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Smith dishes on Devils, street hockey and movies

by Adam Kimelman
Acclaimed filmmaker Kevin Smith was back in New York City recently, and after serving as co-host of NHL Live!, he took some time to talk to about his beloved Devils, the return of their classic green and red uniforms, the 2010 Entry Draft coming to his adopted home of Los Angeles, his own hockey ability and the status of his hockey movie. You got to a few Devils games during your time back east. What did you think?

Kevin Smith:
I saw the Bruins game (March 15), I saw the Penguins game (March 17), which was the St. Patrick's Day game, and then I went and saw the Columbus game (March 23). That was kind of cool because I brought the kid (daughter Harley). At the Rock (Prudential Center) they got this thing, I had never done this before. ... I had read when they were building the Rock, about the ledge dining (at the Prudential Center Restaurant), where you can sit, eat dinner and watch the game. ... Then we had the Columbus night open, and I said to the wife, you want to see a game? And she said take the kid and go. We turned it into a daddy-daughter date and we bought those two dining seats. You sit there the whole game. It's an amazing way to watch the game. It's a full buffet, so you can sit there and chow down. You get there in advance and it's so leisurely. We came over from here early, 5 p.m., sat, had a nice meal, watched the practice and began watching the first period from there. We watched the first two periods from there and then the third we went down to the ice and watched from our standard seats. And doing it with the kid was awesome.
Some Devils fans aren't happy with Ilya Kovalchuk's play since he came to New Jersey, but he has 16 points in 17 games. Are you OK with how he's done?

KS: I think most people surmise that's why Lou (Lamoriello, GM) and Jeff (Vanderbeek, owner) brought in Kovy, to have that extra piece of muscle going into the postseason. The only reason a team like the Devils, I think, makes a move like that is because somebody in that organization thinks the team has a legitimate shot in the postseason. I'm not saying they feel like the (Stanley) Cup is ours, but we have a strong team, let's give it a shot. Adding him is the extra oomph and muscle that will take them through the postseason.

A lot of people have been like since they've gotten him, 'What's he really done?' But he is some strength. We saw him play like crazy in the Columbus game (Kovalchuk had 1 goal and 3 assists). To me, he seems like a secret weapon. He's about to explode, or they're about to pull the trigger and say go and bam-bam-bam! Not to say that he's playing poorly by any stretch of the imagination. I think they've been, like, hold onto it, hold onto it, hold onto it, and now! That's what we're waiting for, the 'now' part. What team do you worry about standing in the way of the Devils' Stanley Cup hopes?

KS: Pittsburgh. We've had a nice record against this year, but it's different in the playoffs. As we've seen the Penguins are exquisite when it comes to getting the job done. So I wouldn't discount them. Of the two (Pittsburgh and Washington), it's difficult -- would you want to see them face Washington? Because you know Washington is hungry, Washington wants it desperately, and Washington comes into a series with the Devils saying you've had it, it's our time. And you've got one of the greatest players in the League (Alex Ovechkin) in your arsenal. The other side is just as dangerous because the Penguins want to defend and hold the Cup. Maybe they're not as hungry as Washington. Maybe Washington has a little more blood-lust in their eye about the whole thing. If I have to pick the two, I go Penguins -- not because the Penguins will be easier. If I'm going to face down my death I want it to be quick and painless and not brutal and savage. That St. Patrick's Day game marked the return of the Devils' original green and red uniforms. Did you like them?

KS: I thought it was great. I heard some people going, 'Now I remember how ugly they were.' I went the other way. We all knew what the colors were going to be. I thought I'd see it when they first stepped out on the ice, but I forgot they do helmets and pants, too. That completely did it for me, where I was just a kid again. I loved it. I hope they do it more than once a year. ... Naturally you would imagine that's something they pull out every St. Patrick's Day. I also hope that they extend it. I hope they do St. Patrick's Day and all of December. Why not? Christmas-tree jerseys -- play all of December home games in the Christmas-tree colors. You're also a big Oilers fan. What can you say about their season?

KS: They're going to have a great draft, a fantastic draft. It's all upside in hockey. You have to cognitively refrain 'It's upside.' They're going to get the first draft pick and that's good. They can use that.

I feel terrible. My fandom probably put them in the basement this year. It began so promisingly. I went to a game and they won. It's the Smith factor, but as we all know, the Smith factor works very well in the beginning and immediately falls apart. I don't know if I did them any strong favors by being a fan. I won't lose faith at all. I'm an Oilers guy. They'll be my West Coast team. If they get the first pick, it's good the draft is in your backyard, Los Angeles. Have you looked into who the Oilers should pick?

