You don’t have to be a hockey fan to appreciate it. It’s a fast game where the players aren’t just running—they’re practically flying. And there’s no lobbing or tossing. Those dense, hard pucks are shot like a bullet at a player. A player who is well padded, but still must have giant jingle bells of steel. Speaking of tough, just watch sports highlights and the proof is there: It is clearly the toughest sport. I am convinced that in a fight a hockey player would pummel a baseball player, completely own a football player, embarrass a basketball player, and eat ten soccer players for breakfast. I might even put my money on the hockey player who happens to be duking it out in an octagon. And even though more than eight years have passed since the theme got changed, the original Hockey Night in Canada song still brings a twinkle to every eye in Canada (and many throughout the northern US). And though it really is great to eat a hotdog at a baseball game, once you eat fries or poutine at a hockey game, suddenly even that becomes forgettable and irrelevant.
So let’s take a look at the greatest hockey moments in movies. In numbered, descending order, of course.
8. An evil hockey game. (Strange Brew) Seeing the McKenzie brothers getting clobbered by big stormtrooper players who are controlled by 80’s synth is just as awesome as it sounds. It also leads into one of my favourite lines of the movie. Bob and Doug go back to their locker to change, only to see that it’s completely empty. “Somebody horked our clothes!” “Geez, who’d hork our clothes, eh?”
7. The price is WRONG Bob! (Happy Gilmore) Though the game being played at this point is golf, Happy Gilmore is a bad-but-tough hockey player who chooses to deal with his problems with his hockey knowledge and goon-like grit. His fist fight with Bob Barker remains one of the best scenes Adam Sandler ever made. Not that there’s much competition in that category…
6. Crazy save by the Mystery Team goalie. (Mystery Alaska) In Mystery Alaska, a home-grown amateur team (They just love the sport man!) gets a chance to play an NHL team: The New York Rangers. At one point their goalie stops a Ranger’s shot, and his save made me rewind the scene over and over again. Typically when movies try and make unique and cool-looking hockey plays, they just look ridiculous. Not here hoser. I’d watch this movie again just to see that save.
5. Car! (Wayne’s World) For anyone growing up in a northern town (hey-o na-na-na!) the scene of Wayne and Garth playing road hockey is nostalgic gold.
4. Figure skating distracts goalie. (The Mighty Ducks) I gotta give this to The Mighty Ducks. Though I’m not crazy about the movie, seeing a player do one of those crazy figure skating spins while her teammate shoots the puck at the net was clever, and it looked so cool! I remember thinking they should use that again in an important game. But they went with another strategy, but we’ll get to that later.
3. Hanson Brothers start a pre-game brawl. (Slap Shot) They started it pre-game so that they couldn’t be penalized, which is hilarious. The Hanson brothers have got to be listed amoung the greatest movie characters ever conceived.
2. Herb Brooks celebrates. (Miracle) Kurt Russell, a tremendously underappreciated actor, captured a moment beautifully. The team wins… an important game… and after all that he’s been through, all the hurdles, all the threats, the coach doesn’t jump up and scream like everyone else. He simply gets himself alone and relishes the moment. This scene has stuck with me and it encourages me in tough times.
1. Rocket vs. Bob Dill. (The Rocket) You have to hear this story. I won’t tell it to you, seeing as I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you don’t know about the fight between these two hockey players, watch this movie, or at least read about it. It’s said to have been exaggerated over the years, but when you watch this movie and come to this point, you’ll never forget what you’ve seen.
AND THE WORST…
5. Michael Keaton’s puck handling. (Jack Frost) In Jack Frost Keaton is showing his son his secret move that has helped him win a pile of hockey games. It looks ok, but is just another one of those, “I’ll bet that wouldn’t work in a real game” scenarios.
4. MVP: Most Valuable Primate. Yeah, just the existence of this movie, really.
3. The Rock plays hockey. (The Tooth Fairy) So, it’s not a great movie, to say the least. But on top of that, we’re supposed to believe that tall muscular Samoan is a champion hockey player? And that he’s nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy’ because he’s tough and knocks opponents’ teeth out? SMH
2. The Flying V. (The Mighty Ducks) Could never and would never work. I think the screenwriter wanted a bird-related finish so badly that reason was deemed too clunky to be included in the process, and the flying V was born. Now, I do like to suspend belief with movies. Don’t be a sourpuss, just enjoy the show. But this strategy did for me what the knuckle puck did for my brother.
1. A Jumbo Distraction. (The Love Guru) You’d think the brains behind Wayne’s World and Austin Powers wouldn’t also be the creator of this big ol’ snore. Hockey is a big part of the story and in the end… Wait. I’d say spoiler alert, but that’s like not telling someone what other ingredients are in the poop-pie sitting on their plate because you don’t want to spoil it for them. That being said…at the end, the title character helps the good guys win a game of hockey—and I kid you not—by bringing a pair of elephants onto the ice who proceed to engage in behaviour that is normally reserved for National Geographic TV… to distract the goalie. Brilliant, Mr. Myers. Brilliant.
Congratulations Miracle. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Julie LeBreton as Lucille Richard in The Rocket.
Best Quote: “Oh this young man has had a very trying rookie season, with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country’s refusal to accept him, well, I guess that’s more than most 21-year-olds can handle… Ogie Ogilthorpe!” — Jim Carr (Andrew Duncan) in Slapshot.
And if you haven’t seen any of these nominees, I promise you they’re all worth the watch. I especially recommend Miracle and The Rocket. The other two have content that may offend, particularly Slap Shot. I also found the TV movie Canada Russia ’72 really good. If anyone has seen either Youngblood (1986), Les Boys (1997), Pond Hockey (2008), or The Last Gladiators (2011), let me know what you think. Haven’t seen them yet, but they look interesting.