Best and Worst Hockey Flicks of All Time
BEST: #5 — Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Mystery, Alaska is a love letter to the sport from writer David E. Kelley (best known for Boston Legal and the criminally under-appreciated Lake Placid). This little gem packs in a lot of crisp banter, strong performances from Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria and Maury Chaykin while managing to avoid most of the sports movie cliches. Some of the hockey scenes border on the hyperbolic, but that one rough edge is smoothed over by Mike Myers' turn as a Don Cherry manque who utters the memorable line, "If you don't play this game with a big heart and a big bag of knuckles in front of the net, you don't got dinky do."
BEST: #4 — The Rocket (2005)
Rather than belabor the social context of English-French tensions in the 1940s, The Rocket simply immerses you in them as it examines the larger importance of Maurice Richard beyond the rink. Roy Dupuis won a Genie (Canadian Oscar) for capturing Richard and his smoldering intensity. Look for cameos from Vinnie Lecavalier, Sean Avery, Ian Laperriere and several other NHLers.
BEST: #3 — The Deadliest Season (1977)
Haven't seen it? Not surprised. Despite a stellar cast that featured Michael Moriarty, Jill Eikenberry and the first film appearance by Meryl Streep (!), this 1977 made-for-TV drama about a player who embraces hockey's culture of violence to deadly effect has yet to be issued on DVD. A tight script that respectfully captured the evolution the game was experiencing during that period makes it worth the effort to track down a bootleg copy (not that I, ahem, condone bootlegging). Oh, and Dave Eskanazi, the player killed during a game by Moriarty's character? He was played by Paul D'Amato, who gained greater fame as Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken in another little hockey movie that same year.
BEST: #2 — Goon (2011)
I did wrong by this film when I first saw it, dismissing it as a patronizingly earnest Slap Shot pastiche. Glad I gave it a second chance. Goon is that rare unsentimental sports movie that both respects and takes down the game. Get beyond the colorful background characters spouting quotable locker room gold, and you've got some rich work from Seann William Scott and Liev Schrieber. And to its eternal credit, the obligatory love interest (Alison Pill ) may be the most vividly painted character in the entire film. There are rough patches—writer Jay Baruchel 's character is so profane that he derails every scene he's in—but Goon is a small-budget gem.
BEST: #1 — Slap Shot (1977)
One of the happiest days of my life: a first-class flight to Finland that included lobster for dinner, a comely Latvian seatmate and an on-board video selection that included Slap Shot. They almost had to drag me off the plane as I tried to finish off a fourth consecutive viewing.
WORST: #5 — MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000)
Hard to tell if this debacle is more of a slap in the face to Canadians, the hearing-impaired, or Clyde, the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose, whose standing as most valuable primate should never be called into question.
WORST: #4 — The Mighty Ducks (film series)
Although I am willing to cut the fourth installment some slack for casting Beverly Hills 90210 alum Ian Ziering as Wild Wing.
WORST: #3 — Youngblood (1986)
I believe the NHLPA got to a point in 2005 where caving in to the NHL's salary cap demands was deemed a small price to pay in order to prevent Versus (now the NBC Sports Network) from running this film three times a week during future lockouts. We all thank you for your sacrifice, gentlemen.
WORST: #2 — Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (2008)
I'm all for the Hansons wringing as much cash out of their legacy as possible, but couldn't they have convinced Todd MacFarlane to put out another series of action figures instead?
WORST: #1 — The Love Guru (2008)
Makes you wish that Myers had grown up a fan of the Blue Jays. If Mystery, Alaska was a love letter, this was like the alcohol-fueled revenge fantasy of a fan who was sick of being mistreated by his team. I am stunned that the league signed off on using their marks for that thing. Did anyone bother to look at the script?