The finale of Road to the Winter Classic, viewed through the lens of hindsight, is the best of the program’s three episodes. Here are the five highlights we learned from the behind-the-scenes documentary of the Dallas Stars’ victory over the Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Laviolette coaching for his life makes great theatre
“Wake up angry.”
This is Predators coach Peter Laviolette’s simple message to his troops on New Year’s Eve.
Through pre-game and intermission speeches, as well as on-the-bench hollering as victory slips away, we’re given a nice glimpse into Laviolette’s passion and desperate attempts at motivation in what we know is his penultimate loss before his firing Monday.
Laviolette calls out his forwards’ speed between periods two and three, sensing Dallas’s push to erase Nashville’s 2-0 lead.
“Attack the game. It’s about an attitude going out here in the last 20 minutes,” the coach blares. “Everybody’s gotta buckle up. Every guy’s gotta stand up. Right now! Take it! Twenty minutes of hockey!” His voice cracks. “Let’s do this!”
Bishop throws himself into the moment
It was Stars starter Ben Bishop’s idea for the entire team to get outfitted in designer cowboy boots and hats for the Classic, and few players seem to embody the spirit of the event like Bish.
The goalie picked up a brand-new pair of tiny skates and brought his wee son, Benjamin Bishop IV, on the ice for the very first time on New Year’s Eve.
“I never thought I’d be playing outdoors,” Bishop says excitedly. “When I signed with the Stars, there’s no way you could’ve told me we’d be getting a Winter Classic.”
He certainly comes off as the kind of guy you want to root for.
Predators’ PK meeting foreshadows Radulov winner
Nerds like me appreciate the fly-on-the-wall peeks into team meetings. Prior to puck drop, we see Predators assistant Dan Muse (not fired) run through video of the Stars’ power-play tactics with the penalty-killing unit.
“The only thing that’s really different from last time we played them is they’ve got [Alexander] Radulov set on that one-timer side. He’s with that first unit. Let’s keep our sticks to the middle here,” Muse warns.
Knowing Radulov will later one-time the Winter Classic-winning goal from the exact spot Muse circles is foreshadowing at its pinnacle. Love it.
Rinne truly embracing the home stretch of his career
At age 37 and with incumbent Juuse Saros striving to snatch more of his starts, it warms the heart to see the greatest goalie in Predators history soaking in the Classic experience with a perspective that only comes with age.
“The closer to the end you get, the more you appreciate everything you have,” Rinne says.
We get a mic’d-up Rinne reacting to warm-up shots affected by the Cotton Bowl’s skewed depth perception and walking out of the tunnel prior to the Preds’ Dec. 31 practice and marveling at a rink surrounded by 83,000 soon-to-be-filled seats.
“This is so sick,” Rinne says. “This is unreal. This is so cool.”
Seguin’s complaining, Josi’s reffing highlight hot-mic action
The game itself is captured in beautiful high definition with dramatic slow-motion shots complemented by mic’d-up players and officials. I love hearing the in-game whining, celebrating, berating and encouragement.
The audio surrounding penalties, particularly Corey Perry’s suspension-earning elbow to the head of Ryan Ellis, is fantastic.
“You better kick him out. You better kick him out,” Josi pleads after seeing his partner felled.
We hear the refs confer and decide on a five-minute major plus a game misconduct.
“That’s what I called,” Josi says, justified.
In the second period, Tyler Seguin gets two for boarding Austin Watson — who’d previously hammered Blake Comeau — and urgently begs for forgiveness.
“That was right in the shoulder! When do I hit anybody?! When do I hit anybody? What? He turned. I don’t hit anybody,” Seguin pleads.