The list of great hockey movies is a short one. "Slapshot," "Miracle," and the "Mighty Ducks" spring to mind. But now there's a new title, "In the Crease," to add to the collection, and it has the hockey world buzzing about how it's the best in years. It also boasts Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer among its stars.
The action packed and inspiring real life story of a Southern California teenage hockey team's quest to win a national championship, this 90 minute film also features 15 NHL stars including Niedermayer sharing their own youth hockey triumphs. Released on DVD in late November, it shot to #1 Sports DVD in the country just four weeks later and has been the #1 Hockey DVD for the last three months running.
"We really wanted to do for hockey what Friday Night Lights did for football and Hoosiers did for basketball," said co-director Matt Gannon, who co-produced the Oscar nominated "Girl with a Pearl Earring" starring Scarlett Johansson and grew up playing hockey himself. "And that's tell a great sports story about a team overcoming adversity and riding the high of big wins and the heartbreak of tough losses. But what makes this story even more special is that it's not actors. It captures real players, coaches and parents experiencing real emotions."
Fans and young players also get to hear a lot from some of their favorite NHL stars, and it's a more personal side we don't normally hear about. For Scott Niedermayer, it meant sharing how he grew up in Cranbrook, British Columbia and played hockey as a kid with brother Rob. In one of the movie's best sequences, Niedermayer also opens up about bouncing back from tough losses in the playoffs, and how he finds added motivation in the face of defeat. "Seeing the other team win can really fuel the fire," Niedermayer says in the film.
For "In the Crease," Gannon and co-director Michael Sarner filmed the elite, California Wave Bantam AAA travel team as it trained for the USA Hockey National Championship and culled the movie from over 180 hours of footage spent with the team on the ice, in locker rooms and at players' homes, as well as from interviews with parents and scouts. They also spent weeks crisscrossing the country to speak with NHL players like Niedermayer to get the pros perspective and add a fantastic extra dimension to the story.
"This is a film that gives a true inside look at the hockey experience. Players, coaches and families around the world can relate to it, and hockey fans get to see some of the best young talent in the game and what really goes on behind the scenes, " said Sarner. The Wave team, based out of Lakewood, draws some of the top players from across Southern California and is beginning to send several to the prep school, NCAA Division I and WHL ranks, as well as to the US National Team. Having players with Caucasian, Asian, Indian and Latino backgrounds, and a coach who is African American, they were also chosen to show how hockey is diversifying and booming in non-traditional areas like California.
Despite the team's recent success, it's still an underdog story. "These are beach kids who walk into an ice rink in flip flops, strap on their equipment and play against some of the best young teams in the country with much more impressive histories, " said Gannon. "But, in the end, it's not just the Wave's story we're telling, it's every team's story of what it takes to become champions."
The filmmakers said that one of their goals was to show the type of impact hockey was having on these young players' lives - the winning, the losing, and everything else they experience. The tremendous passion for the sport is clearly evident in those portrayed in the movie, as is their commitment. But, the film also expertly captures the Wave players going through the universal experience of just being a teenager - dealing with a parents' messy divorce, trying to balance a social life and girls with being an athlete.
What really shines through in the end is how hockey ultimately has a very positive effect - keeping the players out of trouble, teaching them life lessons and dedicating them to pursue a dream that they share with their teammates. Gannon believes the film also shows how "NHL players like Scott Niedermayer are just the coolest, most down to earth professional athletes in the world." "Scott was unbelievably generous with his time, " said Gannon.
In addition to Niedermayer, the film also features special appearances by NHL players Brendan Shanahan, Joe Thornton, Scott Gomez, Jeremy Roenick, Glen Murray, Brian Rolston, Mike Comrie, Martin Havlat, Craig Conroy, Mathieu Schneider, Mike Knuble, RJ Umberger, Derian Hatcher and retired great Al MacInnis.
You can view the trailer and buy the DVD at http://www.InTheCreaseMovie.com