Stopping The Puck

Maybe it was the subject matter. Maybe they wanted too much money. Maybe they don’t want to celebrate the past.

For whatever reason, it was absence that struck me most about Goalie, the Terry Sawchuk biopic I watched on a flight this week. Absent from the film were any mention of National Hockey League team names or logos, which is bizarre in a film about the man who was perhaps the best goalie ever to play the game.

For a film such as this, which uses lots of on-ice action, to not show the familiar logos can only be because the NHL wanted too much money for the use of its trademarks. For which I say, shame on them.

I guess the people who run the NHL would rather not draw attention to those days, not that many decades ago, where players were disposable chattel, poorly paid and expected to play through the severest injury. (And there are those today who might say things haven’t changed much.)

I never saw Sawchuk play in person, but remember seeing him on television many times in my childhood. He was one of the last of his generation, fearless in goal.

Watching the film was a stark reminder that goalies in hockey didn’t wear protective face masks until the 1960s. Sawchuk regularly had his face struck by pucks (shot at up to 100 miles an hour) and skate blades, resulting in more than 400 stitches.

As a hockey fan, the movie transported me back in time to the more innocent days of my youth. Not only did the goalies not wear face masks, the players didn’t wear helmets. There were only six teams in the NHL, not 30 and you knew all the players – who were all Canadian, except for maybe two Americans. The players all had summer jobs, as hockey didn’t pay that well. It was a different era.

This is not a Hollywood blockbuster. There are no superstars here, just solid acting. This is a blue-collar film about a blue-collar player.

Sawchuk’s story is an interesting one, a mix of talent and tragedy – he was only 40 when he died. With no big-name actors I suspect the film appeals only to Canadian hockey fans, and maybe people in places like Detroit and Boston where Sawchuk starred.

Living I Germany, I only hear about blockbuster films when they are released. Smaller budget ones like Goalie are easy to miss, which is why I didn’t hear about it when it came out earlier in 2019. If you are a hockey fan, you want to make sure you catch this one.

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