Great hockey films are hard to come by.
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.