It’s all about telling it like it is.
The newest entry into the world of documentary films about hockey premiered on Sportsnet Monday afternoon. It’s going to see a few repeats before part two of Hockey Unlimited appears on the schedule (early December). Just watch for it.
Hockey Unlimited, without talking about it too much, probes into a question that is simple and complex at the same time: Canada is passionate about her hockey, and so are Canadians passionate about their hockey. There’s a world of difference between these two passions. And yet, one can’t exist without the other, and vice versa.
With the NHL game by EA selling like hot cakes, the first installment of Hockey Unlimited goes behind the scenes to find out what exactly it is that makes the game such a fan favourite.
The answer is simple and straightforward: it’s its creators’ passion that does it. The guys who have been creating it grew up on the good old black-and-white pong game. Something today’s young crowd has no idea whatsoever existed. The grown-up crowd might recall the vertical line dividing the screen, the two players represented by two shorter lines, with a ball represented by a roughly-edged dot, and, gee, what kind of progress that was! the score changing whenever either of the players missed.
Compare it to today’s game where they make sure that jerseys reflect the layers’ movements, that reflections in the helmets reflect the arena lighting and that the fans who are taking selfies during games do so using equipment that exists on the market today. And all that in high definition!
The second part is even more interesting.
Imagine a small village in rural Alberta, population just slightly over 300. Known also by its nickname (Home of the first last elevator row in Alberta), seat of Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum, you can find it some 65 kilometres south of Lethbridge.
With farming becoming more and more industrialized, it’s villages like this that suffer the most. The good people of Warner were watching their future with apprehension. One thing they knew was that no matter what else goes, if their school goes, it’s the end. And that’s when they figured out a way. That’s when the Warner Hockey School, one of the premier girls’ hockey schools in Canada, was born.
It attracts girls from all over the place and the Warner Warriors, a part of the junior girls’ hockey league, have scored quite a few major wins. One of their biggest wins: some of its alumnae have gone on to the best schools on the continent on full hockey scholarships. One even helped her new alma mater win a national championship title by scoring the winning goal.
These girls help keep the Warner school alive. And, by extension, they help keep Warner itself alive.
The Warner Hockey School has Mikko Makela as its general manager and head coach. By the way, here’s the proper way of writing his last name: Mäkelä. But don’t worry, he doesn’t insist on that kind of convoluted spelling.
The name should sound familiar to NHL fans: named The Flying Finn, Makela has more than 400 NHL games on his resume. He also played in Finland and owned a team in his native country. Having married a girl from Lethbridge, he returned to her hometown with her, and – after a brief period of coaching a junior club – he made the move to Warner.
Both sides could have hardly been happier.
This part of Hockey Unlimited tells us more about Canadian hockey’s roots than huge tomes of university research. Including the difference between guys as hockey players and girls in that same role. When he tells guys to do this or that, Makela relates, they would just go and do it. Not so the girls. They would listen to the instruction and then ask a simply major question: why?
There are two more brief segments included in the show. One, narrated by fitness guru Simon Bennett explains how to increase the strength of some of the muscles hockey players need the most. The other shows power skating coach Steve Serdachny explain several hockey moves in detail.
All in all, hockey from all possible angles.
Add to it Aquila Productions’ traditionally sharp camera work, crisp editing and great music selections. On top of it, Sportsnet’s Chris Simpson appears as the show’s host. Chris Simpson has earned her credibility with hockey fans through the years of hard work and she’s very good. The creators have made sure that she doesn’t appear on the screen too often, either: they let their pictures do the talking.
Aquila Productions’ previous major project, Oil Change, has been a huge success. It developed a huge following.
Judging by the first episode, so will Hockey Unlimited.