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'Goon' a love letter to hockey enforcers

Jay Baruchel left the New York premiere of his latest film when he was called out by NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jay Baruchel left the New York premiere of his latest film when he was called out by NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.

Baruchel laughed as he said he dropped to his knees and apologized to Shanahan for the blood-splattering blows thrown by meathead enforcer Doug Glatt in the hockey comedy, "Goon."

There was no stern-faced review from Shanahan. Instead, the former NHL forward told Baruchel ("Tropic Thunder") he loved the ode to the hockey enforcer.

"I've got to discipline some guys," Baruchel said, recalling the moment, "and none of them are as bad as the boys in this movie. But he said that everything Doug did was clean and he would not be able to suspend Doug for anything."

That's pretty good considering Glatt pounds one player until blood smears on the glass in front of an enthusiastic young girl.

But that's hockey.

Sean William Scott and Liev Schreiber also star in the movie Baruchel described as a "love letter" to enforcers and the dirty-and-punishing role they play in hockey's unwritten code of justice.

Glatt (Scott) is described in the movie as having a "fist the size of the prostate" and his quick-draw approach toward confrontation is responsible for the blood.

Glatt is a softhearted ("Beer and soup. That's my thing.") and stone-fisted Beantown bouncer who draws the attention of his local team after pummeling a player in the stands. Like in any good sports movie, Glatt is the underdog, who must eventually throw down against cynical and aging goon Ross Rhea (Schreiber) to truly earn his reputation as the baddest brawler in the minors.

No spoilers here except for this one: This is the rare hockey film that lights the lamp. Already available via video on demand, "Goon" has one more punch — it hits theaters March 30.

Baseball boasts a Murderer's Row of great movies and you can go deep in the playbook of fantastic football flicks.

For rough-and-tumble hockey, Hall of Fame films are shorter than a list of healthy scratches for an NHL game. The Paul Newman comedy classic, "Slap Shot," remains the Wayne Gretzky of hockey films — it's The Great One.

"Miracle," "The Mighty Ducks," and "Sudden Death," are at least in the hunt for the Hart Trophy of hockey movies.

"Most Valuable Primate" and "The Love Guru" are best left on the bench.

"It's not a very good history of hockey films," director Mike Dowse said. "There have been chimpanzees involved. I don't know what it is, but they can't seem to make a good hockey movie. I was excited about that challenge, as a die-hard fan, to capture the speed of the game and the brutality of it.

"And, also the comedy of it."

Baruchel, a Canadian, was raised a huge hockey fan and is devoted to the Montreal Canadiens. When his friend and writer Evan Goldberg was approached about writing a Canadian hockey movie, he pitched the idea to Baruchel. Influenced by the book "Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey," the documentary "Les Chiefs," and Baruchel's father, who schooled him as a child to respect and revere enforcers, the movie was born.

"Hockey's just my life," Baruchel said. "It's a combination of my three loves; hockey, movies and Canada."

Hey, at least Hockey Night at the Movies takes his mind off the lowly Canadiens.

Few film makers since "Slap Shot," have even tried to translate the beauty of the game and the bawdiness in the locker room to the big screen. Of course, getting sports fans in the United States to watch hockey is hard enough on high definition TV, much less enjoying the sport at movie theaters.

"Let's be honest," Baruchel said, "More people like NASCAR than like hockey in the States. That's not helping the cause."

Yes, it's a hockey movie, but some of the common sports themes are familiar. Glatt, cheered on by his foul-mouthed, hockey-addict buddy (Baruchel), rises from a man lost in life who fights his way to stardom, takes a (verbal) lashing from his parents over his new career path, and wins the girl — but not before absorbing a beating from the ex-boyfriend.

Even as Rhea (Schreiber) and Glatt know they must meet to settle who is the best pound-for-pound — and pound away some more — fighter in the league, the scenes are mostly played for laughs.

"I don't know that it's either anti- or pro-fighting," Baruchel said. "It's a love letter to the boys who do this crazy job."

Eugene Levy, who's probably been in more movies than Gordie Howe scored goals, refrains from playing to the crowd with those raised eyebrows and turns serious as the father concerned about his son's future. It's one of the breaks in levity in the R-rated, 90-minute movie.

"Have you given any thought at all to the head injuries that come with playing with such a violent sport? The concussions?" he asks, before ditching his son at a family meal.

The film has come under scrutiny in Canada for glorifying the goon at a time when some former enforcers have died or are battling serious health problems. The movie, filmed over seven weeks in 2010, does amp up the blood, but doesn't show them blowing off the violence like the Three Stooges.

"For us, it's a celebration of these guys and a tribute to these guys," Dowse said. "We try and deal with all the aspects of what being an enforcer means. It's horribly tragic what happened to these guys and we had already shot the film when it happened.

"If anything, hopefully, this film can become part of the greater conversation to help these guys and shine even more of a light on them."

"Goon" shifts toward the end to Glatt's team making a playoff push. No Stanley Cup Finals in this one, though Baruchel can't wait until June.

"Make sure the Flyers prevent the Bruins from getting there again," Baruchel said. "Detroit's looking good. New York's looking good. Detroit vs. whoever."


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