Hockey, Hockey, the greatest game in the land! – Score! A Hockey Musical Review

While we missed seeing this very Canadian film when it opened TIFF this year, last night we had the pleasure witnessing the magic that is Score! A Hockey Musical at the Scotiabank theatre.

As is always the case with our outings, things didn’t go quite as planned from the get go and we were fear stricken that the arrival of Taylor Swift at Much Music yesterday afternoon would unleash a mob of teenybopper fandom onto the streets of Downtown Toronto. Alternative plans were discussed to see if we could avoid the scene altogether, but it was decided that we weren’t going to let some tween princess interfere with our desire for sushi and singing hockey players.

We pushed past the madness on Queen St. (which by that point was mostly contained within guardrails, give or take a few collective fan paparazzi on the corners), fought through the drawing temptation to hover and wait for Taylor to make her swift appearance and headed towards Sushi Time for dinner.

Dinner was, as it usually is, a delightful mix of sushi and wine, but the service as Sushi Time has started to wear on us. The servers often seem more fixated on gathering to gossip at the front of the restaurant than interacting with the paying customers at the back. The wait time surpassed ridiculous and Veronica was seconds away from calling the restaurant to request some service in the back. But eventually, we were given their attention, dinner was ordered and we were on our way.

While we may be in the minority of those who liked the flick, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fantastic film. Score! A Hockey Musical follows seventeen year old Farley (Noah Reid) as he breaks through the barriers of his sheltered life and into the world of organized sports, a world that he’s never once set foot in despite his talent on the ice. Naturally, he shoots to superstardom, struggles with losing himself in the game, tries desperately to maintain his pacifistic morality and, of course, realizes his growing affections for his best friend Eve.

With a relatively non-existent resume outside of minor roles on Canadian television or made for tv movies, Noah Reid brings a rare sense of confidence to the role of wide-eyed Farley. Not only is he capable of skating, singing, dancing and manning a stick, he often pulls off all four simultaneously without breaking a sweat. His natural transition from being wrapped safely in a blanket of innocence to lighting off blue angels in the men’s locker room is believable, not to mention pretty amusing and a nod back to similar team bonding antics that I’m sure anyone can relate to growing up on a sports team.

While Reid and his on screen soulmate Allie MacDonald may be relatively new to the scene, the film does feature a number of familiar faces including John Pyper-Ferguson as the Coach, Stephen McHattie as the Team Owner who discovers Farley, and Olivia Newton-John as Farley’s folk-singing, peace-loving mother. And as all good Canadian films do, there are also a number of guest appearances including a couple of Canadian song birds, a dark and brooding (not to mention, incredibly attractive, although relatively short) on tv/radio personality and some awe-inspiring hockey icons.

The twist of the film, of course, is that Score! A Hockey Musical is just that, a musical. Laced with original songs throughout, many of the emphatic moments during the film are sung, creating that thin line between those who will love the film and those who will hate it. Apparently, burly men in hockey equipment singing and performing choreographed dances aren’t very manly and the mere act betrays the passionate soul of the sport. Who knew?

Ironically, a major theme in the film is the battle to convince Farley to drop his gloves and fight on the ice, defending his honour and not turtling like a little pacifist (or as the film subtly hinted towards, another p-word that could easily act as a substitute). But both sides were easily mashed together in one epic song in the locker room, featuring Farley’s team of tall, strapping hockey players transforming into a boy band (complete with synchronized hand movements) to sing a song aptly entitled Pacifism Defense, where the team’s muscle The Moose (Dru Viergever) admits that he wasn’t hired for “fancy passes, but to right wrongs by kicking asses”.

Or of course, there is also inevitable love story confrontation, where Farley and Eve express their hurt and anger in a musical lover’s quarrel that makes us wonder whether or not conflicts in a relationship would be better off if instead of yelling and arguing, you stood in the middle of the street singing passionately to each other. But don’t fret, a little later in the film you see the quarrel’s counterpart, the musical reunion between the two where the true confessions of love are revealed and the number ends with the welcomed kiss everyone was waiting for.

Okay, so the song and dance numbers may be a little cheesy — rhyming baloney with zamboni, sticking in the phrase “as cold as venus” just to allude to the freezing of one of Farley’s favored appendages (a line that isn’t fully followed through on, either), the choreographed on ice fight scene with the descriptive Tap, Tap, Poke, Poke, Kidney Punch giving the play by play and a slew of other references that may seem a little silly, but any veteran of stage or film musicals know that that is half the fun. It’s those little quips that create the entertainment and the giggles. Or at least cause our giggles. There is a slight possibility that we were the only two laughing in that small theatre, despite there being maybe five other people in attendance (hey, it’s more than we were expecting!). But that isn’t the point.

By the end, everything was nicely wrapped up in a neat little package in time for the show closing on ice dance number to what is pretty much the theme song of the movie – Hockey, the Greatest Game in the Land. The scene does nothing more than provide a moment of ridiculous entertainment that is supposed to have the audience whistling or tapping their feet as they wait to exit the theatre. And it works, the song is a damn catchy celebratory tune that ties together fans of all ages, morals and positions in life to bond over the one defining thing that us Canadians live for; hockey.

Suffice it to say, the debate on whether the movie was a piece of brilliance or blasphemy will be forever ongoing, but if a cutthroat hockey fan like Veronica can see the beauty in singing and dancing hockey players, well, there might just be hope for everyone.

images from google images