At this point, everyone and their mother has seen Slap Shot, but as far as movies with misleadingly sporty titles go, it's right up there with The Deer Hunter. Over the last few years, I've done some digging and seen as many hockey documentaries as I was able to get my hands on. Hockey fans will discover that these four movies are hard to find, but worth netting for sure.
THE CHIEFS (Les Chiefs)
The Chiefs is a 2004 Canadian documentary about the goons on the now-defunct Laval Chiefs and their championship season in the Quebec Senior Professional Hockey League. Usually tranquil, Canadians never looked as vulgar as they do in this gritty portrait of beer drinking, semi-pro hockey players and their violent tendencies.
It's a fair look at how these players depend on fighting to pay their bills and are often trapped into that role with little flexibility. Some players even live in a make-shift apartment inside the rink. If they don't fight, they don't play.
Another element of the movie that was interesting were the die-hard Canadian hockey fans. It's a hockey country, but the semi-pro level of the game has a cult-like following rarely seen in the U.S. since the collapse of the original E.C.W. wrestling promotion.
I stumbled upon this documentary while shuffling through YouTube one night and I couldn't have been more impressed. It follows several goons through the Central Hockey League, where fighting is a selling point for team owners and promoters. It's the best example of why minor league hockey was so popular in the American South.
Kevin Holliday worked in a coal mine during the off season and Curtis Voth grew up on a farm: Both escaped Canada to fill some of the most violent roles in professional sports. It's unclear to me when this documentary aired on Metro TV in New York City, but I do know that I haven't been able to find it in any kind of retail form. If you follow this link and the subsequent links in the "Suggestions" box on YouTube, you can view as much of the documentary as I have.
This movie is the definition of "underground cinema". Unavailable by most conventional means, Road Hogs can only be purchased via the website of the filmmaker. It's about the Rockford IceHogs – then of the now-defunct United Hockey League – and their "other half of the season", traveling on the team bus and playing road games during the 2004-2005 season.
It's a pretty straightforward documentary and at times a little too bland, but it's a great afternoon for any hockey mega-nerd. Most interesting is the footage of Chris Chelios and Kevin Hatcher playing for the old Motor City Mechanics during the NHL lockout.
Sometime last year, I gave in and bought the DVD off the movie's official website. While it's not quite a must-see, die-hards will totally appreciate the detail and compelling storylines like that of Alex Kim, a Korean-American pro, who dealt with some racism at the hands of UHL opponents. The above clip is the only part of the movie I've been able to find online and it's a pretty good indication of what the documentary is like.
This 2008 short film is about the backyard ice hockey rinks of actor/comedian Denis Leary and former NHL All-Star Pat LaFontaine. Any puck-head will appreciate the awesome backyard facilities LaFontaine and Leary have built on their properties on Long Island and Connecticut. “Hockey Pads” focuses in particular on the “Williams Lake Cup,” a pond hockey tournament that Leary and LaFontaine hold annually to raise money for their respective charities. Each winter, LaFontaine, Leary, former NHLers and other guest players get padded up and make like the Mighty Ducks for a few hours for a good cause.
Although it fails to deliver any real hockey action, “Hockey Pads” was made for the fan that stays up for two days watching the NHL’s insignificant draft. It also appeals to anyone interested in learning about what “ice farming” is.