Sports movies have been capturing the imagination since the earliest days of the big screen, and their popularity says as much about the nature of sport as anything else. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy Rocky or a soccer enthusiast to appreciate Bend It Like Beckham. The best sports movies are about the human condition, and cover friendship, determination and battling against impossible odds.
Hockey is far and away the most popular sport in Canada. We visit the most famous sporting arenas to get behind our favourite teams, we log on to Unibet Canada to wager on the outcome and we visit sports bars to get immersed in the action with fellow enthusiasts. But how about big screen representations of our national game? Hockey-themed movies might not be as common as flicks about football or motor racing, but there have nevertheless been some classics over the years. Here are five of the best.
Slap Shot (1977)
Yes, it really is 42 years since we first met Reggie Dunlop and Joe McGrath in what is, for many, the best hockey movie ever. It’s the film that put the phrase “goon hockey” on everyone’s lips and inspired another classic movie some 34 years later. But more of that in a moment. If you’ve managed to survive this long without seeing Slap Shot, find a copy today.
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Any student of film making who wants to see how to put together a great sports movie could do worse than to sit and study this Disney classic. Sure, it has the typical Disney feel-good theme with a team of no-hopers finding inspiration from an unlikely source and their initially unwilling coach finding his own route to redemption. But it ticks the boxes perfectly, has well-drawn characters and went on to inspire two sequels and even a real-life hockey team of the same name. Perfect for reliving those childhood memories on a wet Saturday afternoon.
Here’s an example of a sports movie that is about so much more than sport. Kurt Russell is at his spine-tingling best as Herb Brooks, the man who led the US Olympic hockey team to a seemingly impossible victory against the all-conquering Soviet Union team.
The Rocket (2005)
This lovingly created biopic of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard needs to be on every hockey fan’s watch list. The attention to detail is second to none, and you really feel as if you are watching footage from the 1940s. The film chronicles Richard’s early struggles as a man simply looking to provide for his family right through to his post-playing years when he stood up to be counted in the face of discrimination.
Written by and starring Jay Baruchel, this comedy drama centres around Doug Glatt, a man who is floundering his way through life and working, with no great success, as a bouncer. A sequence of improbable events sees him offered a shot at the big time as a pro hockey “enforcer.” Despite some disturbingly realistic fight scenes, this is an ultimately uplifting movie that will leave you with a smile on your face. It also has a great supporting cast that includes Liev Schreiber and Alison Pill.