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Writer, actor and director Kevin Smith has recently found inspiration in the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s and this being the 25th anniversary of the team's first Stanley Cup in 1984 he felt compelled to attend his first-ever game at Rexall Place or "Mecca" as he puts it.
Smith, who recently finished directing "A Couple of Dicks" with Bruce Willis, has always found a way to include hockey in his movies - great films such as Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Zack & Miri Make a Porno - so it's not a huge stretch that his next film, Hit Somebody, will be a movie about hockey.
Smith recently took the time to answer questions about hockey, the Oilers, visiting Edmonton and more. Q: Growing up in New Jersey, what was it that originally made you a hockey fan?
A:When the Devils opened their doors, my Mother was working for one of the team doctors; so we'd get free tickets and game-used sticks. But it wasn't 'til I started hanging out with my friend Walt Flanagan in 89 that I became a real puck-head. Not only were were going to games, but we were playing every weekend as well: tennis court ball hockey. Having zero skating or puck-handling ability, I was thrown in net, where I stayed from 89 to 95.
Q: What are some of your earliest hockey memories and some of your favourite players growing up?
A:Sean Burke was a fave, of course. And Kenny Daneyko.
Q: It's very clear that you have an affinity for Wayne Gretzky and the 1980s Oilers teams. What first caught your eye about those great teams from the 80s?
A:That's a recent affinity. I had what I can only describe as a kinda of breakdown last year; a pretty dark time for me. And in the midst of this, I watch this CBC doc "Hockey: A People's History". And it's so beautifully written and directed, I fall in love with the game again; I reconnect with hockey in a big way. The doc covers the Gretzky era as well, and his story, as well as the story of the Edmonton Oilers, really captured my imagination in this almost childlike way. Walter Gretzky's "Don't go where the puck is; go where it's gonna be" became something of a mantra for me, and I derived what I can only describe as spiritual inspiration from the fact that, 25 years ago in Edmonton, these kids put it together and did the impossible: brought a Stanley Cup home to their tiny market Canadian town. It became a sort of religion for me: blaze and watch "The Boys on the Bus" or any number of Gretzky profiles. And maybe I was just blazing too often, or maybe I simply needed someone/something to look up to for a change - someone or something that had nothing to do with my work/world. Whatever the reason, this quarter century old legendary hockey club started playing a HUGE role in my daily life.
It was probably solidified the moment I pulled on a Reebok Oilers t-shirt I'd ordered from Sears Canada and had sent to my friend Malcolm's place in time for the Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament last June. I was Googling an Oilers shirt in my size and found them in exactly one place: Sears Canada. I sweat like a pig, so I'd ordered seven and had totally forgotten about them until I got to Brantford, Ontario to play street hockey for the first time in fifteen years (at age 38). Malcolm dropped a box by my hotel room the morning I'd gotten into town, day one of the tourney. And as I was getting dressed, I suddenly had a panic attack: what was I doing? I hadn't gotten between the pipes in over a decade... and I wasn't in shape back THEN. And people were gonna be watching; and worse - SHOOTING VIDEO OF MY FAT-ASS IN GOAL. And just as I was about to call it quits, I opened the box to see all those Edmonton Oilers shirts. And they were beautiful: dark blue tees with a massive Oilers crest in the dead-center. And as goofy as it sounds, I was inspired by that dopey shirt. I pulled one on under my gear and threw myself out into my first (and VERY public) outing in net in fifteen years.
And it was awesome. I actually did not suck. It was the shirt(s). Had to be.
So now, I view those seven shirts as pretty powerful talismans. Whenever I step on stage now, I'm wearing one of those Oilers t-shirts. While I was shooting this flick "A Couple of Dicks" this summer, any time I needed an extra push or a simple totem to ward off evil, I wore one of my Oilers t-shirt. I keep all seven pretty obsessively accounted for because I now believe my entire well-being, both professionally and personally, to be tied up in those shirts.
Yes, I realize I may, indeed, be certifiable. But whatever works, y'know?
Q: Does any particular moment from the 1980s Oilers stand out for you more than any other?
A:The first Cup win still makes me cry.
Q: You remarked in your Twitter account that you finally wanted to visit Edmonton and see an Oilers game live. Was there anything in particular that made you decide you wanted to finally see the Oilers?
A:2009 marks the 25th Anniversary of the first Cup win. I felt like I wanted to quietly observe it in my own personal way, so I looked at the schedule and realized the Yotes game would put Gretzky and Kevin Lowe in the same building at the same time, and that would be good enough for me (naturally, this was before all the weirdness with the League, Gretzky, and the Coyotes). So I booked a Q&A in Edmonton for around that time and put it into my schedule. Sure, Gretzky won't be there (neither will Lowe, who's scouting prospects on the road), but that wasn't the make-or-break part of the equation anyway; more about visiting Mecca, so to speak.
Q: Have you ever been to Edmonton before?
A:I've done two or three Q&A's at the Winspear in Edmonton - all before my Oilers conversion. The gig at the Meyer Horowitz the night before that Yotes game is gonna be religious because I've got a LONG story I tell about seeing the light, as it were.
Q: All of your movies have had hockey featured in it at one point or another but your next project - Hit Somebody - will be an entire movie based on the sport. What made you decide to finally make a movie on hockey?
A:It's just time. And man, is it gonna be the bomb (God-willing, not A bomb). I'm gonna wear my Oilers tees everyday of the shoot.