|By Thomas Kearey
|This new hockey movie shares the real-life experiences of some of the NHL's top stars when they |
were youth players.
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 Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider among its stars.
The action packed and inspiring real life story of a teenage hockey team's quest to win a national championship features 15 NHL stars -- including Schneider -- sharing their own youth hockey triumphs. Released on DVD in November 2006, it quickly became the No. 1 selling sports DVD in the country, and has been the top hockey DVD for the last three months.
"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. "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 stars, and it's a more personal side not normally seen. For Schneider, it meant sharing how he grew-up in New Jersey and was taught hockey by his father.
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. The movies producers filmed more than 180 hours of footage from their time 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 traveling across the country speaking with pros like Schneider, and getting a perspective, which added a fantastic extra dimension to the story.
"This is a film that gives a true inside look at the hockey experience," Sarner said. "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."
The Wave 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.
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 like the Little Caesars, Honeybaked and Shattuck St. Mary's," Gannon said.
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. But, the film also expertly captures the Wave players going through the universal experience of just being a teenager ? dealing with a parent's messy divorce, trying to balance a social life and girls with being athletes. One of the players in the film is caught in the middle of his parent's separation and hockey becomes his escape. Schneider also opens up about how hockey was his salvation as a kid when his parents went through their divorce.
What 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 Mathieu Schneider are just the coolest, most down to earth professional athletes in the world. Mathieu was unbelievably generous with his time."
In addition to Schneider, the film also features special appearances by Brendan Shanahan, Joe Thornton, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Gomez, Jeremy Roenick, Glen Murray, Brian Rolston, Mike Comrie, Martin Havlat, Craig Conroy, Mike Knuble, RJ Umberger, Derian Hatcher, and retired great Al MacInnis.
You can view the trailer and buy the DVD at inthecreasemovie.com