In four days we will mark the Fortieth Anniversary of one of the best films of all times in many men’s opinions. Slap Shot graced us with its presence on February 25th 1977, a movie that brought Hockey to Hollywood, starring Paul Newman as Reggie Dunlap, player coach for the minor league Charleston Chiefs. The Chiefs a low-budget team barely hanging on are slapped with some bad luck when their local mill is closing essentially killing the town and the team. Reggie’s only hope to stay in the game is get some poor sap to buy the team and move them. Constantly at odds with the coach is Ned Braden, played spectacularly by Michael Ontkean, which some of you might remember from the cult classic Twin Peaks as Sheriff Harry S. Truman, don’t worry I am sure we will get to Twin Peaks soon. Ned the best player on the team, college educated and hell-bent on derailing himself and his marriage through odd behavior and excessive drinking, doesn’t buy Reggie’s claims that someone is interested in buying the lowly Chiefs. Enter in three of the most memorable characters in movie history, The Hanson Brothers, three young lads who show up with nothing but toy cars and tin foil for the knuckles. The Hanson’s are what you might call bruisers even in the game of hockey. With the new hard-hitting trio, a new age of rough and tumble hockey is brought to Charleston and hilarity ensues.
Next we have YoungBlood (1986), a classic teen age sports flick featuring Rob Lowe as Dean Youngblood, (great hockey name). The stellar Patrick Swayze as team captain Derek Sutton, the lovely Cynthia Gibb as Dean’s love interest and of course coaches daughter. In a minimal but memorable role, in fact one of his very first Keanu Reeves, as the clueless goalie. Young Dean is only 17 years old, and escapes his family farm to head to Canada to fulfill his dream of playing professional hockey. This is a wonderful coming into your own story, with kill comedy and excellent hockey action to boot. Worth every moment of your time, and excellent for a nostalgic trip back to the 80’s.
A more recent small indie film, which did so well we are eagerly expecting its sequel this year is the 2011 great Goon. Starring Sean William Scott as the lovable Doug Glatt, an awkward Jewish boy living in the shadow of his Doctor father and brother, while he spends his time as a bouncer. While attending a minor league local game with his foul-mouthed best friend Pat played by Jay Baruchel, a brawl erupts leaving Doug to defend his friend and his gay brothers honor. The home team coach notices and offers him a try out to join the team and hopefully get them out of their slump. Though he can’t skate and never played a day in his life, we makes the team as an enforcer, eventually making his way up to a real juniors team. Finding his place on the team and with the girl of his dreams, Doug plays with fists the size of Pat’s Uncle Murry’s prostrate and a heart to match. You cant help but rout for Doug as bashes skulls and lifts our hearts. A modern-day Rocky on ice.
Now lets talk Mystery Alaska (1999) a charming look at a small and I mean small town in Alaska, that lives and breaths Hockey. In a town perpetually covered in ice and snow, they play a saturday game ever week of four on four pond hockey for which the whole town shows up. The story focuses around John Biebe the town sheriff and aging player, masterfully protrayed by Russell Crowe. A host of other well-known names, including Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria, Mary Mccormack, Colm Meany, Ron Eldard, and Kevin Durand. Fill the screen with excellent chemistry and make you feel like you just want to move to Alaska. The story deals with an article written in Sports Illustrated about how the mystery boys could stand up against any team in the NHL. So of course here come the New York Rangers. In a lovely portrait of small town living and how hockey really burrows deep in to your soul, we follow along routing for the home team. A touching story that by the end if your heart is not swollen with pride and awe, there most be something wrong with you.
Lastly we have Miracle (2004) the true and patriotic view of Herb Brooks played be Kurt Russell, and the US 1980 Hockey team. The miracle on ice as it has been dubbed featured a rag-tag team of unknown college kids taking on and defeating the mighty Soviets. A victory which no one in the world especially the Russians saw coming, in a time when America really needed its civic pride restored. A fine supporting cast, and nice mix of off ice personal interest stories and on ice action, keeps you entertained and a great way to show younger generations a true moment in history. A perfect fit for the family movie night which is becoming so hard to find something every one can agree on. Yup it’s a Miracle.