It has been 25 years since District 5 skated onto our screens and became known worldwide as the Mighty Ducks. We watched in awe as Gordon Bombay lead a rag tag bunch of unlikely hockey players to not only become local Pee Wee champs, but also world champions.
It what has become a firm favourite hockey movie, Disney’s Might Ducks franchise was a monster hit, spawning three movies, a short-lived TV series and became the catalyst for a franchise hockey team the Anaheim Ducks.
In honour of the 25th Anniversary we thought we would look at the world of Ice Hockey movies and present here our top five list of hockey movies. We look past the glaringly obvious impossibilities, rule breaking and formulaic movies and instead accept these movies for what they are; a simple way to enjoy the sport we love portrayed on the big screen.
Each person has their own favourite hockey film and this is simply my top five list of hockey movies.
#5 Mr Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story
It’s not often that I would include a made for TV movie to a list of top films (expect maybe Stephen King’s It from the late 80’s) but the story of Gordie Howe post NHL career is worth a notable mention.
The Gordie Howe Story, while maybe not Oscar winning worthy acting, is a great movie that shows the life of a true legend of the game after this playing career came to an end. Gordie had always dreamt of playing the game he loved with his sons and he was afforded just that opportunity in 1973 at the age of 44 playing in the new WHA with Huston Aeros. It’s an interesting insight into the struggle a professional player can have returning to the real world, while still involved with the Red Wings his love and passion for the game meant that he found it difficult to settle into a back-office position within the organisation.
#4 Slap Shot
Celebrating a milestone itself, Slap Shot celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year. The world was introduced to what is arguably the first “R” rated sports comedy of its kind. The story follows coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) who has stalled in his career and is facing severe budget cuts under the management of the team. When Dunlop discovers that the Charlestown Chiefs will fold at the end of the season, he decides that he has nothing to lose and takes on a new type of player in the form of the three Hanson brothers. The rest as they say is history and a new breed of hockey player and style of playing is born as the team adopt a new hard hitting money making style of play that attempts to turn the fortunes of the club.
Why was Slap Shot so successful? Well it created iconic characters that remain well known to this day. Slap Shot was a 70’s classic that introduced the world to the idea of “goon culture” through a stream of nonstop colourful language, raunchy scenes so far removed from todays “family sport”
In my opinion one of the most underrated hockey movies of all time. Not only did the movie feature a young Robb Lowe as the movies main antagonist, but also feature Patrick Swayze and an even younger Keanu Reeves.
The story of Youngblood interested me, as it was the story of a small fish in a big pond. Dean Youngblood is a talented rookie who dreams of making it to the big time. On the way, Dean learns that having all the skill in the world will only get him so far and that his weaknesses, mainly his lack of aggression and physical play will only get him so far.
Youngblood is a classic 80’s formula movie, a movie in which you root for the underdog the whole way though that (spoiler) pays off in the end. Let’s just hope real life team initiations are not like that of the Hamilton Mustangs.
#2 Mighty Ducks
“Everything I know about hockey I learnt from this series of movies”, that would be a scary thought. Yes, the Mighty Ducks had a big part to play in my initial interest in the game of Ice Hockey and in fact this was the most rented movie (after Star Wars) in our house. Now when I watch, I can’t help thinking, if this is Pee Wee hockey why was Conway allowed to play on the Ice in the most important game of the season with no helmet? Also, are opposing teams not that clued in to how to simply dismantle the Flying V formation?
All that aside Might Ducks stands out as a classic. The story of District 5 flying together to become the Mighty Ducks under the leadership of the Minnesota Miracle Man, Gordon Bombay was a story that captivated a 7-year-old Martin. The follow up movies while maybe not as strong (we won’t mention the major flaws in the third movie in relation to timelines) allowed fans of the original to follow the team through several trials and tribulations.
Mighty ducks can also be seen as a part of NHL history with its numerous cameos (including the great one Wayne Gretzky), documentation of the Minnesota North Stars but most importantly its influence in creating an NHL franchise that is still in existence today the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
The story of the underdogs taking down the Edinburgh Capitals. No in all honesty, Miracle is arguably the most inspirational hockey movie of them all. If you haven’t seen this movie where have you been? Miracle is the true story of the 1980 USA Hockey Team slaying the heavily favourited Soviets to win gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
The story was set in the middle of the cold war and added extra context to the importance of the story at the time. The story captivates audiences with an almost perfect performance by Kurt Russell as real life character Herb Brooks as he cultivates a team of college Hockey players to become one of the most historic teams in US hockey history.
This is a must watch movie for any hockey fan and the scene of the team doing sprints following their defeat to Norway while dramatised slightly makes you wonder if a passionate coach could get away with such a punishment in this day and age?