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Best Hockey Film of All Time: Semi-Finals

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We’re down to the top four films of the ice hockey genre

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Preseason is underway, so we’re running out of time on this contest. Round Two results are explained below. As a reminder, winners of each round will be determined by four criteria:

  1. Poll of our Hockey Wilderness readers
  2. Entertainment value of the film
  3. How well the film captures one or more aspects of the game
  4. An x-factor that will be described in each round’s breakdown

Results of Round Two:

  • Youngblood vs. Miracle

Winner: Miracle

Keeping the theme from the last round running, the poll was heavily lopsided in the favor of the based-on-a-true-story Miracle, although Youngblood has at least a few loyal fans out there... or some people who got lost in Rob Lowe’s eyes. Either way, it wasn’t enough to overcome the story of Team USA at Lake Placid.

  • Mystery, Alaska vs. Goon

Winner: Goon

For the first time in this contest, the poll winner is not advancing to the next round. This one was a close one, with an eight percent edge in favor of Mystery, Alaska. However, looking at the other criteria, Goon stands out. In terms of entertainment value, both are enjoyable films, but Goon’s humor is far more compelling than the small town non-hockey related drama of Mystery’s citizens. For the comparison of which film better captures the game itself, let’s compare the realism of a story about a bunch of small town players hanging with the New York Rangers, circa 1999. While that team only had one Hall of Famer (Brian Leetch, D), it is still an NHL team. No amount of cold weather, large ice, or suprisingly talented players on Mystery would realistically measure up. Goon, on the other hand, explores how enforccers no longer have the necessary skill or skates to hang in the professional leagues. It’s a much more realistic take on the game. Futhermore, I’d argue the locker room from Goon, in which the players screw with each other, over the one from Mystery, in which the players brag about the women they’ve screwed, is more realistic too. Mystery’s x-factor was the presence of actual NHLers in the film. Well, Goon had a couple NHL cameos as well, including notorious bruiser Georges Laraque (pictured above). Meanwhile, none of the acting performances of Mystery really compare to the surprising depth of Sean William Scott’s turn as Doug “the Thug” Glatt.

  • The Mighty Ducks vs. The Last Gladiators

Winner: The Mighty Ducks

The results of the poll seem to indicate that a lot of Hockey Wilderness have a special place in their hearts for The Mighty Ducks. So while The Last Gladiators is an excellent documentary that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in hockey, I would recommend The Mighty Ducks to any kid in the hopes that can also come to love the film, and hockey, too.

  • Airborne vs. Slap Shot

Winner: Slap Shot

Was there ever any doubt? The quintessential sports comedy against a plucky but flawed coming of age sports comedy isn’t much of a contest, and the landslide poll results show it.

Semi-Finals, Match One: Miracle vs. Goon

It’s a battle of hockey films from two opposite ends of the spectrum. On one end of the ice, we have a very serious, prestigious hockey film based on a true story. On the other end of the sheet is a very funny, entertaining hockey film with a suprising heart of gold at the center. Here’s the breakdown:

Miracle: The cinematic story of the 1980 Winter Olympics Team USA’s unbelievable victory over the powerhouse Soviet squad. Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) faces challenges from nearly all sides, including the heated rivalries among his own players, as he selects his roster and tries to make them into a team. Waiting for them at the Olympics are some of the best players in the world, including the juggernaut Soviets. Clashing personalities and a lack of focus might cost Team USA what little time they have to prepare. It all comes down to a climactic showdown in the semi-finals.

X-factor: So many iconic moments from this film, including one of the better training montages, but here’s where we see a bunch of college kids finally look past themselves and become a real team.

Goon: Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott) ends up as an enforcer on a minor league hockey team after demonstrating his supreme talent for fighting while spectating a game. He soon is moved up to protect a talented star forward that has lost his mental edge after being concussed by Ross Rhea (Liev Schrieber). Doug punches his way into the hearts of his teammates and fans, helping lead the team to the cusp of a playoff spot. Ross and Doug meet off the ice, and the aging Rhea, who is retiring at the end of the season, gives Doug his respect and a warning should they ever meet on the ice. Sure enough, the two square off in the last game of the regular season with the playoffs on the line.

X-factor: On the face of it, Goon looks like just a dumb sports comedy. Here is where we discover that under a superficial wrapper of crude humor and fisticuffs is a serious look at what drives a person to fight for his team.


Miracle vs. Goon

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    (155 votes)
  • 20%
    (41 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

Semi-Finals, Match Two: The Mighty Ducks vs. Slap Shot

Another battle of films from opposite ends of the spectrum, but in this case it’s a sports film for kids versus a sports film for their parents.

The Mighty Ducks: Successful but brash attorney Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is made to coach a PeeWee league team as community service for a DUI. The team has no practice facility, no equipment, not even a team name. Being badly outplayed, Bombay initially tries to coach his team to dive and play dirty, but the advice of his old mentor Hans (Joss Ackland) persuades him to coach the team right. Securing equipment and the name the Mighty Ducks for his team, Bombay coaches them to play hockey and they eventually square off against the Edina Hawks, Bombay’s former PeeWee team led by his old coach.

X-factor: The penalty shot used to be one of the most exciting moments in hockey before they became a regular occurence in the form of shootouts to decide games that were still tied after overtime. The Mighty Ducks captures the dramatic tension of the penalty shot, heightened by the resonance with Coach Bombay’s personal story.

Slap Shot: Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) is the over-the-hill player coach of the Charlestown Chiefs. The team is a perrenial basement dweller in the Federal League which has forced the team’s manager to resort to a variety of ridiculous promotions and cost saving measures. Reggie, fearing his team will fold financially, reshapes the team into a bunch of goons as the big hits and fighting excites the crowd and improves attendance numbers. Despite his best efforts, including planting a rumor of an interested buyer for the team, Reggie eventually must accept that his team will fold, so he convinces his team to play their last game straight.

X-factor: Fair warning: the language is NSFW, but this clip shows off the most iconic characters in the entire film. In any movie with Paul Newman, you would think that would be whoever he’s playing, but not the case with Slap Shot. Meet the Hanson Brothers.


The Mighty Ducks vs. Slap Shot

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    The Mighty Ducks
    (52 votes)
  • 74%
    Slap Shot
    (151 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now

Cast your votes and leave your comments as the semi-finals conclude this Friday at 11:59 pm.