When it comes to sports movies, Canada is most famous for ice hockey films. It goes with the territory. Film is reflective of culture, and ice hockey is most certainly well ingrained in the Canadian way of life.
That’s not to say the country doesn’t enjoy watching and celebrating a variety of sports, from football and soccer, to baseball and lacrosse, cricket, rugby and wrestling. As far as betting is concerned, the NHL takes top spot, followed by the CFL, NBA and NFL, as well as global events such as Rugby World Cup options.
Despite there being a ready made audience of Canadian fans for many different sports, film hasn’t traditionally branched out too far, at least not successfully. Can we get beyond the ice hockey films?
Ice Hockey – The National Sport and Sport Film Of Canada
Ice hockey is officially the national sport of Canada, at least in the (lengthy) winter. It also has an inherently exciting and fast paced format that lends itself well to an action-drama movie style.
Goon (2011) has perhaps become the best known of the Canadian ice hockey films. This is a comedy film by name, and it is hilariously funny at times, yet it comes with a violent and over-the-top nature that can turn the stomach and make laughter sound sinister. Goon follows the story of Doug Glatt, played by the excellent Sean William Scott, as he forgoes his job as a bouncer to become enforcer for a minor league team.
On release, Goon lost money against its budget, but it became a huge hit upon its re-release on Netflix. Maybe the sheer disgracefulness of Goon was a little before its time? In any case, the sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers was commissioned, and failed miserably.
You don’t have to look too far to find more Canadian ice hockey films of every ilk. A previous post on Canadian sports movies features two more and I’m about to drop in a few names for you to remember, or forget if you prefer.
Way back in 1986 we had Youngblood, the story of a skilled junior hockey player looking to get into the pro leagues. Mystery Alaska (1999) was a comedy-drama film about a small town called Mystery where all the residents play ice hockey and the local team eventually goes on to challenge the New York Rangers. The Rocket (2005) was a French-Canadian biopic film about Maurice “Rocket” Richard and his time in the NHL, and the list goes on…
Getting Beyond Ice Hockey
The moment you’ve all been waiting for. Now it’s time to go beyond the ice hockey and talk about some of the best Canadian movies that are about other sports. They may not always be perfect, they may not even always be great, but they are something and they show a trend towards covering more forms of competition.
- Crazy Canucks (2004) – Sports drama film about Canadian skiers in the Alpine World Cup. Based on a true story of skiers active in the 1970s and 80s who became somewhat legendary, competing at the top European level in a way that is rarely seen. The group have collectively been inducted as one group into Canada’s Wall of Fame.
- The Boy In Blue (1986) – Drama film starring Nicolas Cage as competitive rowing champion Ned Hanlan. Follows his sporting and personal life, being adopted and exploited by business people. Reviews say that the film never quite broke out of the usual cliches.
- Chokeslam (2017) – A romantic sports-comedy film that combined professional wrestling with a hopeless kind of love story. We’re even treated to a special guest appearance by pro wrestler Mick Folly. Canada loved wrestling, but unfortunately Chokeslam didn’t hit the spot for everyone. It received general unfavourable reviews, despite picking up several awards.
- Grizzlies (2018) – Grizzlies has to be the star of the show for this article. Lacrosse is the beloved national sport of the summer in Canada, and Grizzlies finally nails down a decent plot based on the true story of a youth lacrosse team set up to help with a struggling Inuit community. Miranda de Pencier won Best Director in Feature Film, and we can finally say that Canada has got further than ice hockey when it comes to decent sports movies.