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.
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.
MN Hockey: Land of 10,000 Rinks
by Keith Scheessele
First airing on PBS in March of this year, MN Hockey: Land of 10,000 Rinks is a northeastern Minnesota love story.
Locals share their infatuation with the sport, and the painstaking efforts some go through to ensure outdoor rinks are available to the youth every year. The love is evident. Hockey is a way of life in this part of the country and it’s a culture those featured in the film are happy to share.
This documentary enters some of amateur hockey’s most legendary cathedrals, and the region is littered with them. There’s no shortage of hockey legends who have learned the games on these rinks. Veterans of Saturday mornings, for some the day they were permitted to play indoors, share their stories.
The pioneers of hockey in northeastern Minnesota tell their tales as well. As do the present day youth, and the girls and women who are playing a critical role in expanding the game to all that can pick up a stick.
This film enters the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a museum showcasing the accomplishments of over 150 enshrined members and is located in Eveleth, Minnesota, a mining town of just 3,700 people.
One of the greatest moments in Minnesota hockey history features prominently. Filmmakers spoke with many associated with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs men’s ice hockey program. No school has produced as many Hobey Baker Award winners as UMD and the Bulldogs captured the first NCAA Division 1 championship in school history in 2011.
This documentary is remarkably efficient in how it uses its 58 minutes. So much information is presented by those passionate to share their stories. Fans of hockey in Minnesota will certainly enjoy this hour. I’m confident other viewers will as well. Give this one a watch.
Broad Street Bullies
Broad Street Bullies is an excellent watch not only for fans of the Philadelphia Flyers but for hockey fans in general. Following 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 isn’t sure it wants a team. Over the course of the film, produced by HBO Sports in 2010, the Flyers learn that they need to add muscle to their team and through the addition of the players created a team known as the “Broad Street Bullies.” This fascinating look at the game’s bruisers is entertaining and informative.
While it may not contain anything beyond what a die hard Flyers fan already knows, the documentary contains information on the key members of the Flyers organization during the time period it captures including Dave Schultz and Fred Shero. I say it is a must watch for those who are interested in the history of the game and the NHL, but it’s also a must watch to see some of the odd things that happened during the first years of the Flyers organization. From a game played in fog to a bat flying around the arena, the documentary contains many things to capture the attention of the viewer.
Goals, Goons and Garbage: The Danbury Trashers’ Unlikely Story
What if Tony Soprano owned a hockey team?
What if he appointed A.J., his teenage son, team president and general manager?
What if Luca Brasi was the team’s equipment manager?
Hockey fans who also enjoy Mob stories, rejoice! The answers to the above questions may be found in Goals, Goons and Garbage: The Danbury Trashers’ Unlikely Story, a short documentary from SI Films. In just under 15 fascinating and funny minutes, the facts of the Danbury Trashers’ stranger-than-fiction existence are detailed.
In short: James “Jimmy” Galante, a Connecticut-based waste-management kingpin, decided in the spring of 2004 to buy an expansion franchise in the United Hockey League. Naming the team “Trashers” to promote his business, Galante appointed his 17-year-old son, A.J. (no relation to A.J. Soprano), team president and general manager.
Acknowledging their inexperience, the Galantes hired hockey-savvy family friend Tommy “T-Bone” Pomposello, who at the time was working at West Point with the Army hockey team, as equipment manager/consigliere for the Trashers. Though Pomposello didn’t perform the same services for Jimmy Galante that Luca Brasi did for Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, his imposing physical presence calls to mind the fictional hitman.
The Trashers’ inaugural season coincided with the 2004-05 NHL lockout, so big-league players Mike Rupp, Garrett Burnett and Stephen Peat joined the team. Other roster spots were filled with former NHLers and career minor-leaguers, like Brent Gretzky, Rumun Ndur and Jeff Daw.
