There is one part of this film that will stick with someone. Detroit Red Wings general manager Jack Adams is discussing with Gordie Howe over the star’s one-year contract. Howe’s wife Colleen had just encouraged her husband to ask for an extra $2,000 over last season instead of his usual $1,000 raise. Howe is manipulated by Adams and doesn’t. Adams smiles and throws the signed contract in the drawer.
Based on the novel by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths, Net Worth tells about the beginnings of the formation of the NHL Players’ Association in the face of overbearing owners who exploit the players and bust their attempts to create a union.
Hockey is fun. It’s a boy’s dream. At least that’s what owners have been telling everyone.
Once you’ve watched Net Worth, you won’t forget it.
INDIAN HORSE (2017)
No list of the best hockey films can be accurate or complete to the sport’s troubled history without acknowledging its abusive or exclusionary nature. And no hockey film does this better than Indian Horse.
Taking place within Canadian residential schools that neglected and abused Indigenous children, the film based on Richard Wagamese’s book of the same name centers around a young boy Saul Indian Horse who is taken from his family but tries to pull himself out of the residential school life by schooling himself to play hockey.
Indian Horse is not a story about a resilient “other” who is successful despite the odds. Saul quits hockey despite pleas from his coach who appeals to Saul by showing him the success of Indigenous NHLer Reggie Leach.
SLAP SHOT (1977)
The throne for best hockey film has been Slap Shot’s to lose for years, and yet it’s put out again and again on best-of lists like it’s a geriatric honoree at a Montreal Canadiens pregame ceremony. Its cultural impact and iconography are irrefutable but it’s time to give the throne to more inclusive films.
One thing that’s for certain is that hockey films tend to represent the experience of the wealthy male and white demographic, the one that also inhabits the sport itself.
Some of the best hockey films aren’t well-known yet they question our assumptions about the sport. Like the assumption that Russian players are enigmatic or that men are fundamentally better and more entertaining on the ice than women, or that hockey is a unifying force in communities or across a nation.
Great hockey films are out there. It’s just time to rank them.
RED ARMY (2014)
Gabe Polsky’s Red Army does what few if any films have accomplished. It offers a true glimpse at the life of Soviet hockey players. It comes across as the most authentic portrayal of the Soviet Union’s relationship to hockey and shows how dramatically Russian-style hockey altered the sport.
CANADA-RUSSIA ’72 (2006)
The second-best hockey film is one in which Canadians are conclusively self-effacing about one of their greatest on- and off-ice triumphs embarrassments. In Canada-Russia ’72, the CBC film relives the famed Summit Series of 1972 when for the first time Canada’s best pro hockey players took on the powerhouse Soviets.
Created in 2006, the three-hour film puts a critical eye on the obnoxious, violent, relentless behavior of the Canadian team that got the victory in the eight-game series. The historical event is believed to be with many Canadians as a confirmation of the country’s dominance in hockey. But Canada-Russia ’72 paints everyone involved as crude and petulant in their pursuit of beating the Soviets. What was supposed to be an easy win turned into a national identity crisis.
The hockey in the film is great to watch. Whole sequences are reproduced from documentary footage that seems natural instead of staged. The audience is privy to a good amount of dramatized behind-the-scenes moments that offer a new context.
No jokes, NHL 2007 made the franchise what it is now. The introduction of the skill stick control system produced the most genuine hockey video game at the time and was EA’s best version.
Gone were the days of button mashing, since the skill stick made you feel like you were in total control of the player from head to feet. It still had a good number of kinks to work out, but this game no doubt laid the foundation for the next decade of the series and was the start of what it is today.
Two words. Hero Line.
Hero lines were basically a group of your team’s best five players with their ratings raised to 99 overall in the waning minutes of the game. If you’re down a goal in the last minute of an NHL 2003 contest, use your hero line and you’re essentially guaranteed to tie the game up. If you’re defending against your opponent’s hero line, icing the puck was the only wise choice to live.
Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey
Forget just hockey, Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey is in the pantheon of all video games.
It was unrivaled fun for its time. The first time you saw a goalie turn into a brick wall, you were hooked. Add in slapshots so hard that it sent the netminder falling back through the goal, and the chance to light the net on fire if you scored enough, and you have the ideal amount of appeal and amusement.
Nintendo 64 was the more well-liked version, but the stand-up arcade style with the greasy joysticks was exciting because of its rarity. Hockey arenas that possessed Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey were visited by kids feeding the machine countless numbers of their parents’ quarters. Simply put, any rink that had the arcade version was a rink rat’s oasis.