Hockey … It was Inevitable

NFBHockey may not be Canada’s national sport but it is certainly its favourite pastime, and while the National Film Board of Canada may not be overflowing with films about hockey as some might expect, the sport has prominence in its collection.

I expect that almost any review of the NFB’s best and most representative films likely requires some space for Sheldon Cohen’s The Sweater or Le chandial (1980), a beloved animated short based on Roch Carrier’s popular story. (A line from the story even appeared on Canada’s 5-dollar bill from 2001 to 2013.) To The Sweater, I’ve matched two more films that emphasize the place of hockey at all levels of Canadian society.  First up is Leslie McFarlane’s Here’s Hockey! (1953), a celebration of the sport from small, outdoor rinks to hallowed ice palaces. Here’s Hockey! is propelled by newsreel narration and full of gee-whiz optimism. Rounding out this trio is Overtime (Marrin Canell, 1984), an examination of the sport’s spirit even in the face of the flesh’s failure, told with the aid of worn-out equipment and stubby beer bottles. Recreational leagues like the one in Overtime are a fixture of many Canadians’ lives, whether it be playing in them, cheering from the stands, or hearing about them by the office water cooler.

As per the NFB:

In this animated short, Roch Carrier recounts the most mortifying moment of his childhood. At a time when all his friends worshipped Maurice “Rocket” Richard and wore his number 9 Canadiens hockey jersey, the boy was mistakenly sent a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey from Eaton’s. Unable to convince his mother to send it back, he must face his friends wearing the colours of the opposing team. This short film, based on the book The Hockey Sweater, is an NFB classic that appeals to hockey lovers of all ages.

As per the NFB:

Featuring Jean Beliveau, this short film focuses on hockey from the inside out. Known as Canada’s national pastime, this film demonstrates why hockey is such an exciting spectator sport. From east to west, the connection between fans and players is evident in the excited cries of “we’ve won!” From Pee-wee to Bantam, from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to the big league pros, Here’s Hockey! shows what it takes to make a great hockey player.

As per the NFB:

This short documentary profiles a group of men from the Toronto Lakeshore Oldtimers Hockey Club. Although middle-aged, they still play the game with as much energy and passion as they did 25 years ago. They claim that playing hockey is more fun now than it was when they were kids, despite the toll of aches and pains, injuries, gruelling schedules and late-night partying. Cares and responsibilities are cast aside once they are on the ice, and the locker room becomes a haven of uncomplicated camaraderie and fun. In refusing to grow old gracefully, they feel they won’t grow up at all!

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