KS: I'm so not that guy. When I talk hockey ... sometimes I meet hockey people and they'll immediately start throwing figures, stats, draft picks at me, and I'm just like I don't follow it that closely. Some people like movies a lot, and some people read everything there is to know about movies and hang out at movie blogs. Different levels of interest. I love hockey, but I'm not at the level where I'm like he was this, this and this and throwing out numbers. This was the first season I figured out what plus-minus rating is. But since the Staples Center is close to home, are you going to take the opportunity to see the draft in person?

KS: It's something I've never seen. I've only seen clips online of the draft process over the years. I saw clips of the WHA draft back in the day, and more modern NHL drafts (but) I've never been in the room for it. I might go. It sounds like the kind of thing that would be fun to watch. Can you talk about the other big June activity you have planned?

KS: The Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament is June 4, 5, and 6. It'll be my second time but it's the fourth annual event. We'll bring in my team, Puck U, and we'll bring the other teams as well -- the three that I brought last year ... and we're bringing in a few more teams. It was such a good time last year. Going back this year, in February I went up and did a lot of kickoff press for it in Toronto. We went up and announced it and the idea behind this year's is we're trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for Walter (most teams at a street hockey tournament). I think 192 is the record and it's held by the island right off Vancouver. They've got the record right now. I said we can register that many teams. Last year we had over 100, and I felt like with a decent push we could do it. We started the push in February and they continued the push in the world of ball hockey international, and now I've started kind of picking it up again and promoting it hard again via Twitter. You play goalie and you get to hang out with Wayne Gretzky's dad, but you get a lot more out of it than just that, right?

KS: For a person my size -- this sounds like a thin person activity -- I'm doing it. If I'm doing it, my friend Malcolm Ingram is doing it, he's a big dude. You can be a big person and do it. You can be fat and do it, you can be a chick and do it. Sometimes we stand on the outside and look at things and say I don't want to be part of it. This is the kind of thing you don't have to be. You step on the cement ice with me, you're going to look like an amazing player. Look like it physically standing there and probably play like it, too. It's a good time and it's all for charity. Half the proceeds go to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship Foundation. The rest of it goes to the Brantford infrastructure, to create programs, stuff like that. That's the reason I got involved last year. Brantford produced Wayne Gretzky, so why not see if they can do it again, produce another fantastic hockey player. And helping raise money for their sports infrastructure was a cool idea. You've also talked a lot about your hockey movie, "Hit Somebody" -- is there anything new to report?

KS: First up I'm going to shoot 'Red State' (a politically-tinged psychological horror movie), which I wrote about three years ago that I've had a hard time finding money for. ... 'Red State' is written and ready to go (this summer), and right on the heels of that we're going to head into 'Hit Somebody.' As I head home from this trip, when I hit Los Angeles, that's when I close myself in the room, say goodbye to Twitter for a while and just start going into ('Hit Somebody') in earnest. I have a scene here, a scene here, and now I have to just sit down and put it all together. Would you rather film "Hit Somebody" in the summer, when you have easier access to hockey players? Or does it matter?

Once the script is done, it's going to be a lot easier to decide when and where we can go with it. The other consideration is do we wait until the offseason. ... I can get any of these guys that don't want to go home for the summer, they might be able to come hang out with us and shoot pictures all summer long in Detroit. It'll be like the all-stars, I can sell tickets to the shoot. Look, Sean Avery and Marty Brodeur on the same team in this fake reality! That's a consideration.

Naturally I just want to go, but whenever it happens, it happens. If you're just patient you could wind up with the best supporting cast you'll ever have as far as people on the ice. So much of this movie is shot in slo-mo, so much of this is about the grace and poetry of the skater. Not just a hockey player but just taking to the ice. I love Sean William Scott (but) Sean Scott's not supposed to be the best skater. You're going to need people around him who are going to look like pros. And then we're going to have to ask them to dial it back to the 1970s a bit. 'I need you to slow down about 20 mph and wear these horrible skates.' You're going to have to rein them in a little bit. So I sit there and think maybe that's the move.

Can I shoot 'Red State' and try to start shooting 'Hit Somebody' before the start of next season? Probably not. Does that mean we're going to wait until the end of next season? Not necessarily, but that's definitely something to think about as far as having people on the ice and whatnot.

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