cameras also provide a glimpse inside the Red Wings' team plane, they go inside goaltender Jimmy Howard's hotel room on the road and they capture sights around Detroit that include landmarks like the Renaissance Center, the Joe Louis fist and Lafayette Coney Island as well as blighted areas around the city.

New forward Daniel Alfredsson is seen bringing his family's Christmas tree home with his four sons and wife Bibi talks about the difficultly of making the adjustment to Detroit after her husband spent the first 17 years of his career in Ottawa.

The cameras follow the Red Wings to Florida for a road game against the Panthers and are on hand when regular dinner buddies Brendan Smith, Darren Helm, Kyle Quincey, Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader go out for a bite to eat and end up taking about the wonders of teammate Pavel Datsyuk.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.