HBO's 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic series had grown wildly uneven during the past couple seasons, but it worked best when it captured moments that revealed the character of the individuals who were involved in the big game.
Based on this pair of preview clips, it looks as though EPIX, the NHL's new partner, got the memo.
The first of the four-part series, which chronicles the Blackhawks and Capitals as they prepare for the league's signature event on Jan. 1, debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16 on EPIX. The episode will cover, among other subjects, the struggles of Barry Trotz, the Capitals' new coach, to acclimate his Down Syndrome-afflicted son, Nolan, to a new life away from everything he knew in Nashville, and the tight camaraderie of Blackhawks Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Both hint at a return to form for the series, although it's that expected much of the content will have more immediacy and deal with issues like the injury suffered by Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford, the impact of Chicago's Jeremy Morin-for-Tim Erixon trade with Columbus, and the pressures leading up to the Winter Classic.
Fortunately, watching the show will be easier than ever even though it will be on the smaller EPIX instead of the HBO colossus. The channel is available in 50 million homes but since it isn't offered by every carrier (including Comcast, the largest provider in the Chicago area), the series also will air unedited online on the NHL, Blackhawks, Capitals and EPIX websites. In other words, you might want to watch it first before letting the kids log in if you're concerned that their innocent little ears will be barraged with salty locker room language.