Documentary Review “Ice Guardians”

ice-guardians1 ice-guardians3 ice-guardians2


First, the Recap:

You’ve heard the popular statement “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. An all too common utterance from many a fan over the storied history found amidst the professional sports organization that is the NHL–the National Hockey League. Debate rages on, moreso in this day and age of knowledge learned the hard way when it comes to the effects of concussions and other related injuries, about the validity of allowing this ever-present facet of hockey to remain intact. Fans seem to be just as divided about the subject as anyone, some believing the fights are an integral part of the game while others believe it steals away the flow and sense of professionalism expected at this level. However, what about the specific players themselves, whose literal job it is on the ice to perform one ultimate duty–protect their teammates from the other team. These are the men known as enforcers.

Evolving throughout the league’s long and hard-fought decades, the position of enforcer has had its place on each and every team. Designed to instill an atmosphere of intimidation when on the ice, these hardened men seek to ensure everything from cheap shots to bad hits are paid for in fisticuffs against their opponent’s enforcer–a bare knuckle, full-out, knock-down, brawl.  As certain players made a name for themselves at this position of menace, however, one then needs to understand the entire essence of what it is to be in such a controversial occupation, and also discover what really lies behind the drive, heart, passion, and decisions these men encounter every game, every season, for years and years. What may surprise is that in spite of the stigma placed by on the entire concept of enforcers, they are truly battling to simply live their dream of playing a sport they treasure and respect, even as they find themselves on bided time.

Next, my Mind:

Writer/director/cinematographer Brett Harvey, along with co-writer Scott Dodds, offer up a beautifully filmed, visceral, in-depth, in-your-face, and raw inside look at one of the most talked about aspects in professional hockey history, and do so with a persuasive, compelling execution that keeps the viewer’s attention the film’s entire 108-minute runtime.  Featuring candid interviews/first hand accounts from some of the NHL’s biggest enforcers, past and present, including Brian McGratton, Brett Hull, Bobby Hull, Brett Gallant, Kevin Westgarth, George Parros, Colton Orr, Luke Gazdic, Scott Parker, Zenon Konopka, Dave Semenko, Dave Schultz, Clark Gillies, and others, the narrative is one that touches on and encompasses the whole of what it means/meant to these players to be/have been an enforcer, with perspectives on it that might shock at times, but also illuminate, as they each paint a picture of the dream to just play professional hockey, knowing the fighting was all worth it, hands up.

Additional insights into the mentality, crowd appeal, dangers, media opinion, and influence of fighting and enforcing within the game is likewise offered up from author and mass/group behavior expert Howard Bloom, UK Criminologist/Ethnographer Victoria Silverwood, actor/writer/director Jay Baruchel, TV/Radio host Jeff Marek, and hockey historian/ founder David Singer, adding to the already insightful observations offered up by the players themselves. Yet, in the wake of all the attention drawn to the position of enforcer, good and bad, what somehow strikes even deeper after it’s all said and done is that the place in hockey for it is slowly but surely diminishing to the point where it may no longer be considered viable to the modern game.  This becomes one of the most amazingly unexpected viewpoints of the entire debate–the actual humanity behind the fighting.  Most players do not want to see their coveted opportunity to contribute to the sport in this way disappear, but like so many avenues in sports, the decision may end up out of their hands.

Regardless of what your own opinion might be when it comes to the ideas about and inclusion of enforcers in the NHL, it’s absolutely undeniable that “Ice Guardians” presents a potent, influential, impactful, and deeply eloquent journey into the core of these rink warriors, whose genuine love for the game of hockey clearly transcends the controversy and doubts, rather choosing to delve convincingly into the root of what it is to be a hockey player. It just might change your mind.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


Leave a Reply