From The Mighty Ducks trilogy to Mystery, Alaska, there is so much to explore in the world of hockey’s portrayal in film and TV. But classics aside (yes that includes Miracle), there are new classics emerging and it is time to cover them. This article will be composed of a few outstanding hockey films and TV shows I have seen over the years, why they are great, and why you should watch them. Some disclaimers: This list is purely my opinion, a hockey movie to me can be a movie where hockey is the sole plot point or just a few scenes, this will cover fiction, documentaries, and short films.
1: Skating to New York (2013) dir. Charles Minsky
The first movie on this list is one I feel deserves much more recognition. What I consider to be the Canadian version of Stand By Me, Skating to New York follows a group of 5 teenage boys leaving their small Canadian town to skate across Lake Ontario to New York on the coldest day of the year. The acting was really outstanding and this movie is one of my favorite pieces of hockey media. I strongly suggest checking it out.
2. Indian Horse (2017) dir. Stephen S. Campbell
This movie is a difficult watch but a necessary one. It follows Native Canadian, Saul Indian Horse as he survives residential school and life amongst racism in the 1970s. Finding a passion for hockey, Saul must battle his trauma, bigotry, and substance abuse. One of the most impactful films I’ve seen in a long time I believe this to be a must-watch.
3. Red Army (2014) dir. Gabe Polsky
If you’re like me and love Russian hockey and history this movie is for you. Red Army is an expertly done documentary done by Gabe Polsky on the Soviet Union’s Russian Five through the perspective of the team’s captain, Slava Fetisov. A great watch and very educational, I highly recommend this film to any wannabe hockey historians such as myself.
4. 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic (2010)
This docuseries blew my mind when I first saw it. Narrated by Liev Schriber (yes that Liev Schriber) and covering the 2011 Winter Classic, this docuseries takes you behind the scenes with footage and interviews to let you take a look into the daily lives of NHL players leading up to the Winter Classic, one of the biggest events of the NHL season. This series was great enough as is but quickly skyrocketed to one of my favorite pieces of hockey media with the final scene in the show, utilizing one of my favorite lines ever said. “Hockey won’t hold still for a portrait. You wouldn’t want it to anyway.” If you want to cry at a hockey documentary, this one is for you.
5. Beartown (Björnstad) (2020) dir. Peter Grönlund
With the first international entry on this list, Beartown is a recent watch of mine that I found really impactful. In the small Norwegian town of Björnstad, hockey is their life’s blood so when their junior hockey team makes the national semifinals, the pressure weighs heavily on the teenage players. With the captain of the team, Kevin, sexually assaulting the coach’s daughter, Maya, at a party tensions come to a head leaving the team and the town in turmoil. One of the best depictions of toxic masculinity, power dynamics, and a textured depiction of assault I’ve seen in media, Beartown is a hard watch but a really important one. It felt like I was watching reality and not a work of fiction. With stunning visuals, great acting, drama, and a whole lot of hockey, Beartown is a show I highly recommend.
Those are the top five picks on my list of hockey films/shows you should check out.
Here are other notable watches that I found entertaining but didn’t make the top 5:
- Odd Man Rush (2020) dir. Doug Dearth
- Bon Cop Bad Cop (2006) dir. Erik Canuel
- Hockey Night (1984) dir. Paul Shapiro
- Big Shot (2013) dir. Kevin Connolly
- Score: A Hockey Musical (2010) dir. Michael McGowan
- H.E. Double Hockey Sticks (1999) dir. Randall Miller
- All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs (2021)
- Go Figure (2005) dir. Francine McDougall
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