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HBO goes behind the scenes in Part 1

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Part 1 of HBO's acclaimed sports documentary "24/7" captures great behind-the-scenes material, like catching Jimmy Howard playing air drums as he got ready for a recent game in Florida. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

Stick taps to HBO for a stellar first episode of “24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic” as they try to capture some of the personalities that make up the two Original Six clubs, particularly their coaches – Mike Babcock and Randy Carlyle.

The hour-long episode definitely picked up steam after it spent the opening minutes rehashing old news about a mismanaged city. In fairness, the eulogy wasn’t nearly as unjust as recent cheap shots made by national media outlets who swooped into the Motor City to paint a bleak outlook for what was once America’s industrial workhorse.

However, as Marvin Gaye’s mellow funk song “Inner City Blues” from 1971 plays in the background, narrator Liev Schreiber proclaims: “Nearly five months since it declared bankruptcy Detroit, Michigan has been the subject of too many obituaries to count. But while the bleakness maybe unavoidable there are also reminders that will take much more for the city’s soul to submit. One piece of evidence will be in action all winter long, they hope well into the spring.”

With that the episode gets back to hockey and the head coaches who steal much of the limelight, though there is enough behind-the-scenes diversity that will keep fans thirsting for more in upcoming episodes. But in the show’s premiere few Red Wings’ players manage to avoid the cameras that are everywhere from the training room to the team plane, Red Bird III.

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.

As for the Leafs, we learn in Part 1 that captain Dion Phaneuf has the most beautiful walk-in closet in the league, and he’d rather not talk about being suspended.

Fans in the United States can watch new episodes on the next four Saturday nights at 10 p.m. (Dec. 21, Dec. 28 and Jan. 4), while those in Canada will have to wait until Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. to watch the show. All four parts in Canada will air on Rogers Sportsnet. Here is the full schedule of air times for the show in Canada:

Sunday, Dec. 15
Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific – 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT
Sportsnet West – 10:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. MT

Monday, Dec. 16
City – 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. MT
Sportsnet East – 10 p.m. ET
Sportsnet Ontario – 9:30 p.m. ET
Sportsnet 360 – 11 p.m. ET

Sunday, Dec. 22
Sportsnet East, Ontario and West – 7:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. MT
Sportsnet Pacific –; 7:30 p.m. PT

Monday, Dec. 23
City – 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. MT
Sportsnet East – 10 p.m. ET
Sportsnet Ontario – 9:30 p.m. ET
Sportsnet West – 10 p.m. MT
Sportsnet Pacific – 9:30 p.m. PT
Sportsnet 360 – 11 p.m. ET

Sunday, Dec. 29
Sportsnet East and Ontario – 7:30 p.m. ET
Sportsnet West and Pacific – 8 p.m. MT/7p.m. PT

Monday, Dec. 30
Sportsnet Ontario and West – 9 p.m. local time
Sportsnet Pacific – 9:30 p.m. PTSportsnet East – 10 p.m. ET
City – 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. MT
Sportsnet 360 – 11 p.m. ET

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014
Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific – 7:30 p.m. local time
Sportsnet West –; 8:30 p.m. MT

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific – 9 p.m. local time
Sportsnet West – 9:30 p.m. MT
City – 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. MT
Sportsnet 360 – 11 p.m. ET

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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