Ice Guardians: Talking With Producer Adam Scorgie

Ice Guardians is an upcoming documentary film that is exploring uncharted territory: the stories of the players who are all too often forgotten — the enforcers. Producer Adam Scorgie took the time to talk with The Hockey Writers about this awesome documentary he and his team have created.

Scorgie along with Director Brett Harvey and Editor Stephen Green have put something together that I believe will not only get huge amounts of respect from the hockey community but also from the film industry as well.

Growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia, Adam Scorgie went to high school with some of these enforcers, becoming friends with Eric Godard and Scott Parker in particular. Scorgie was close to these guys and felt like their story needed telling, with no agenda other than to get it out into the world. These enforcers of the game aren’t big dumb brutes like many believe — in fact in many cases it’s quite the opposite. These guys are often the most intelligent players on their teams, and will do just about anything to help their team win.

Since I was a kid, watching and playing hockey, fighting always pumped me up. Seeing how it can turn the tide of a game so quickly, ramping up at least one bench and the crowd every time. These ‘Ice Guardians’ were needed in a way back then. They were there to make sure nothing got out of hand, that if anyone was going to try anything with say Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg, enforcers such as Parker were there, Chris Simon was there and Peter Worrell was there, to name a few. Paul Laus was another big favorite of mine while playing for the Florida Panthers. You’d absolutely think twice about throwing a heavy hit at one of the superstars with these big boys around.

Things have changed quite a bit. The enforcer role has become almost non-existent, with the NHL trying it’s best to minimize fighting, prevent concussions as well as other serious injuries. There are so many different ways to cause injuries in games, and if players are flying around with no fear in today’s armor-like pads with no enforcers on the ice to settle things down and hold players accountable, some of these guys will keep taking runs at star players like we see in today’s NHL.

What would happen now if each team had an enforcer like the old days? Fighting would go up, absolutely, but would it also lower serious injuries and concussions? Very possibly. We are not here, however, to advocate for fighting or to tell you that it doesn’t belong in the game — we’re here to talk about this awesome film that will have you questioning these scenarios yourself and ultimately shed some light on one of the toughest jobs to have in hockey, but a job these guys absolutely love doing.

I can’t wait for Ice Guardians, as many of you already know, so let’s take a look at my conversation with Adam Scorgie!

Adam Scorgie Talks Ice Guardians

How It Came to Be

Scorgie fell in love with hockey because of these enforcers, he became friends with some big names at an early age growing up in Kelowna. He got as close as you could get to some of these guys(without getting punched in the face).

“I went to high school with Todd Fedoruk and Scott Parker, so at a young age, I saw their battles, and what they went through.”

“These are the guys who originally made me a fan of the game. Whether fighting stays or leaves, if enforcers are flushed out, they are still a huge part of hockey’s history. If their story is not told correctly it would really be a disservice. So we take a look at how the game has evolved since the 70’s and 80’s, and fighting has been a part of hockey since the first ever NHL game.”

What Exactly Is Ice Guardians and What Can We Expect?

Ice Guardians is and in-depth look at the history and role of the NHL enforcer, where it started, how it evolved over the years, and what these guys started towards making their dream of playing in the NHL come true.”

“There hasn’t been a lot done on the enforcer, and what has been done, is usually with a political agenda, either to get rid of fighting in the league or completely rock ’em sock ’em. That’s why the players jumped behind Ice Guardians so much because we said look, we’re not out there to get rules changed and not out there petitioning the role. Just as fans, it is fascinating to find out how this dynamic of the enforcer role was created, the certain rule changes, and how there are rules actually named after the players, such as the Rob Ray rule for example. We have certain rules in there named after these guys! So to not have a great documentary telling that great huge part of hockey’s history, to just brush it under the rug, to me was just wrong.”

“When I set out wanting to make this movie, everyone told me don’t touch it, except for the players. They’ve all said there’s no documentary or movie that really tells their story accurately, so they all rallied behind Ice Guardians believing this is the chance to set that right. And it’s truly an honor for me, having to pinch myself on shoots, thinking to myself these are the guys I grew up watching and made me learn all about hockey.”

“We’ve brought in a human behavior specialist as well, to really go in-depth in a way that hasn’t been done, and it’s truly a dream come true.”

Kevin Westgarth
(Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

“We’ve gotten such great trust from the players, you know we’re not some newscast whose highlighting how bad fighting is or trying to get the NHL to change it, so all of these guys have opened up in so many ways, several of them cried during the interviews, just really emotional and passionate interviews, that as a filmmaker is a big reason we love the business, to hear stories like these.”

Ice Guardians won’t be solely from the tough guys’ perspective, though, we’ll have superstars like Brett Hull, Rick Tocchet, and Clark Gillies for example, plus referees and linesman, so we’re really looking at the entire picture.”

