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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Top 5 Hockey Movies Of All Time

As with any sport, Hollywood has made movies about the coolest game on Earth over the years. These movies have reached out and targeted various age groups. Some had made us laugh and cry and other have made us run for the hills. One particular film comes to mind, keep reading for what that gem of pestilence is.

As a special bonus, I have enlisted the help of the infamous Gopher for this list. After spending countless minutes debating these films here is what we were able to come up with.

Note: Some of the below might have some similarities. Long have we discussed how much we think alike. Yet again we were shocked to see how some of our answers played out here.

#5 Mighty Ducks 2

Shea: This is obviously a classic, but it's not as good as the original. I'm more of a believer that the original is usually the best film and the others are usually disappointments. The best example of this from a recent trilogy would be Pirates of the Caribbean. First one was great, second one was ok, third was just plain weird with not enough Keira Knightly.

I had a couple problems with D2 which is why I rank it 5th. First off, final game against Iceland. Iceland? Really? Why not make this more believable Disney and put a country who actually has a legitimate hockey program like oh I don't know...Finland, Sweden, Russia, Czechs, etc.

Also from the final game, what's up with Gunner Stahl going up to Charlie Conway and saying "good game captain duck." Last I checked Conway didn't even suit up for that game! Here's what you do Gunner. Hand Conway some pom-poms and then congratulate him on being the youngest male cheerleader in history.

Not to mention the knuckle puck. Are you kidding me? Anyone who's ever played hockey or had a puck lying around the basement has tried this and immediately said "What the #$%#?" It doesn't work. Not even close. Not even like the puck dances at all. It goes about three feet and dies.

Final note on the knuckle puck. How on Earth does Bombay get Ross Tyler on the roster? Don't the rosters have to be submitted prior to the tournament beginning? Also, THE KID CAN'T SKATE! What coach puts a kid who can't skate for beans on the ice and makes him play defense? Coaches always put the worst skaters on the wings. It takes the focus off the kid.

Also, his goal at the end crosses the line of movie magic, stomps all over the line of Disney movie magic and enters the realm of absurd. Not even with 10 people helping you could you take off goalie equipment and put it on another person that quick. I played goalie for a couple years. It takes a solid 15-20 minutes if you're hustling and have someone handing you equipment. Last I checked, hockey timeouts were 30 seconds. You explain that to me. If it were me I would have called Congress to test those kids for performance enhancers.

Gopher: Shea and I disagree on this one, due to the fact that I believe this is one of those few sequels that outshines the original. Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back, and Major League II are the others. (The plot was better in Major League I, but Bob Uecker in Major League II deserved an Oscar.)

If you can’t get pumped watching TEAM USA in the Junior Goodwill games, check your pulse. The additions of Dwayne, Kenny, Julie, Portman and Luis outweigh the subtractions of Karp, Petey, Tammy, Tommy, and Terry Hall. (Sidebar: D2 basically put the Sandlot on skates. Jesse Hall = DeNunez. Mendoza= Benny the Jet Rodriguez. Dwayne = Bertram. Great move by Disney.)

Better characters plus national pride on the line equal a much higher sense of tension and in the end, a better movie. Plus is there a better goal call ever than “Wu Wu Wu Kenny Wu!” I think not. One other thing; every kid in the universe, and my guess, most NHL players, have at one point or another have tried the knuckle puck. It has revolutionized the glass industry due to the number of windows that have been shattered since its inception.

There were minor issues here as with D1. First of all, despite whatever promises you make to the girl from Bangor, Maine, no self respecting coach would ever put in an ice cold Julie the Cat against the leading scorer of the tourney. It would never happen, plus one would think Goldberg would have put up more than a fight. Secondly, despite its comedic value and absolute surprise, Dwayne would NEVER have his rope already in a lasso waiting for him on the bench. It makes no sense. Plus the penalty call should have been too many men on the ice, not roping.

Finally, Guy would have been pissed Dwayne was honing in on Connie. There would have been a fight on the bench if Guy had any pucks (for lack of other words). I realize with a name like Guy Germaine, no one would ever think of you to be tough. With that said, show some pride and stand up for your girl.

Despite my minor quibbles, D2 is still a movie that I could watch daily.

#4 Mighty Ducks 1

Shea: Instant classic. I grew up playing hockey and after watching this movie I started including the triple deke into my own repertoire. You wouldn't believe how much it actually works if pulled off to Gordon Bombay perfection. I've since modified it to a 2 1/2 deke with a nasty shoulder fake. Works every time.

Here's my reasoning for ranking this ahead of D2 aside from the above theory. Who doesn't like coming back and sticking it to someone who wronged you as a child. Am I that petty? Hell yes I am. I'm that guy who can't wait for his high school reunions to go back and shove my success in their faces and the final "screw you." I'm not saying that I didn't like anyone I went to school with, I did. It's just those certain few people who always thought they were better than anyone that I want to stuff success down their throats, which is exactly what Bombay does through Conway in this movie.

