Reel Beach: Hockey movies haven’t hit big time

Who is this masked man playing goal at Ted Reeve Arena? Hint: His first name means ‘cool breeze over the mountains’ in Hawaiian. (Answer at the end of the article.)

September is a time of returns. Kids are back in school, celebrities hit the red carpet and hockey players hit the red line. Leaf fans are still hopeful and movie buffs look for that crowdpleasing gem at TIFF, like last year’s The King’s Speech. This year’s festival presented three new hockey films, Breakaway, Goon and The Last Gladiator.

What’s your favourite hockey movie? Slap Shot (1977) is hilarious, but not family viewing. There have been lots of great baseball movies, including this month’s Moneyball, but we’re still looking for that hoser hockey classic, eh. Score: The Hockey Musical (2010) and The Love Guru (2008) missed the net. Movie hockey looks fake and never as exciting as the real action.

Back in the ‘big hair’ 80s, Rob Lowe was in town for Youngblood (1986) with Patrick Swayze and that most excellent dude, Keanu Reeves, as the goalie for the fictional Hamilton Mustangs. While the exterior of the home rink was actually Scarborough Arena on Birchmount, interior scenes were filmed at Ted Reeve Arena at Main and Gerrard.

Reeves really was a good goalie, nicknamed ‘The Wall’ when he played hockey (and hookey) at a number of Toronto schools. Some Leaf fan favourites were also in the cast: Eric Nesterenko, Steve Thomas and the late Peter Zezel (1965-2009), an East End boy himself. Zezel grew up a hockey and soccerplaying boy from the Bluffs in the Birchcliff area and his family owned a dry cleaners on Queen Street East. In the spirit of multi-sport athlete Ted Reeve, Zezel was a true sportsman who gave back to the community.

Rob Lowe is back in Toronto as a coach in Breakaway, an enjoyable crosscultural sports/family drama which opens in theatres on Sept. 30. It stars Vinay Virmani as a hockey-mad IndoCanadian with dreams of becoming the next Nazem Kadri of the Leafs. Raj goes against the wishes of his traditional father and starts an all-Sikh hockey team. He also romances the coach’s sister over dinner at Gerrard India Bazaar (Little India). Comic relief is provided by Russel Peters who rides an elephant (on loan from Bowmanville Zoo) into Allen Gardens (set decorated as a temple grounds for a wedding). The disapproving dad is played by Anupam Kher who helped make Bend It Like Beckham such a winning kick in 2002.

Hockey is a tough sell compared to soccer, which has fans around the world. TIFF hasn’t given Breakaway the same buzz that lifted Slumdog Millionaire to Oscar gold in 2008.

Is Saturday night all right for fighting?
Two films at TIFF deal with the controversial topic of hockey violence in very different ways. Goon is a slapstick comedy filmed in Manitoba starring Jay Baruchel. (He doesn’t play the tough guy!) The Last Gladiator is a timely documentary on the difficulties, including depression and addiction, facing ‘enforcers’ in adjusting to life after the NHL. Everyone has an opinion on the subject after the recent deaths of three former NHL enforcers and the severe concussions to Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard. As in the movies, rock ‘em, sock ‘em violence sells tickets. Fans like physical hockey, but isn’t it time to clean up Canada’s sport?

Pleasure skating returns
Pleasure skating returns to Ted Reeve Community Arena this Saturday, Sept. 24, 7-9 p.m. In Ted Reeve’s day, the Beach was the driving force of the Toronto sports scene. Reeve helped create a legacy of community spirit in the East End.

When the arena opened in October, 1954, it became a symbol for neighbourhood involvement and cooperation, a place for young Beachers to play organized hockey. If your five-year old registers for minor hockey, a free Bauer helmet is available (at www.chevrolethockey.ca).

Answer: Keanu Reeves guards the goal in Youngblood, a movie filmed at Ted Reeve Arena


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