Screen Shots: Laughter is the best medicine

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It may be more difficult for our American friends to locate, but Bon Cop, Bad Cop (or if you're more DonCherrylingual than bilingual, Good Cop, Bad Cop) provides moviegoers with a surprising and welcome twist on the mismatched buddy cop formula, with added treats for hockey fans.

The movie centers around an edgy, Montreal detective and his stuffy, by-the-book colleague from Toronto, who must work together to hunt down a serial killer. Led by Colm Feore (Pearl Harbor, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), the acting is terrific and the writing offers some subtle, highly-hilarious pokes at modern-day frictions between Canada's English and French-speaking cultures.

But for NHL fans, it's the reasons behind the fictionalized murders that make the film worth the view.

Seems somebody hasn't enjoyed the changes made to “our game” (it's never referred to as the NHL, for lawyerly, litigationy reasons). And that madman is a someone – don't worry, Ron MacLean's alibi checked out – who is arranging meetings with The Maker for anyone who altered Canada's proudest product in the name of pleasing Americans.

The first murder victim is Peter Picklington (hmmmm….that name sounds familiar….give us a second…). The team owner's crime? Selling “No. 99” to a franchise in the U.S. His punishment? Naturally, death via Zamboni.

Next to be killed is Fred Grossbut, whose fatal mistake was selling the Quebec Fleur-de-Lis team to Colorado. He is not intended to loosely portray ex-Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut. Nope. No-sir-ee. Preposterous.

The fictional killer's ultimate target is none other than Harry Buttman, the league's diminutive, often-abrasive American commissioner. Yes, they did go there. Adding insult to injury, the filmmakers cast a genuine midget to play the role of BettmanÂ…er, Buttman. Even for a hardened heart such as ours, that was a little too cruel.

But for as good as Bon Cop, Bad Cop was – and the full-house audience we were part of absolutely loved it – here's the one thought we couldn't get out of our head: “It would've been even better had the NHL participated in it.”

Given the plot, it's completely understandable why the league would've been averse to the idea of adding their brand to the movie. Buttman isn't portrayed as a sympathetic character, not for a second, even when his life is being threatened.

Still, at a time when NASCAR was savvy enough to lampoon itself in Will Ferrell's summer smash Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, why shouldn't the NHL explore every opportunity to lodge its logo in the public eye?

Why? Because one of the NHL's many dichotomies comes in the form of players and executives with dry, fantastic senses of humor, but a league whose corporate identity is so utterly stone-faced and unfunny it makes Henry Kissinger look like George Carlin.

Remember when Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder, in character for the CBC comedy This Hour Has 22 Minutes, snuck into the oldtimers' team picture during the NHL's outdoor game in 2003? There were a lot of very unhappy hockey people that night.

Forget that Majumder's stealthy move delivered the league a plethora of publicity, they said. The comic had dared to insert himself where time and tradition forbid him from, and that was as great an offense as any.

In covering this league, sometimes you get the feeling everyone involved is acting out a solemn duty, rather than enjoying the sport and each other.

Score a goal, did you? Better remove that smile from your face, before somebody on the opposing team removes it for you. Angry with that ugly-looking knuckle-dragger on the other bench? Calm down, before you say something that'll wind up in tomorrow's newspapers – or, heaven forbid, another team's bulletin board.

That's why it's so difficult for the NHL to find traction among the mainstream media. Where other leagues have learned to cultivate and accentuate their star personalities, the NHL's culture strongly encourages its stars to (a) shut up; and (b) get back in the corner while you're shuttin' up.

That can change, though. Bettman still can seek out opportunities for promotion, and should be prepared to enter into entertainment partnerships even when the league doesn't have final product approval.

Politicians all but line up these days to be teased on TV comedy shows, on the Saturday Night Lives and the Daily Shows and The Colbert Reports of the world, because they know that's what plays well in public. They know the combination of humility and confidence you exude when you make yourself the butt of a joke is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Bettman and the NHL ought to try it sometime. By lightening up a little, by allowing for levity in a marketplace whose self-importance practically begs for it, the commissioner can change his image, and the impact on his league's image, for the better.

Adam Proteau's Screen Shots appears regularly - including every Thursday starting in October - only on Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at

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