Hockey at the Movies
Like most sports movies, hockey films tend to be pretty formulaic. Typically, they feature a ragtag group of underdogs who have to overcome their differences under the tutelage of a coach who has been hardened by the years. There's a bad boy, a training montage, a rousing locker room speech. The team defeats a formidable enemy in the last few minutes.
Hockey movies stick closely to this formula, which is a shame for people whose only exposure to hockey is through these films. Hollywood doesn't paint the full picture of the sport.
Hockey Films By the Numbers
Do you believe in miracles? The studio that made "Miracle" did in 2004 when the film brought in nearly $65 million in the US. By box office figures alone, it was the highest grossing hockey film released in the US to date. But this heartfelt retelling of America's 1980 Olympic victory isn't actually the most popular hockey flick in history. That award goes to "Slap Shot," which sold more than 12.5 million tickets when it was released in 1977. The first and second "Mighty Ducks" movies take the next two spots.
Big film studios don't produce as many movies about hockey as they do about other sports, and hockey movies tend not to be huge critical darlings. While sports movies including "Moneyball," "The Blind Side," "Rocky" and "Million Dollar Baby" have earned multiple Academy Awards and nominations, no hockey movie has ever been nominated.
Hockey's Representation in Film
So how is hockey shown in the few mainstream movies made about it? Most films portray the game as fast-paced, violent and played by either violent goons or earnest working-class boys. (With the exception of the "Mighty Ducks" trilogy, hockey movies typically don't include female players.)
For example, "Slap Shot," one of the most beloved movies in the genre, is about a group of aggressive and immature players who will play unethically in order to win. "Goon" is about an enforcer who uses violent tactics with glee. All three "Mighty Ducks" movies feature players, and sometimes coaches, who play dirty. (Of course, these being inspirational kids' movies, the team only wins it all after coming together and playing by the rules.) "Miracle" tells a true story about real players, so its portrayal of players with a wide range of backgrounds, personalities and playing styles is more realistic than others in the genre.
Hockey players and fans can see through the exaggerated stereotypes. But to viewers who don't know the difference between charging and checking, these movies contribute to the false notion that all hockey players are hyper-masculine, violent and stupid.