Plus it was easier to relate to this movie because until I got into high school, I somehow ended up on one of the worst teams in the league. I remember we made the playoffs as a 7-seed one year and knocked off the heavily favored 2-seed in the first round. That's my real-life Ducks moment.

Gopher: Mighty Ducks was the best kids’ sports movie to come along since the Bad News Bears. Everyone loved the underdog story and the comeback of the Ducks, led by Charlie Conway (who I actually wrote an essay about in college) and the famed triple deke. As a child, there was little better in life than quacking along with the crowd and pulling for the Ducks.

The quality on this isn't great, but it's the best we could find.

As an adult, (not really, more like a 5 year old with college graduate logic) I keep finding mini flaws in this movie that continually irritate me.

First of all, in any playoff system that has ever been devised, the top seeded Hawks would have played the bottom seeded Ducks. The climactic face-off in the finals pitting mentor versus pupil with Bombay vs Reilly in a Star Wars-esque like manor (I've been waiting for you, Reilly. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master) is a must for movie purposes.

The same tension is necessary with Banks facing his former team. Movies can make any playoff brackets they want. If this was to happen in real life though, it is the worst playoff format in the history of sports. Secondly, I realize how popular hockey is in Minnesota. I just highly doubt they would have radio broadcasts for 10-year old regular season hockey games. If any Golden Gophers can help this regular gopher out and correct me, that would be great. If I get no response though, I’m going to assume this is bogus and does not happen in real life.

As a children’s movie, Mighty Ducks gets the highest marks. As an adult looking back on it, I still love it. I just hate the fact that I found those flaws.

#3 Slap Shot

Shea: Does it get any better than the Hanson twins running around hitting anything that moves? I don't think so. The overwhelming number of fights is hilarious. Until you actually have played on a team that has a couple guys like the Hansons, you can only appreciate their antics at face value.

I clearly remember one guy who could have been a stunt double for the Hansons. This kid hit like a Mack truck and always got penalized for hitting people "too hard." I didn't know that was possible, but he was singlehandedly responsible for sending at least 10 kids to the hospital.

During that same season we actually had a for real Slap Shot 5 on 5 brawl that turned into 10 on 10 or more I don't remember the numbers as I was too busy wailing on some guy. Guess who basically started the whole melee. Yup, the kid mentioned above. His buddy got head-butted off the draw with 5 seconds to go and pounced like lion on the weak antelope. The rest is one big blur.

With that said, I couldn't do much but laugh throughout the entire movie.

Gopher: This is Paul Newman’s third best movie behind Cool Hand Luke and The Sting in that order. I will not debate this. Anyone who disagrees can refute it in the “comments” section and we will have a back and forth throw down. With that said, that’s not a bad list of movies to be behind and his acting in this as player-coach Dunlop is amazing.

The thought of a minor league hockey player-coach is brilliant and not used enough in the real world today. What would you give to have Mike Keenan as an enforcer picking a fight with Zdeno Chara? I’m actually giving 3-1 odds to Keenan on this one. If anyone in Vegas could set this up, I’d greatly appreciate it.

The same would go for Gretzky vs anyone. I would take the wimpy Marek Malik with one hand and one skate blindfolded vs Gretzky. Unless Gretzky had one of his goons come off the bench to protect him, I’d like to see his head bleed like in Swingers.

The key to Slap Shot is of course the Hanson Brothers. This tandem has enabled many begrudging males to come up with a last second Halloween costume as long as they owned a hockey jersey, black glasses, and tape. On top of the comedic look for hockey players (Something tells me Rec Specs would not have done), they take cursing and fighting to a new level. The only problem with this movie is you can’t watch it on television unless it's HBO. I get excited when I see it, but the first use of the phrase “You mother-brother” is a turn off worse than fat chicks whose bellybuttons you can see underneath their tight white shirts. Overall though, a movie masterpiece with comedic genius.

#2 Mystery Alaska

Shea: The only thing I didn't particularly like with this movie was that Russel Crowe was the grizzled veteran who ends up leading the team to a sort of glory, if by glory you mean taking pride in losing despite how hard you tried.

Last I checked a loss was still a loss.

Anyway, how many people sat open mouthed when Connor Banks rings the crossbar as the longest 3 seconds in the history of the world expires? I for one was shocked.

How cool would it be to skate around your town and have endless sheets of ice at your disposal? This would be heaven for me. The opening shots of Mystery are amazing. The whole town is playing hockey, from little kids right up to the traditional Saturday Game. It's pond hockey at it best. Just throw the sticks in the middle and have a neutral party toss them to either side to establish teams.

Hank Azaria is the guy I am going to be in a couple years with the reunion thing above. The aspiring writer who left the town of Mystery who couldn't skate to save his life, comes back to town bringing the New York Rangers to play the boys of Mystery Alaska. He comes off as a pain for most of the movie, but his drunken ride on the stolen Zamboni was priceless.