“Along with the interviews featured in Ice Guardians, we’re also following two different stories. One of them, toward the tail-end of their career, Kevin Westgarth. He could be the last pure enforcer to win a Stanley Cup. Westgarth is a super intelligent guy, an Ivy-league graduate with a psychology degree from Princeton.”

“The second story will be covering the younger Brett Gallant, fighting his way into the NHL. They call him ‘The Honey Badger’ because he’s not too big but drops the gloves with everybody. Gallant who was recently signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets currently plays for their farm team in the AHL, the Cleveland Monsters. So those are kind of the two stories we’re following, looking at the contrast there with Westgarth at the end of his career and Gallant, who is just trying to get into the NHL.”

Of course the film will also cover the overall history of the enforcer, when it started, who the first ones were, the complete package. There’s always going to be fans of the game or otherwise who say fighting shouldn’t exist in hockey or at least the enforcer shouldn’t. I don’t necessarily agree with that, I think fighting has its place in hockey, and enforcers do too. Though now as the game gets faster each day, these new age enforcers would have to be able to adjust to the speed, and rising skill levels.

The Enforcer Role

There’s a “code” out there on the ice, one that was especially reinforced by these enforcers, but nowadays it seems as if no one knows what the “code” is or should be. Their roles are deteriorating but should they be?

“People will argue that the enforcer role or the physicality doesn’t always work, and they’re right. It doesn’t, but the best power play in the league only operates at 28%. So that means that less than three out of ten times does your power play work, same goes for physicality. Will big hits and stuff win you the game every time? Nope. Will a fight between two heavyweights that seems like a staged fight spark the momentum you need to win? Not always, but if it does that one time and your team happens to make the playoffs by one point, then that guy has earned his salary for the year.”

“There’s no question that we need to be worried about concussions and injuries and everything else, but I think Brian McGratton put it best when we interviewed him, he said – ‘I’ve been in over 500 fights in my pro career, from juniors until now, and I have had less concussions than Sidney Crosby’. So where are these concussions and injuries really coming from? They’re coming from body checks. Fighting is down a ton but injuries are not, star players on every team seem to be going down at a high rate, and this is what – in interviews with Brett Hull, Wendel Clark, and Chris Chelios – what they all said was they didn’t have to deal with that because of these enforcers.”

Brian McGratton
Brian McGratton (Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports)

“A great piece from our interview with Wendel Clark was when we asked him if his point of view on fighting has changed over the years, and he said – ‘Not at all, I never looked at fighting as violent.’ We looked at him and were like what are you talking about? He responded by saying – ‘When two grown men make an agreement to fight each other on the ice, they are agreeing to do so, but when I’m coming around the back of the net and I have my head down and I look up and you pile drive me, knocking me out with a lethal hit, and concussing me, I never agreed to that! You just hit me because I was open, crushed me and knocked me out for the season or whatever. So to me, that was always much more violent, because I didn’t agree to get body-checked that hard. At least when I fought, I was agreeing with another grown adult that we were going to do battle.'”

A very interesting quote there from Clark. A point of view not often heard from. In a way, that’s exactly why this movie was made.

Not Just for Hockey Fans

This movie is going to be a must-see for not only hockey fans but also documentary lovers, and film lovers in general really. There is simply nothing like it. Bottom line.

“We could see we were on the right path with Ice Guardians judging by the players’ enthusiasm to be involved. A lot of people who we showed the demo to had no idea there was so much of a dynamic to this subject. And that’s what we want because any great documentary should make you question this or that and come to your own informed conclusion, that’s what we have here with Ice Guardians. Let me tell you, I’ve spent a lot of time with athletes, not just in this sport but others as well, and these guys are hands down some of the most loyal, genuine guys I’ve ever met during any of my projects.”

This film will give an honest history of the enforcer, and since they are becoming less and less prevalent as each year goes by, at least we have this documentary now that has followed these guys and told their stories. Their place in hockey history will forever exist.

“Whether you hate fighting in this sport or love it, you should be very intrigued to know the full history of the enforcer’s role in the game plus its evolution over the years, and listening to these guys’ stories in a way that’s never been seen or heard before. I think you’d be hard pressed to be any kind of hockey fan, or any kind of triumph over tragedy fan, and not be inspired by a lot of the stuff you’ll see in this movie.”

There you have it guys and gals, now watch the trailer, and mark your calendars. Whatever you do, make sure you go see Ice Guardians!

The Official Trailer is Here!

YouTube player

Important Dates

  • World Premiere – September 12
  • Supper Channel World Broadcast Premiere – October 8

Upcoming red carpets:

  • Toronto, September 12
  • Edmonton, September 15
  • Kelowna, September 29

For even more information, check out the official Ice Guardians Facebook page.