True fans know hockey involves more than a 60-minute game. From fictional movies about the sport to highlight reels online, hockey can be found in multiple forms. A number of fascinating documentaries take fans behind the scenes and provide the players with a voice, which helps situate the sport in the broader social, political, and cultural fabric of the time. Below is a list of documentaries that communicate the impact that hockey has and its relevance to the era being examined.
Untold: Crime & Penalties (2021)
This story is so absurd, so outlandish, that it would seem like the plot to a bad straight to video movie. But only in the world of hockey would it be true. This is a documentary about a now defunct minor league professional team, the Danbury Trashers of the defunct United Hockey League (UHL). It begins in 2003 as a convicted Connecticut gangster named Jimmy Galante – who was the inspiration for the Sopranos lead character Tony Soprano – bought his then 17-year-old son, A.J., a minor league hockey team and appointed him president and general manager (GM).
A.J., who was still in high school at the time, filled the team with grinders, heavy hitting players and tough guys. His goal was to create a bad boy image for the team. He even chose a name that was a nod to the waste disposal company his father owned but also to the description the mainstream hockey world called the style of play he wanted to sell: the Danbury Trashers. As far-fetched as it seems, the team he built immediately became was one of the best in the UHL, even becoming a local media sensation thanks to the Wrestling style promotions during the NHL lockout season of 2004-2005 when they added Stanley Cup Champion Mike Rupp to the lineup.
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
The film is a feel-good story all the way to the end. It doesn’t hide the crime connections, something that no one involved seemed to even care about. It embraces the goofiness of a professional team led by a teenaged GM, even jokingly covering the drug use that was prevalent in the UHL at the time. The improbable backstory, a highly competitive team and the controversy makes this a must-watch film.
Ice Guardians (2016)
Brett Harvey offers a measured meditation on the role of the slowest guys on the ice. His documentary “Ice Guardians” had a successful opening and received positive reviews. Fighting and the role of the enforcer in hockey have been under close watch by the NHL, media, and fans, due to raised awareness of concussions and their impact on life after hockey. While the game of hockey and the role of enforcers has changed drastically over the years, ‘Ice Guardians’ details how the existence of fighting may mitigate other, more violent acts in hockey.
Watching players recount their experiences, it is hard not to conclude that they enjoyed every minute and view it as essential to professional hockey. Even those who dislike fighting may have their opinions swayed after watching this film.
‘Ice Guardians’ is available on Netflix.
29 Forever (2019)
One of the saddest stories in hockey history, ’29 Forever’ pays tribute to the 16 lives lost and 13 injured in the tragic April 6, 2018, Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (from ‘Humboldt Broncos families to quietly mark anniversary of Saskatchewan bus crash,’ The Star, 04/05/2020) This was an unimaginable tragedy that gripped the entire world, as hockey players everywhere who have made countless bus trips over the years sent their prayers and thought about how precious life truly is. The hockey community rallied around all those impacted and resulted in a heartwarming show of support globally.
The Sports Network (TSN) looks back at these tragic events and outlines the journey of mourning and healing. The caring, strength, and togetherness of the hockey community really comes through in this film. It will make anyone who watches this film proud to be part of something so special and remind you to take an extra second to send a little extra love to those closest to you. Although it’s a tough story to look back on, it’s one that everyone (hockey fan or not) should watch.
’29 Forever’ can be watched on TSN.ca.
Of Miracles and Men (2015)
As part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 docuseries, this is the precursor to the documentary ‘Red Army’. Directed by Jonathan Hock, it considers the story of one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Pretty much any hockey fan has seen the unlikely yet triumphant American team that stunned the Soviet national team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. This film takes a different approach, as it focuses on the Soviet side of the famous “Miracle On Ice.”
Related: Sports Documentaries to Watch Right Now
Latest News & Highlights
While the American perspective has been examined many times, this film features an in-depth breakdown of the Miracle on Ice through interviews with Russian players, who recall every painstaking memory of the famous upset.
‘Of Miracles and Men’ is available with ESPN+.
The Last Gladiators (2011)
In this documentary, Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney dives into the history of the enforcer in hockey, with the central figure being former Montreal Canadiens’ tough guy Chris “Knuckles” Nilan. He bears the scars of broken knuckles, lost teeth, torn ligaments, and multiple finger surgeries from his time as an NHL enforcer.
Throughout his career, Nilan struggled with addiction to drugs and the guilt that comes from harming the people closest to him. In this film, he speaks freely about how those demons overcame him and what it took to overcome them. Aside from Nilan, interviews with NHL tough guys like Tony Twist, Marty McSorley, and Donald Brashear help explore what it means to enforce the unwritten rules of the NHL.
