The topic of hockey is not simply contained within a 60 minute game. With the advent of all forms of media, hockey is available in whatever form you want to obtain it in. From fictional movies about the sport to highlight reels online, hockey can be found in almost every facet of life if you’re looking for it. In addition to the games and the fictional movies, hockey has given fans a wonderful group of documentaries. Below is part one of a list of six of my favorite documentaries that can be watched online in their entirety.
Punched Out: The Rise and Fall of Derek Boogaard
While not a feature length documentary, this piece on Derek Boogaard’s life and death by the New York Times is ultimately one of the most important things to watch. One of the things this short film does well is allow Boogaard’s family to talk about his life and how he was as a hockey player growing up. By focusing on who Boogaard was as a person and his path to the NHL, the documentary allows the viewer to get a deeper understanding of exactly what was lost when he passed away. Not only does the documentary feature interviews with Boogaard’s family, but also includes writings from his personal journal in which he talked about his first fight and the reaction of the crowd and the Regina Pats scout that was present. Seeing Boogard’s thoughts in his own writing is powerful and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
In addition to discussing the circumstances surrounding his life and death, this film also discusses chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a medical diagnosis caused by repeated blows to the head including concussions, hits and punches. This documentary goes beyond discussing what the diagnosis is however, as towards the end of it actual slides of Boogaard’s brain are shown accompanied by a discussion and explanation from Dr. Ann McKee who is the Director of Neuropathy at the Bedford VA Medical Centre. It is both fascinating and horrifying to view the damage to Boogaard’s brain and is something that the documentary does with tact while still providing the facts.
In 1977, the movie Slapshot was released and it slowly became a cult classic. The movie, starring Paul Newman, focused on a struggling hockey team called the Charlestown Chiefs in their last season in the town they call home. The introduction of the rough and tumble Hanson Brothers turns the team upside down and the three became recognizable figures outside of the movie not only in the hockey world but in pop culture. The documentary “Les Chiefs” builds on the premise of the movie Slapshot, but provides an actual look at a real group of players who played for the Laval Chiefs in Quebec.
The players that the documentary chooses to follow closely are Mike Bajurny, Brady Austin, Mike Henderson and Cory Holland. Each of these players plays a different role on the team, but the common denominator that this movie uses to tie them all together is the team’s propensity to fight. The movie captures not only their personal feelings, but also the feelings of their family members as they focus and discuss the role of their loved one on the team. Some family members are positive about the team, while others wish that they would fight less and share with the audience their hesitations about their loved one’s career choice. The movie follows these players as they live through the emotional ups and downs of the daily hockey life, and almost ends on a sombre note as they come to grips with things like a boxing promoter visiting the town, being benched for multiple games heading in to the playoffs and realizing their hockey life may not be what they really want.
This documentary follows the semi-professional team from the start of the 2001-2002 season through to the start of the 2002-2003 season. During the credits, an update is given on what happened with a few of the players since filming concluded.
Leaving the Ice
In 2011, the hockey world was shaken by the tragic loss of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. The KHL team was headed to play Dinamo Minsk in Belarus when their plane crashed during takeoff. Only one player, Aleksandr Galimov, who was on the plane made it out of the crash in critical condition, but soon passed from his injuries. The documentary “Leaving the Ice” not only discusses the crash and its impact on the city of Yaroslavl but shows a spark of hope as the team is slowly rebuilt and the community comes together to remember and honor those lost.
The documentary juxtaposes the former team with the new players and includes a focus on a younger player who is training to hopefully play for the team in the future. In addition to the discussion with those close to the players, the documentary takes the viewer to the field where the plane crashed and includes a discussion with one of the witnesses to the event. The discussion with the witness includes details that are tough to hear, but ultimately important if only because it allowed that individual to share what they saw.
As stated above, the film does not focus solely on the team that was lost however. It focuses on how the city of Yaroslavl came together to rebuild the team and honor the lost players. The resiliency of the town as they heal is as beautiful to watch as it is heart breaking for those who have lost their loved ones. The film takes the audience into the building of a hockey school locally and discusses the importance it will have in the lives of the youth of Yaroslavl. Also included is interviews with some of the current Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team members which also helps to show how the community is rebuilding itself after the accident and emphasizes the impact the loss of the team had on those who were to follow in their footsteps onto the ice.
In part two of this article we’ll take a look at documentaries about the Philadelphia Flyers, the rise and fall of the Soviet Empire through the eyes of five hockey legends and the return of a team to the city it left in the 1990’s.