Sports in media: The top five ice hockey films
They shoot, they score
With the NHL season now hitting it’s full stride, it seems to be a good time for a pop culture view of the sport. Much like I did with baseball back during the World Series, I’ll also be looking into ice hockey’s filmography, ranking what I feel are the top five movies of this very specific genre. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy reading what is probably the only ice hockey film list you’ll ever see that doesn’t have Slap Shot on it (for it is a garbage film).
Honourable Mention: Mystery, Alaska
So there’s going to be some raised eyebrows, granted. The thing is, remember earlier when I said this was a very specific genre of film? That wasn’t just a throwaway line, there’s only like six good ice hockey films. It also doesn’t help that I’m cutting out Slap Shot, which makes what is already a difficult list just that much harder. That being said, I still refuse to put that film on said list because it’s aged about as well as yogurt that’s been left to sit out in the sun. Am I saying Mystery, Alaska is any better? Well, I guess I am, because it’s on the list isn’t it? Honestly though, this film is solid enough in its cast (starring Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack and Burt Reynolds) and is just the right amount of heart-warming even though everything doesn’t pan out the way you’d expect.
5. Sudden Death
I’m guessing those eyebrows are pretty raised right about now. Look, say what you will, but when Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a fire marshal who’s the only one that can stop a rogue CIA agent from destroying the arena where the Stanley Cup finals are being held (yes, this film was made in the 90s), I’m going to put it on a top five list. Aside from the overly 90s plot, the thing that really cements Sudden Death onto this list is the fact that actual NHL players took part in the film. It’s actually amazing when you think about it, especially considering that in Mystery, Alaska the actual New York Rangers (who were the antagonists of sorts) couldn’t even be bothered to take part in the film. The only thing that would’ve made Sudden Death any better (in my opinion) is if the hockey players ended up being a part of the CIA. Just really 90s-up the whole thing, you know?
4. The Mighty Ducks trilogy
If you’re interested in hockey or are a hockey player, there’s a good chance that the Mighty Ducks films had something to do with it. Now available on Disney+ (no, I’m not getting paid by Disney), the Mighty Ducks is the prime example of what a family-oriented hockey movie is supposed to be. Fun, charming, and made with plenty of heart (plus, casting Emilio Estevez doesn’t hurt either). Other films tried to succeed with the same formula (remember Most Valuable Primate? Sorry for reminding you.) but nothing really had the same impact as the Mighty Ducks. Also, the animated series of the same name was just as, if not more popular!
If Slap Shot wanted to be a good movie, it should’ve been Goon. Liev Schreiber and Seann William Scott play a couple of hockey enforcers (the guys who are there solely to fight) that are on the polar opposite ends of their careers. Schreiber being the ageing veteran that’s looking for one last moment of glory, and Scott being the young up and comer that’s looking to find meaning in his life. The plot? They fight because hockey. If you can get past the crude humour in the film, there’s actually a really sweet narrative here of someone who’s just trying to find themselves in life. It is not, I repeat, NOT, a dumb film that reflects all the worst parts of the small-town hockey mentality (this will be my last dig at Slap Shot, I swear). The soundtrack is great, the fight scenes are well shot, and acting is actually quite engaging. If you get a chance, Goon won’t let you down.
From the start of the film, to the famed Al Michaels call, Miracle is the quintessential hockey film. Following the famed “Miracle on Ice” game in the 1980s between the United States and the former Soviet Union, Miracle is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Even though you, the viewer, know what the result is going to be, you also understand the weight of what is happening in the film. Of course, there are dramatizations (because Hollywood), but it all adds up to a satisfying ice hockey film that will leave you holding your breath right up until the buzzer.
1. Indian Horse
As much as hockey is a fun sport to watch or play, it is not without its issues. The near exclusivity with regards to white players being a major one, as well as the toll that the game can have on non-white players. Indian Horse takes that subject matter and uses it to deliver an important message to the audience by following the journey of hockey player Saul Indian Horse (played by Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck, and Ajuawak Kapashesit during various years of his life) who, as he begins to go further into the world of hockey, realizes the problems he faces as he excels at the game. This film is just too important not to watch and truly shows the ability that movies can have by bringing various issues to light. Such is the case with many films as of late, Indian Horse is no exception and deserves your full attention.