This film is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Punched Out: The Rise and Fall of Derek Boogaard (2014)
This documentary on Derek Boogaard focuses on his path to the NHL and the circumstances surrounding his tragic death. The documentary features an emotional interview with Boogard’s family and dives into entries from his own personal journal. This emotional documentary examines what happened to cause a professional hockey player to go down a path of drugs and alcohol before he passed away from a tragic accidental drug overdose at the age of 28.
This film also takes a dive into the world of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE), and the role it played in Derek Boogard’s life. CTE is a medical diagnosis caused by repeated blows to the head. It has been a big topic in sports media and has been cited as the killer of many athletes. The movie ‘Concussion’ featuring Will Smith gives an in-depth look at the backstory and discovery of this disease, while ‘Punched Out’ analyzes the effects it had on one of hockey’s toughest players.
Hockey: A Peoples History (2006)
If the history of hockey and it’s origins interest you, than this 10-episode docuseries is for you. It goes into detail on the origins of hockey, and how the game itself has evolved but also how it has transformed from a niche sport into one of the more popular and profitable sports on earth. Each episode is close to one hour in length which allows them to provide more context and information that goes into detail, which is a bonus for those looking to gain as much information as they can.
Even as a lifelong fan, this series will surprise you with some tidbit of information or a fact that you would not have known. The series has a good flow to it and will captivate the viewer, making it perfect for binge watching on a quiet weekend.
Summit 72 (2022)
Summit 72 is a four-episode mini-series that brings to life one of the most iconic and transformative moments in hockey history, the 1972 Canada-Soviet Union Summit Series. Released on the 50th anniversary of that historic event, the series will use never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with key players to bring the context and tension of the moment back to life. The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series was more than just an international friendly to see which country had the best players and teams in the world. It was a battlefield where two Cold-War enemies played out a proxy war for dominance in sport but also for political ideology and national pride.
This series will tell the story of this now legendary eight-game ‘Super Summit’. The series will also explore how it has influenced Canadian hockey and impact on national identity. It will show the roots of change in the sport and Canadian culture triggered by this clash of hockey Titans. Summit 72 brings an unforgettable moment in Canadian history back to life allowing viewers to witness the drama of one of the most monumental cultural proxy battles of the Cold War.
Summit 72 can be streamed on CBC Gem
Kings Ransom (2009)
On August 9, 1988, one of the biggest transactions in NHL history took place. The Edmonton Oilers agreed to send “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round picks, and $15 million. Gretzky was just 27 at the time of the trade and was already the NHL’s all-time assists leader with 1,086.
This deal shocked the hockey world and the entire country of Canada, as the Canadian icon was sent south of the border. Another ESPN 30 for 30 film, ‘Kings Ransom’ looks at the result of this deal that took the Kings from being an underperforming, overlooked organization to a thriving, successful team overnight.
‘Kings Ransom’ can be viewed on ESPN+.
Becoming Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby was born on Aug. 7, 1987, in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. He lived for hockey growing up and became one of the most highly touted prospects on the planet. Crosby played two years in the QMJHL before the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him first overall in the 2005 NHL Draft.
Two years later the club made the 20-year-old the youngest team captain in NHL history. This program details the life of Stanley Cup champion and future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby both on and off the ice.
Broad Street Bullies
‘Broad Street Bullies’ is not just for fans of the Philadelphia Flyers. It chronicles the team from their start as an NHL expansion team in 1967 to their Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1976. The film shows what it’s like to bring a new NHL team into a city that wasn’t sure it wanted one.
Over the course of the film, the Flyers decide to add some significant muscle to their team. Through this addition of key players and the overall change to their style of play, they created a team known as the “Broad Street Bullies.” This fascinating look at the famous Philly bruisers is both entertaining and informative.
Drop the Gloves (2016)
This Vice Sports television feature focuses on the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey (North American Hockey League). Considered one of the toughest in the world, LNAH audiences are treated to more than four fights per game.
Although just under 25 minutes, this film does a good job of chronicling the pressure to reduce fighting in the LNAH. Players confront what will this mean for a league whose identity and brand revolved around violence for nearly two decades. VICE followed the Laval Prédateurs during the playoffs, as the team struggled to deliver fights while trying to step up their game at the same time.
4 thoughts on “Hockey Documentaries to Watch Right Now”
Big list in here also http://penaltyboxx.blogspot.fi/p/hockey-documentaries.html
That’s a great list! Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for sharing those, loking forward to part two.
Thanks for reading!
Comments are closed.