December 23 2016 11:04PM
We’re back at it again with a recap and rundown of episode two of the EPIX series - The Road To the Outdoor Classics. Episode one was our building of a legend episode. Part two is our human interest section of The Road To. Our gravelly narrator is back at it to remind is all of the legacy of Toronto and decades of passion. So what did the Leafs get up to?
In part one, I was largely critical of how the series is a retread and doesn’t really offer anything new. Again, nothing new in this episode however it was still something a bit more enjoyable to watch. This was the time for the players to get the tiniest chance to shine and show they exist beyond their uniforms. Even if they are awkwardly helping out in the community while still wearing their jerseys.
We kick off with the Yousuf family who moved to Canada from Ethiopia. As part of the Habitat for Humanity volunteer corps, the Leafs built a home for the parents and their seven children. Brendan Shanahan talked about how important for the team to put in the sweat equity and actually do things - not just send out checks.
The kids were so excited to have gifts from the Leafs actually delivered by the players. They jumped around and pulled on their new sweaters. The little girl read a letter and thanked the team for their home and I got a bit weepy.
The Road To which has been about the Leafs, Blackhawks, Blues, and Red Wings still found time to cram in the Sidney Crosby narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a fantastic player. But again it felt like they just reached back to the episodes of 24/7 Penguins and extracted things about him. I’m far more interested in the fact Sidney loves his yellow Crocs and laughs like a Canadian goose.
Really, the show needs to find a new way to do recaps or showcase a new aspect of the game because nothing is at stake in this show. The Outdoor Classics are just pomp and pageantry in a different venue. So the weight and the tension of the series is false and greatly exaggerated. It’s not like there are medals on the line or a team is in danger of relegation. A lot of this programming is eaten up recapping games we already know what happened.
Obligatory Christmas shopping segment! So Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Willie Nylander attempt to get in the holiday spirit in such way that it could be a prompt for a fic. There’s a ferris wheel that Nylander is scared of/greatly concerned about but he rides it anyways. They meet up with Santa and insist on hugging him. The S-Man informs them: “You’re all on the nice list! Just gotta work on your plus minus…”
The highlight was seeing the frazzled teenage girls who were absolutely vibrating to be within ten feet of Nylander. They somehow got it together and ask for a picture. The group of them edged out the other fellas. The gals only had eyes for Nylander.
It was in that moment I realized that Willie looks like Boo Boo from Bob’s Burgers. Boo Boo also happens to be part of the pop group Boyz 4 Now and tragically is the one Louise has to develop a crush on and the only way she can work through this is to violently deny caring about him.
The narrator tried to slyly tries to imply the girls only care about Nylander because he’s a cutie. He his making the grave mistake of misunderstanding how teen girls apply their passion - especially in a fandom that won’t accept them as being legitimate. I am willing to bet those girls could rattle off Leafs stats without even blinking. They’re young and probably have incredible neuroplasticity and can recall data at an alarming speed.
We close out with getting to know good ol’ Toronto boy Connor Brown. Brown is truly honored to be playing for the Leafs and is surprised he was wanted. The tour of his home was typically (he still was living with his parents as a just in case/backup plan) and his mom laughed about how he doesn’t want things up that are Leafs related. His dad showed off the messy garage and hauled out the goal. Nothing new or surprising came out of this player interlude, unfortunately. Brown seems like a great dude - perhaps still nervous around media.
In the end our voiceover rambles over a slow motion montage and reminds us all how players love the pain and agony of the game because if there isn’t any - why bother playing. But there’s more to come and hockey is life. Etc. We know all this and don’t need reminding.