In the spirit of the Hanson brothers, Judge Ryan Keefer also likes putting on the foil every night. What, for hockey? Oh. Ladies, avert your eyes!
"If you take aggression, if you take passion out of hockey, it's pretty, but it's not hockey."
Narrated by William Petersen (To Live and Die in L.A., CSI), Honor and Courage focuses on the harder edge players in the league. It's not necessarily a look at "enforcers" of the league, because a lot of people consider the enforcers to be on the thuggish side.
This video apparently is a holdover from the labor troubles the National Hockey League experienced, which resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season and playoffs. Consequently, the players that are featured in this piece (Jim McKenzie, Ian Laperriere, Darren McCarty and Eric Cairns) have footage from their previous teams, not from the teams they play for now. Or in McKenzie's case, since it appears he may not be in the league anymore, why even include him to begin with? McKenzie appears to be a nice guy, and he's got a great family, won the Stanley Cup a few years ago, but there are a lot more tough guys in the league that time could be spent on.
Now, I've been a fan of the sport for almost two decades myself, and am more than familiar with the league's attempts to make things friendlier for the average fan. Personally, I enjoy the free skating, high skills games myself. Playoff hockey is something that very few sports can surpass in terms of skill level, drama, and tension. And this is apparently the first video coming off the shelves of the NHL video production team, and it's about hard checks and fighting? I don't know—if I'm in the league office, I roll out new profiles on the established stars, and a compilation on the new rookies that are sizzling through the league right now.
What has made hockey so palatable to me through the years has been the modesty and the affability the players possess. They are, far and away, the most approachable athletes of any profession. And this look into the lives of McKenzie, Laperriere, McCarty and Cairns is somewhat intimate. The players do wear microphones on the ice, so you do get to hear any talk they exercise, and any PG-13 or higher rated talk is edited out for family friendly ears. The viewers spend time with them both on and off the ice. In McKenzie and Laperriere's cases, those are with their families, while Cairns spends time with some of his single teammate friends. There is some talk about the injuries incurred on the ice (Laperriere has had his nose broken on six separate occasions), along with their idols growing up. Another interesting aspect of their perspectives is their thoughts on things like fear and courage, which, in the words of one former player, is "acting well when you react to your fear." They discuss the code among enforcers (yes, there's a code, and a common sense one at that). Writers and various league personnel, like coaches or former players, discuss how things were in the past, compared to how things are now.
With any luck, the kind of openness and access that these players gave the camera crews when attempting to shoot this production will carry over to future television projects. With any of the goodwill the league threw away with the antics done by last year's labor gripes, all of the players in it need to realize at some point that they are all ambassadors, and have to promote the game any way they can. A note to Messrs. Bettman, Goodenow, the 30 league owners and coaches, and the 600 plus players in the league today; with the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, and the return of professional players to those games, it's time to go flat out and play hard in every game possible, and that will be a good first step in returning to any status of former glory.
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