Three fans in Florida dress up as the Hanson Brothers for Halloween. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
The new hockey movie Goon will be released in Canada and the United States over the course of the next couple months – and with it, there will be a renewed debate over the greatest hockey movies.
I’ve seen an advanced preview of Goon and I can confirm the solid reviews it received on the film festival circuit. Actor and writer Jay Baruchel, the driving force behind the film, clearly loves the game and has taken great care to accurately convey the camaraderie of a pro team and the speed and action of the sport.
As a kid who grew up knowing every word of Slap Shot, it’d be hard for Goon to top that piece of celluloid hockey history. But Goon is the funniest hockey movie since Slap Shot and I’d recommend it to all puck fans (of an adult age). And with that in mind, here are the top 10 hockey movies of all time:
With arguably the most star-studded cast of actors in any hockey movie – including Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria and Colm Meaney – this film chronicles an Alaskan town bracing for an impromptu game against the New York Rangers. Keep your eye out for cameo appearances from Phil Esposito, Little Richard and Mike Myers.
The most successful Quebec-made film series in that province’s history began with this movie about an amateur hockey team’s comedic exploits. It’s not the most original sports movie you’ll ever see, but it spawned three sequels and a spinoff TV series because of a joyful approach to capturing the spirit of the game.
The story of all-time great Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport, this Quebec-made film was made with the help of Richard before he died and features past and current NHLers Vincent Lecavalier, Sean Avery, Pascal Dupuis, Ian Laperriere, Mike Ricci and Stephane Quintal as legends of the past. Don’t let the English subtitles scare you away – the movie was a critically acclaimed hit, winning nine of Canada’s Genie Awards, including best actor, actress and director.
Listen, any movie starring ‘90s action relic Jean-Claude Van Damme is not going to age all that well. But this particular film has a lot going for it from a hockey fan’s perspective – including cameos from Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nicholls, Markus Naslund and Sidney Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson – and registers high on the unintentional comedy scale.
A personal sentimental favorite, this animated children’s movie – about a young Montreal Canadiens fan devastated to accidentally receive a Maple Leafs jersey in the mail – has withstood the test of time. It’s only 10 minutes long, but is masterfully told and will tug on any hockey fan’s heartstrings long after it’s over.
One of the most financially successful Canadian movies ever, this film isn’t about hockey per se, but its thinly veiled references to the NHL (including fictional commissioner Harry Buttman) make this a more-than-worthwhile puck-related movie.
Yes, I’m putting a movie that hasn’t yet been released high on this list, but Baruchel’s love letter to the game’s tough guys deserves it. Both of its main stars, Seann William Scott (of American Pie and Dude, Where’s My Car? fame) and Liev Schreiber (Scream, The Hurricane) deliver strong performances and the plot isn’t ham-fisted as so many sports films are. Hilarious, smart and touching.
The dramatized story of the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic team is as inspirational now as it was when it was released 24 years after the actual event. Kurt Russell has gained most of his fame for movies like “Escape From New York”, but his work as legendary late coach Herb Brooks was outstanding.
One of the less mainstream movies on this list is also one of the most affecting. A documentary on a team in the ultra-tough, Quebec-based North American Hockey League, this film has more legitimate drama and humor in it than most fictional films about the game. It isn’t the easiest movie to get your hands on, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
What can I tell you? Unless you’re a hockey fan who literally is physically allergic to obscenities and cartoonish violence, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have seen this masterpiece already. It features one of Paul Newman’s greatest acting jobs, the immortal Hansons and none of that stinkin’ root beer. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, call your local movie rental place (if you still have one), tell them to reserve one for you right @*#$-ing now, then hang up the phone.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
If you enjoy this feature, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine for the exclusive countdown, Starting From 5, and other great features from the world of hockey.