Deciding violence would be the Trashers’ calling card, A.J. Galante rounded out the roster with enforcers…a lot of them. Players like Mario Larocque, who racked up 458 penalty minutes in 114 games with the Trashers, Jon “Nasty” Mirasty (36 gp/259 PIM) and Brad “Wingnut” Wingfield (56 gp/496 PIM) pounded opponents into submission and drew fans from across the region.
The team also drew interest from the FBI. After the Trashers’ second season, in which they lost the Colonial Cup to the Kalamazoo Wings, Jimmy Galante was indicted on multiple charges, including racketeering, fraud and conspiracy. The team went under and the owner went to prison. Only one question remains: Why hasn’t the Trashers’ story been made into a feature-length movie?
Do You Believe In Miracles? The Story Of The 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
Many hockey fans may already know the story of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” It was a rag-tag team of American hockey players. Many were college players gathered from across the country. They all came together and did the unthinkable: beating the Soviets, the best hockey team in the world. Fans get an inside look at that American team in this documentary. Fans get a glance of classic footage of the team leading up to and including the “Miracle” itself.
That footage makes this documentary an incredible one. It’s one thing to read about the 1980 Winter Olympics and the team leading up to it. However, it’s another thing to watch real footage of the moment the Americans defeated the Soviets. Players spoke about the incredible feat, years later. In addition, head coach Herb Brooks speaks on his memories of that year. As these men reminisce on the feat they accomplished, it’s both touching and meaningful. Brooks passed away less than three years after the documentary’s release.
Finally, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the political background of the time. It explains parts of the Cold War and the Iran hostage crisis. These events, it argues, gave the United States “a crisis of confidence” heading into 1980. As a result, the “Miracle on Ice” was, in many ways, more than a hockey game. The Americans overcame all odds, including facing a Soviet team that had won four straight Olympic gold medals. It’s a patriotic moment, and the documentary does its best to live up to that spirit. Following the medal-round game against the Soviets, the United States won the gold medal. They were the youngest in American team history to play in the Olympics and just the second USA Hockey team to win gold.
This documentary is for everyone: American hockey fan or not. It’s worth watching if you know nothing about the 1980 “Miracle,” or if you know the basics. Even if you’ve read every article on the game and can perhaps quote the entirety of the 2004 Disney docudrama, it’s still worth watching.
We were not able to embed this one but you can watch it online here:
Fuelled By Passion: The Return of the Jets
This is a must watch documentary for those die hard Jets fans who were excited to see the Jets return to the city of Winnipeg, albeit in a different form. This documentary, created by Frantic Films and broadcast by CBC, follows the arrival of the Jets in Winnipeg for another round. The documentary involves discussion of how the Jets came to Winnipeg, the troubles that the True North group had with obtaining the first team they attempted to buy and the overwhelming feeling of excitement throughout the city of Winnipeg when the purchase of the Thrashers went through. By including interviews with former owner Barry Shenkarow and current chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment Mark Chipman as well as interviews with some of the citizens of Winnipeg the documentary goes beyond simply telling facts and focuses on how the Jets returning impacted the city itself as well as the NHL.
In addition to the many interviews, this documentary also includes an interesting discussion with one of the Jets more unique co-owners, David Thomson who has been granted peerage by the United Kingdom in the succession of his father and carries the title “3rd Baron Thomson of Fleet.” One of the other interesting things the documentary contains is an interview with former head coach Claude Noel and current GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in which they share with the viewer an inside look on how decisions are made as far as the roster goes.
The documentary shows what it was like for the former Thrashers to come to Winnipeg and begin rookie camp as well as training camp before their first season in the blue and silver. Containing interviews with current captain Andrew Ladd and then new-comer Mark Scheifele, this documentary should be a must watch for all Jets fans, and fans of hockey in general. Beyond the interviews, this documentary succeeds on tying the old Jets in to the new Jets team and provides a look at how events surrounding the team affected the people of the city itself. From discussion surrounding the destruction of the old arena and the building of the MTS Centre as it stands today, the focus on how the return of the Jets meant more than just a hockey team to the people of Winnipeg is important and makes this film shine.
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