Plus as an added bonus we get one of the greatest pissed off rants of all time by the Price World rep.

Gopher: It is on my list of movies to see, but I am going to come clean here and say I have never seen this movie. Instead I’m going to trash the 3rd leg of a trilogy that never happened. D3 was an embarrassment to hockey, movies, and high school. Emilio Estevez saw it coming and merely took a cameo and a huge paycheck. Joshua Jackson entered the “I can’t act” part of his life. Connie Moreau wasn’t hot anymore and Julie the Cat got fat. Hans died. Awful plot decisions.

Other issues:

1. No school would change its name if the JV beat the Varsity in hockey based on a student negotiated bet. There is no way the Warriors would become the Ducks. Plus what did all of the other athletes think? Did the football team, baseball team, and soccer team okay this? Did the board of regents? Did the school store? I call shenanigans.

2. Even if number one was an oral contract, there is no way the school would have ever laid out the money to pre-order and hang a banner in the off chance that the JV did win.

3. Paul Kariya comes to be the color announcer to a 14 year old at a high school intra-squad hockey game? Really? He didn’t have other things to do during hockey season?

4. When their goon goes through the glass (which would never happen) he goes skate first into the third row. Two skates with flying shards of glass hurling towards a sold out crowd would have caused injuries and massive bleeding. I saw none of this. I realize its Disney and all, but if Gary Bertier can get paralyzed in a car crash and die in Remember the Titans, we can see a little Richard Zednik action. (I realize I’m going to hell for that last comment, but he is okay now, and I’m already going for so many other things.)

I have more, but Shea wants to keep this relatively short. This movie was a shame. Enough said.

#1 Miracle

Shea:The 1980 United States Olympic hockey team is why I got into writing in the first place. How? Going back to my junior year in high school I wrote am in depth report on the game against the Soviets. My teacher at the time pulled me aside before handing the paper back to me and asked what my plans for a career were. At that time I had none. She gave me the nudge down the road I currently walk and I have her to thank for that. Thanks Lasante!

My love affair with this team didn't stop there. As a senior in college I had to do an original research paper as my thesis. Guess what I chose yet again. The more I researched this team the more I understood what the win meant. Yes it's the greatest upset in sports ever. (If you try to tell me the Giants beating the Pats in the Super Bowl that never happened is a bigger upset, I'm sending the men in white coats to take you away and get you the treatment you so deserve.)

Not to date myself here, but I wasn't alive for the "Miracle on Ice" so this movie was about the closest thing I could get to actually living in the moment. How many movies have you been to where people start cheering in the middle of he film? I can't think of any I've been to. Miracle was the only one.

The theater exploded when Mike Eruzione (Patrick O'Brien Demsey)scores the eventual game winning goal in the third period. I got chills watching this. I've seen the actual game 100 times and that goal never gets old. Ever. (Side note, it just won ESPN's Greatest Highlight as voted on by the people. It faced off against Boise State/Oklahoma. Had it lost to BSU I would have boycotted ESPN forever.)

I loved how as the final seconds ticked off the clock, they seamlessly transition into the actual call from Al Michaels. "Do you believe in Miracles?! YESSSS!" I just got chills typing that. To borrow from Bill Simmons, Al Michaels' call belongs in the pantheon of greatest calls of all time.

I was sold on Mystery Alaska being the best hockey movie ever made until this came along and knocked it down a peg.

Gopher:This movie is the real life D2 on a bigger stage titled around the single greatest sports call of all time. Kurt Russell portrayed Herb Brooks with utter brilliance and accuracy. The use of actual former television broadcasts added authenticity to this highlight of American History. In addition, using Al Michaels to broadcast the semi-final versus the USSR was quintessential to success of this film. This is his greatest performance, narrowly edging out BASEketball. Finally, using relatively unknown actors for the players was perfect due to the fact that all of the players on the team were relative unknowns at the time too. Kudos to the casting director here.

Getting back to the movie, Miracle truly recreates that moment in time. So many movies “Based on a True Story” don’t truly get the audience’s heart rate going. Therefore directors add scenes and take liberties to keep the viewer entertained. The best part of Miracle is this is kept to a minimum. The director knew the story would sell itself, so why embellish? The tension between the U.S. and the USSR is palpable, and the viewer continually creeps towards the edge of their seat. Some people say based on real life is boring because we know the outcome going in. This was my rationale to not watching Titanic. The boat sinks, get over it.

Miracle avoids this cliché. The theater I was in when I watched this movie actually erupted during Eruzione’s go ahead goal and counted down with Michaels during the final call. Corny? Perhaps. But this movie captured the national pride felt in ’80, and helped all of us who didn’t get to witness it live, feel a fraction of what was truly flowing through America’s blood during the real thing.

1 comment:

George said...

the sports tsar appreciates your crowning of Miracle at #1. we must continue the fight against those pesky bolsheviks...