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Different paths on 'Road to NHL Winter Classic'

by Dan Rosen

Hockey has no script, but the routines NHL players follow never change. The beauty of going behind the scenes in an all-access show like "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Winter Classic" is that you get to see the players both in their routine and out of their element.

The opening scenes in the second episode featuring the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins gives the viewer a different, and perhaps better, perspective of two players who hear more boos than most: Bruins forward Brad Marchand and Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

Marchand is at Symphony Hall in Boston, wearing a Santa hat and tapping his foot as if it's a nervous tic. He is a ball of nerves as he waits in anguish to go out on stage with the Boston Pops to narrate "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

This is a player known for being a pest on the ice. He has all kinds of nicknames, most of them not very flattering. But here is Marchand, an effective player in his role, telling Santa Claus he's nervous and joking about ways to loosen up.

Up in Montreal, Subban is visiting the Montreal Children's Hospital with several teammates, dressed as himself but basically pretending to be Santa Claus for all the kids. He's bringing them gifts, as if his $10 million donation to the hospital announced in September weren't enough.

Subban and his teammates go from patient to patient, spreading cheer and chocolate. Many of the patients and parents know him recognize him not necessarily as the Canadiens' star defenseman, but as the guy who visits quite often.

"Sometimes I just think people forget to count their blessings every day and be thankful for what we're given and what we're blessed with," Subban said. "Sometimes it's something as simple as good health. A lot of people don't have that. I'm just trying to make a conscious effort to try to give back and help as many people get healthy and touch as many families as I can."

These two scenes are as much about perspective as they are about the characters. That's what can be gained when the curtain gets pulled back and the real people under the helmets are revealed.

"I've never been a person to take anything in my life for granted," Subban said. "I've always been a guy who has to work hard for everything I've gotten or received."

Here are some more highlights from the second episode:

Mr. Boston: A ride through Dorchester, Mass., with Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes reveals a Boston way of life.

Hayes, who is from Dorchester and is wearing a New England Patriots hat, meets his dad, Kevin, at a local pub, where they talk hockey and the upcoming 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He drives past the local rink he played in as a kid, the park he used to go to and the library he admits he didn't go to enough.

He goes home to see his mom, Sheila, who already has the Christmas tree up. She talks about how he was always meant to be a hockey player, just like his brother, Kevin, a center for the New York Rangers.

His dad talks about how he's going to mount a second television above his current TV in order to watch his boys play at the same time.

"We've got to run that by my ma," Hayes said. "She's the one that makes the rules on that."

Funny moment: Bruins forward Max Talbot gets blown off by center David Krejci in the dressing room. Talbot is talking to the camera when he puts up his hand to give Krejci a high-five. Krejci walks right past him. Talbot is left hanging, and he jokes about it.

Tough personified: It's one thing to hear about a player getting a gash stitched up in the trainer's room; it's another thing to actually see it.

One of the best things about this show is the cameras get to go where the viewer has never gone before. In this case it's with Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid onto the trainer's table to watch him get a nasty cut on his face repaired.

McQuaid took 13 stitches to close a cut that was the result of a puck to the face. It took all of 15 minutes before he was back on the bench. That's hockey.

Gallagher show: Injured Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher is a star of this episode, even though he doesn't appear in any of the game highlights.

Gallagher, rehabbing from surgery to repair two broken fingers, talks with goalie Dustin Tokarski's wife, Linea, about the hit show "Scandal." He is also shown sucking wind during his first rehab skate, when he says even the simplest things are tough.

His best scenes, though, are when he's on Facetime. That's where we see Gallagher is just like an average fan anywhere else.

Viewers learn that Gallagher is a die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fan and he gets a Facetime call from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who is dealing with his own hand injury issue. They talk for a while, with Gallagher telling Dalton he owns one of his jerseys and Dalton responding by saying he wants one of Gallagher's jerseys. When it's done, Gallagher hangs up and he's like a star-struck kid who just met his idol. He calls it the best day ever.

"You were really nervous," says teammate Torrey Mitchell, who was sitting beside Gallagher during the Facetime call. "It was kind of cute."

Tokarski, Nathan Beaulieu and Devante Smith-Pelly also think enough of Gallagher to Facetime him when they're out to dinner at Nobu in Dallas. Gallagher is on his couch at home in Montreal.

Meet Marc Archambault: The familiar face that greets the Canadiens players as they pull into the Bell Centre parking garage is that of Archambault, the parking attendant. He proudly talks about how he parks all of their cars and even has a system in place for whose car goes where.

Archambault said he likes to joke around with the players a bit so they can smile when they arrive at the rink. He said he loves seeing what Subban is wearing because he's always in a different suit, and he occasionally adjusts his pocket scarf if it's crooked.

"He likes to be told he looks good," Archambault said.


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