I sit here finding it very hard to think about hockey right about now. There are unfortunately far more saddening things unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia and the world at large right now. But perhaps, for a moment, I can sit here and try to focus on something else and hopefully allow you to do so as well.
This stretch here from the end of July until the days leading up to training camp can be interminable for the average hockey fan. Most all of the free agents have been signed (except for Jaromir Jagr…seriously, WTF NHL teams) and the trade market has all but died down. Nothing to do but either find the nearest beer league or golf course. But for those of us who suck at golf or don’t have the money (or equipment that fits…I really need to hit the gym) for beer league hockey, there might be another avenue to get your fix. Watching fictional depictions of the game on the silver screen!
So without further ado, my list of hockey films to watch, in no particular order.
The Cutting Edge (1992)
Yeah, I went there. This isn’t really a hockey movie. This is a figure skating movie that happens to feature an ex-hockey player. If you have kids who want to see what the early nineties looked like, this is definitely the movie to show them. It’s also important to show them this because it’s almost a given the hockey players love to sneer at figure skaters and their craft. I know I did as a child. The truth of the matter is that figure skaters possess an ability to harness the ice in ways we hockey meatheads could only dream of (which makes it a bit implausible how a D.B. Sweeney’s Doug Dorsey learns to become one so quickly, but hey, leave that disbelief at the door!). NHL teams have even hired professional figure skaters as skating coaches for their players, so the stigma is definitely starting to fade, but watching this as a child might have helped me shake that stigma much earlier.
All in all this is a rather cliched, but still enjoyable film that, 1990s aesthetics aside, hasn’t aged all that poorly. Just go watch it already.
Slap Shot (1977)
Considered by many to be the gold standard of hockey films, this one, in my humble opinion, probably isn’t as good as you remember. I know, sacrilege, right? Well, before you grab your Sher-Wood pitchforks, let me just say that while this film is indeed hands down the best hockey comedy ever made (go away Love Guru) I just feel like it gets venerated to a ridiculous degree. You will never, ever get me to say a bad thing about Paul Newman, and he is at his charming best here. And then of course there are the Hanson Brothers and Ogie Oglethorpe. It’s a fine movie, just not a masterpiece. It’s messy, not entirely coherent, and downright dumb in some places.
Wait…I just described the game of hockey. Forget what I just said, this is the perfect hockey film. End of story.
Well, okay, not the end of this story, there’s more. Please keep reading.
Here’s another hockey comedy, written by that guy who starred in How to Train your Dragon. One thing my wife and I had a disagreed on early in our relationship was fighting in hockey. I thought at the time that it served a purpose, she felt it was unnecessary, pointless violence. I’ve grown rather ambivalent about fighting in recent years, so when it finally came time to see this one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to admit, when someone told me this movie was both pro- and anti-fighting, I didn’t believe it, but that’s pretty much where it stands. Seann William Scott has made kind of a living playing lovable meatheads, and he does his part as Doug “The Thug” Glatt. Watch it and judge for yourself. The wife actually liked this one.
Strange Brew (1983)
What? You don’t think this is a hockey movie? Um, what about this?
Net Worth (1995)
There are hardly any hockey biopics out there worth seeing, but this one is a must for anyone who calls themselves a fan. By the time it’s over, you’ll probably wonder why the NHL still has trophies named in honor of guys like Conn Smythe and Jack Adams. Not only that, it dares to portray the late, great Gordie Howe in a less-than-flattering light. This is the rare sports film that doesn’t allow itself to glamorize or romanticize anything about the game it’s depicting, and that alone makes it a must-watch.
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
I’m a bit surprised this film was so quickly forgotten. Sure, it’s built on a fairly wild premise, and Russell Crowe obviously can’t skate a lick, but this is an enjoyable film from start to finish.
And now for the one I think you probably shouldn’t watch…
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Go figure, I didn’t realize until I looked it up that this film came out the same year as The Cutting Edge.
I grew up despising this film. I was one of those rare kids who just didn’t like Disney stuff. It got worse when Disney shoehorned that stupid name into the NHL. I’ve since gotten over that over-the-top hatred (I guess I was an angry teenager, who knows) but I’m still not that crazy about this movie. I don’t think it’s a terrible film by any means, but I don’t think it’s all that special either. That’s a bit difficult for me to say since I like so many of the actors in it. It just tries too hard to be cute in my opinion, from that ridiculous “flying V” formation that would be so obviously easy to defend against, to the one kid who literally gets dragged out onto the ice so he can let loose his killer slapshot, I just don’t care for this film at all. If you want to see a movie about kids playing sports that’s actually good, please sit down and watch The Sandlot at your earliest convenience.
Full Disclosure: I’ve not seen any of the sequels to this film but I know “D2” features a cowboy on skates wearing a ten-gallon hat that looks more like fifteen gallons and uses a lasso while on the ice. That’s enough to warrant avoiding that and any subsequent films of this insipid franchise like the plague.
Anyway, that’s my completely subjective list of recommended (and one discouraged) hockey films. If you have any suggestions please send them my way.
Honorable Mention: Youngblood (1986). I’m not a huge fan of this movie, but I definitely rank it above The Mighty Ducks. Feel free to watch it if you’d like to see a young Rob Lowe and the late Patrick Swayze do their thing.
That’s it from me for now. In light of all the awfulness we’ve been witnessing on the news, please do right by your fellow humans, and carry on. See you next time.