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Screen Shots: Which player stories make for the best movies?

Bryan Fogarty played in 156 NHL games, scoring 22 goals and 74 points. (Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images/NHLI)

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Bryan Fogarty played in 156 NHL games, scoring 22 goals and 74 points. (Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images/NHLI)

Since there’s a goodly amount of hype this week regarding a soon-to-air biopic on a particular Canadian hockey figure who shall remain nameless, I thought a recent mailbag question might make for a nice Thursday column.

Let’s turn it over to reader Maxime Desruisseaux from Quebec City:

Salut, Adam. If you had a $100 million budget to produce a movie about the career/life of a hockey player, dead or alive, who would that be? Why?

Awesome inquiry, Maxime. I asked some colleagues at the THN compound and here’s what we’ve got:

Bryan Fogarty: One of the most talented players in junior hockey history, Fogarty also was far and away one of its most troubled; after a playing career whose highlights included him being drafted six slots ahead of Joe Sakic in 1987, he drifted through the NHL and minor leagues and died in 2002 as an alcoholic in South Carolina.

A film about Fogarty’s life definitely wouldn’t be a feel-good date movie, but it would shed a lot of light on both the game’s pervasive drinking culture as well as a kind soul whose life was decimated by it.  

Michael Leighton: The currently injured Flyer deserves a movie simply for his whirlwind existence as a journeyman goalie prior to finding a home this season in Philadelphia.

We’d need the Incredible Hulk piano exit music to truly do him justice, though.

Atilla Ambrus: You’re probably saying “Who?” right now, but trust me, Ambrus’ story is one for the ages (and one that already has been made into a compelling book

He never played anywhere close to the NHL level, but the Romanian-born Ambrus crafted an amazing legacy as a former Zamboni driver and goalie/janitor for a Hungarian pro hockey team who became notorious for committing a string of bank robberies before being caught in 1999 and sentenced to prison for 17 years.

Besides, how can you not make a movie about a hockey player whose MySpace friends include legendary British train robber Ronnie Biggs and world-class comedian Demetri Martin?

Glen Metropolit: By now, many observant hockey fans are aware of Metropolit’s early days growing up in the rougher areas of Toronto, as well as the 11 years he spent globetrotting and bus-riding in European and minor pro leagues before he finally landed his first full-time NHL gig in 2006.

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However, for everybody else, Metropolit’s story would resonate as a tale that’s a combination of 8 Mile and Rudy. If you could get Jeremy Piven or Jeremy Renner in the title role, I smell an Oscar!

Brian ‘Spinner’ Spencer: Granted, Spencer’s short, turbulent existence already was turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1993 – directed by Academy Award-nominated Canadian film auteur Atom Egoyan, no less – but I’d guess few of today’s hockey fans really know his life story.

I don’t want to go into too many details about what Spencer endured and brought on himself; let’s just say his first NHL game was marred by tragedy and his last years included a charge of murder, a possible death sentence and a robbery that ended his life in 1988 at age 38. 

Even if another film of Spencer’s life never gets made, you owe it to yourself to read the definitive book on him. 

Mike Danton: I’d line up overnight to be first in line for a film chronicling Danton’s unbelievable rags-to-riches-to-prison story – but only on one condition: David Frost, Danton’s murder target, has zero connection to the creation of the movie.

If the world was interested in the fiction that regularly oozes from that human being – and I use that label loosely – you’d best believe we already would have seen a screenplay floated, bought and produced by some unsavory Hollywood type.

Once Danton is prepared to reveal the real truth about his life, the moviemaking world will be more than willing to accept and exploit it.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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