Ice Guardians has its work cut out for itself – it’s a tough sell to argue that the enforcer role in hockey is necessary and ethical, particularly after you’ve shown off a (hopefully atypical) training regimen where a player prepares by wrapping their hands in chains and punching trees. However, by thoroughly addressing the facts and misconceptions surrounding this sporting controversy, Ice Guardians manages to deliver an interesting and informative doc for both sides of the argument – although there’s not a lot here for non-hockey fans.
While by the end of the lengthy running time you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the history of fighting in hockey, Ice Guardians takes a while to properly explain what it’s trying to make a point about, and even longer before this point is fully articulated. The film loses the momentum it gains from a heart-pumping start, although once Ice Guardians pivots into a broader view of violence in sport, everything picks up again.
Director Brett Harvey crams in footage drawn from 50 years of hockey, and a full roster of players and experts appear, all of whom are personable and engaging on screen. The wild eyes of aforementioned tree-puncher Scott Parker are a highlight, as are brief appearances by actor Jay Baruchel (who also wrote Goon, the 2011 cult comedy hit about this very subject). Harvey largely keeps the statistics to a minimum, and focuses on the stories of those involved on and off the rink, and Ice Guardians is the better for it.
While Ice Guardians is well-made, there’s not a lot here for non-sports fans – and while the evidence provided is compelling, it’s hard to fully engage with their justification of 50 years of violence. Despite this, Ice Guardians offers a well-researched view into a complex and weighty subject.
CAST: Jay Baruchel, Victoria Silverwood, Chris Chelios, Brett Hull
DIRECTOR: Brett Harvey
WRITERS: Scott Dodds, Brett Harvey
SYNOPSIS: On-ice enforcers struggle to rise through the professional ranks of the world’s most prestigious hockey league, only to be confronted with a new found fight for the existence of the role itself.