Need a Hollywood primer on what it’s like in the world of outdoor puck?
In the 1999 film, “Mystery, Alaska,” Russell Crowe plays the sheriff of the fictitious small town way up in the Last Frontier, but he may be more well known as the veteran player trying to keep his spot in what’s called the “Saturday Game” – a four-on-four game of pond hockey where the whole town comes to watch.
Eventually, a Sports Illustrated writer (played by Hank Azaria) who is a native of the town does a story about the game. A promoter latches onto it, and suddenly the New York Rangers are dispatched to this place to play a nationally televised exhibition game against the locals, coached by the town judge (Burt Reynolds).
The place is inundated with all kinds of unwanted attention. Even famed hockey studio host Donnie Shulzhoffer (Mike Myers), a spin-off of Don Cherry, is credited with the line: “This is hockey, OK? It’s not rocket surgery.”
This “Mystery” story, co-written by famed TV producer and Kings fan David E. Kelly, is about the closest thing in movie form that conveys some of the simplistic beauty of what outdoor hockey is all about, and how it can get sidetracked by a lot of media attention.
Kind of like the L.A. version of the “Saturday Game” at Dodger Stadium between the Kings and Ducks?
There is a common denominator – Kings analyst Jim Fox, who played himself as a studio host in “Mystery, Alaska,” will be working for the NHL Network on Saturday’s telecast.
Again, as himself.
On our own list of the Top 10 hockey movies we’d watch if they popped up on cable one Sunday afternoon, there’s no mystery — “Mystery, Alaska” makes it easily. In no particular order (unless you’re reading between the lines), we’d also jump on:
== “Slap Shot” (1977):
Sports Illustrated noted once that the late film critic Gene Siskel said his greatest regret when the film was release was giving it a lukewarm review. He later decided it was worth including as one of the greatest American comedy movies of all time. The 50th anniversary issue of GQ magazine in 2007 included it on a list of the “30 films that changed men’s lives.” Paul Newman as player-coach Reggie Dunlop. The Hanson Brothers puttin’ on the foil. Ogie Ogilthorpe. Ned Braden skating in his jock strap. The Charlestown Chiefs will live in silver-screen infamy. (And please, do not locate 2002’s “Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice,” with Stephen Baldwin and Gary Busey, or 2008’s “Slap Shot 3: The Junior League.” Both may include reprised roles of the the Hanson Brothers, but they can’t save either one of these straight-to-DVD sequels from the penalty box for low-shticking).
== “Miracle” (2004):
Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks and how the 1980 U.S. Olympic team came to fame, Disney style. Check the YouTube clip posted a few years ago of the 4-year-old kid who re-enacted Russell’s pre-game speech and got an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show for it.
== “Goon” (2011):
Seann Williams Scott plays Doug Glatt, who finally figures out something he’s good at – a hockey enforcer. He ends up facing off again the legendary Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), but first they have a more meaningful discussion about why their roles are important to the game.
== “The Last Gladiators” (2011):
Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, the famed Montreal Canadiens’ enforcer in a 15-season career that spanned the 1980s and into the ‘90s, admits in this documentary by Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney that he “loved” fighting so much, but it led to an addiction of prescription drugs and alcoholism. Nilan today is involved in anti-bullying public speaking and says he thinks the movie “Goon” is “stupid.”
== “In the Crease” (2006):
A true-to-life documentary on how the Anaheim-based California Wave Bantam AAA youth hockey team pursued a national championship, along with commentary by stars including Joe Thornton and Scott Niedermayer about their journey to the NHL. It also has its own website.
== “Les Chiefs” (2004):
The Canadian documentary ends up on many hockey “best of” lists for capturing what happens with a semi-pro league team in Quebec – not the Charlestown Chiefs.
== “Sudden Death” (1995):
Jean-Claude Van Damme is trying to detonate a bomb in Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena and ends up playing goalie for the Penguins during the Stanley Cup Final. If not for cameos by Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nichols and Makus Naslund, it might be listed as a comedy. It’s produced by Howard Baldwin (also in on “Mystery, Alaska”), who was part-owner of the Penguins at the time and helped with the WHA-NHL merger while with the Hartford Whalers in 1979.
== “The Mighty Ducks” (1992):
If only for historical purposes, there’s not another film out that there led to the creation of actual NHL team franchise. Not coached by Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez). How it also managed two sequels is ridiculous as well.
== “Youngblood” (1986):
Softie Rob Lowe meets up with bullies Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves in trying to find a career as a minor-league player who gets sidetracked by falling for the coach’s daughter but finally learns how to fight for what he really wants. It’s soooo ‘80s.
== “Idol of the Crowds” (1937).
It’s the 76th movie of the 184 on John Wayne’s resume – in the role of Johnny Hanson (the original Hanson brother?), a chicken farmer recruited to play for the NHL’s New York Panthers so he can save his business from bankruptcy, while gangsters try to get him to throw the game. If only for the classic movie poster of the Duke suited up for some ice time.
== “The Love Guru” (2008):
Mike Myers spoof of . . . something . . . includes a puckish Justin Timberlake as Kings goalkeeper Jacques Grande, with his extra-large pads. And Verne Troyer as the Kings’ coach. Enough sight gags to make one gag.