Mangled hands. Scarred faces. Missing teeth. Crooked noses. Thousand-yard stares. Prideful smiles of accomplishment. These are some of the images from the interviews that will stick with you after Ice Guardians (2016) fades out for the last time.
Ice Guardians is the product of writer/director Brett Harvey (The Culture High, The Union: The Business Behind Getting High) and delves into the often-debated topic of fighting in ice hockey. It explores the many pros and cons and the history behind it through the eyes of one of the toughest jobs in all of sports; Enforcers. These are the brave men who put their brains and brawn on the line every game, to protect their fellow teammates and prove themselves worthy on the highest level of the sport. These men sacrifice themselves every time they go out on the ice and display a sense of loyalty to their teammates. And their fans that cannot be matched in any other team sport.
Chapter after chapter, Brett Harvey attempts to show to us why hockey is the only sport in which fighting is allowed, how important these enforcers are to their teams and to the sport. They discuss who the greatest enforcer of all time is: The Broad Street Bullies of the Philadelphia Flyers, the evolution of the staged hockey fight in the 90’s, and the advancements in equipment and injury diagnosis.
With interviews from some of the great enforcers of the NHL such as Dave Semenko, Brian McGrattan, Clark Gillies, Zenon Konopka, George Parros, Rob Ray, Kevin Westgarth, Scott Parker, and the baddest Broad Street Bully himself, Dave Schultz. We hear stories of unwritten rules, battles on the ice, regrets, and personal triumphs.
It offers a great chance to see these men speak like gentlemen about the game they love, after being seen as goons throughout most of the professional careers and beyond. These are guys who maybe didn’t have the skill to make it to the NHL, but capitalized on something in which they excelled.
These men all respected each other, but all knew what had to be done. The documentary dives into some of the greatest skill players/enforcer combos in the game as well. Players like Wayne Gretzky would have never reached his status without Semenko or McSorley protecting him. There is a great juxtaposition between the lives these men lead on the ice and the lives they lead off the ice.
They all have families that they support, while dealing with the shame of sometimes being knocked unconscious while they watch. It even offers analysis from a criminologist, a behavioral expert, and famous hockey enthusiasts, such as Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, This Is The End).
There is a tie-in with the all other professional sports today and the research of concussions and brain damage. This offers a cross-over point for fans of all sports, while also educating the audience on some basic facts.
The documentary is reminiscent of an installment of ESPN’s 30 for 30 and is quite worthy, too. There is nothing groundbreaking about the editing or graphics, but it does follow a very logical chronology from the beginning of hockey to where we are today. There is plenty of actual game footage and hockey fights strewn throughout the talking head interviews to please both casual hockey fans and die-hards.
The music is mostly stock, but matches up with each change of mood throughout the film. Brett Harvey seems to hit on all the points necessary to make this underworld of hockey known to the public. He is able to shed new light on the perceivable “goons” of ice hockey and invoke a sense of humanity in us all through their undying loyalty and dedication. Ice Guardians is a must-see in a period of a flood of sports documentaries.
More about the Ice Guardians (2016) Moview at IceGuardians.com
Exploring one of the most controversial and provocative positions in the history of sport, ‘Ice Guardians’ journeys into the lives of those who perform what is undoubtedly the toughest job within the National Hockey League today, the enforcer. Very few understand this position and even fewer appreciate what is involved in becoming one. It’s a punishing profession unlike any other, holding little mercy for its candidates on or off the ice. Born out of self policing a game where 200 pound men fly towards each other on metal blades with sticks, the role now finds itself facing the scrutiny of national newspapers, on-line blogs and TV news casts. Due to its violent nature, it has drawn opinions from both fans and critics alike. But what do we really know? What led to its spectacular rise? What purpose does it serve in the eyes of its beholders and what drives them forward in the face of adversity? Ice Guardians steps beyond the hype and heads directly to the source of the debate… the players themselves. Through their eyes, tough exteriors are shed to reveal the humanity behind a role that struggles to maintain its existence.