A couple of days ago I noticed and responded to a casting call posted on Facebook for a documentary succinctly titled The Hockey Film. “The Hockey Film is a full-feature film documenting the lives of real, everyday people who “eat, sleep, and breathe hockey”. It is a unique passion project undertaken by an independent, naturally Canadian film director, goalie and all around lover of hockey named Chris Aylward. Since July 2015 when the project began, Chris has travelled around the world to seek out, capture and tell stories primarily about grassroots ice and ball hockey, though he has also interviewed a few professionals to get their perspective on the game. Over five years, he has visited The Canadian Pond Hockey Championships in Haliburton, Ontario, The Walter Gretzky Ball Hockey Tournament in Brantford, Ontario and even New Zealand to check out the Backyard Hockey League and follow the journey of their national hockey team to the World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
This movie seemed like a fitting place to begin my on-screen career in the wake of my too long neglected I’m a Hockey Dad blog. I actually used one of my recent 200 Words A Day posts on Men Playing a Kid’s Game as the basis for my casting call submission, which asked for a synopsis of my hockey “career” and a declaration of my own love for the game. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Chris a couple of days later inviting me to a shoot bright and early the next morning at a rink just a couple of hours down the road. So I packed up my gear and headed south to spend a couple of hours on the ice skating, stopping, shooting and mugging for a camera.
The process was a bit lacklustre as the eager film maker had a few no shows, including his second cameraman. I shared the ice with a bunch of young boys and girls, who reminded me of The Boy and The Devil in their early years. One kid, in particular, challenged me to a race and then promptly went crashing into the boards, which in turn, brought him to tears. Later, he gleefully told me I smelled like pee, to which I replied, “If you play this game for any length of time, you too will be lucky enough to smell like pee.” I don’t think he was too impressed.
One other highlight of the session was being scolded by an old-timer/rink rat who took exception to my mismatched hockey socks; one black and one yellow with an alternating black and white stripe (a look I’ve sported for some time). His contention was hockey is a team game and, as such, every player should wear the same team uniform. He suggested I consider tennis or golf if I wanted to be an individual. I assured him I meant no disrespect and would do my best to henceforth conform, but I hope he never shows up at any future Iceholes games.
At the end of the two-hour session, I was very grateful for the opportunity to be included in what I consider an important gift to Canadian culture. The experience was awesome. I will do what I can to help Chris promote his “little film,” as he called it, through this blog and my social channels with hopes of seeing it reach audiences near and far via places like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). How could they keep something so purely Canadian out, eh?