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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 480 Minutes
Eight hours of hockey without commercials or context.
Denis DeJordy, Chuck Gardiner, Paul Goodman, Glenn Hall, Cristobal Huet, Mike Karakas, Alfie Moore, Antti Niemi, Clarence “Taffy” Abel, Al Arbour, Earl & Murray Balfour, Dave Bolland, Nick Boynton, Troy Brouwer, Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Lional Conacher, Bert Connelly, Tom Cook, Arthur Coulter, Rosario “Lolo” Couture, Carl “Cully” Dahlstrom, Ben Eager, Jack Evans, Reg Fleming, Colin Fraser, Leroy Goldsworthy, Johnny Gottselig, Bill Hay, Jordan Hendry, Wayne Hicks, Wayne Hillman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Bobby Hull, Harold Jackson, Roger Jenkins, Virgil Johnson, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Bill Kendall, Tomas Kopecky, Andrew Ladd, Jack Leswick, Alex Levinsky, Ed Litzenberger, Bill MacKenzie, John Madden, Ron “Chico” Maki, Harold “Mush” March, Ab McDonald, Don McFadyen, Stan Mikita, Ron Murphy, Eric Nesterenko, Pete Palangio, Pierre Pilote, Elwyn “Doc” Romnes, Brent Seabrook, Earl Seibert, Patrick Sharp, John Sheppard, Jack Shill, Jack Skille, Tod Sloane, Brent Sopel, Dollard St. Laurent, Paul Thompson, Jonathan Toews, Louis Trudel, Elmer Vasko, Kris Versteeg, Karl Voss, Ken Wharram, Art Wiebe.
The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1961, but now, after a 49 year drought, they take home the Cup in a tightly contested fight with the Philadelphia Flyers. This five disc set includes Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators as well as Games 1, 2, 5 and 6 against the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals.
I have never watched an entire hockey game in my life. I’ve started a few and fallen asleep due to the constant whooshing noises and repetitive back-and-forth that make up pro ice hockey games. Whooshing makes me sleepy. Don’t judge me. Basically, my hockey knowledge boiled down to having heard of Wayne Gretsky and knowing that the Redwings were a hockey team as well as the term for when you go down on a female whilst she is having her special lady time. I had no idea the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, so I felt immediately spoiled upon reading the name of the collection. It was like when my older brother and I were sitting down to see Seven back in the day and he leaned over and told me what was in the box. “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?” Don’t ask me, Mr. Pitt. I already know.
However, I was not to be intimidated. I figured that once I put on the first disc it would be like watching sports on television, with 20 or 30 minutes of the commentators telling me who the hell everyone was, if the teams had a deep seated rivalry of some kind and who the underdog was, so I knew who to root for. It was not to be. They have trimmed all the fat from these games, leaving only the games themselves, with no context at all in regards to the season up to that point. So, I briefly read the ice hockey overview on Wikipedia and started watching. I was ready to do my manly duty and watch men on ice skates punch each other in the neck. My main curiosity for watching these discs was to see whether I would have a better understanding of the rules and conduct of hockey and whether, by the end of the 5th disc, I would become a fan.
Disc one is comprised of Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators, with the series tied at 2-2. Chicago’s home crowd is so energized that they go batshit insane at the tiniest provocation, but there’s a big sign hanging from the roof of the stadium that says “Welcome to the Madhouse,” so I guess I should have been surprised there wasn’t more feces throwing or little paper cups of pills being passed around. The highlight of this game would have to be when the goalie catches the puck and then it disappears, causing the refs to put their hands down the goalie’s pants and fiddle around down there looking for it as the crowd looks on, cheering. They find it off camera and never tell us where it was, which I thought was a pretty big puck tease (I’m so sorry). They also kept calling the goalie the “NetMinder” which made me write a SyFy Original Movie with Christopher Lambert. In my head.
I learned what a Power Play was, although I’m completely confused about what counts as being off-sides, but I’m not going to look it up because I want to see if I can learn from the game itself. There were also a few awesome moments in the game including Seabrook (a Blackhawk) checking a guy so hard his helmet flew off and he spun in the air like a sack of dead. There was also a “Too Many Men On the Ice” penalty which means 6 guys were playing instead of 5. How the fuck does that happen? You never see a sixth guy on the court in Basketball, waving his arms for a pass, looking confused as to why he doesn’t have anyone covering him.
This was a good game, though. Just when I was starting to get bored in the third period, The Blackhawks tie the game with 13 seconds left on the clock and go into overtime. Retard Spoiler- The Blackhawks win and move on. The Predators played a better game than The Blackhawks in a lot of ways and their NetMinder was a rockstar, so I hope to see The Blackhawks congeal into more of a giant mass of team instead of a unconnected group of guys SkateFighting their way to becoming champions. I wonder if they’ll win the next one.
Disc 2 is comprised of The Stanley Cup Final Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers. I did a bit of research on the Flyers and learned that they’re considered the second best team in the NHL and (back in the ’80’s) they used to SkateFight so much they were called the Broad Street Brawlers. Color me the color of excitement. Just a couple minutes into the game, Eager (with the Blackhawks) breaks his stick over a Flyers back, so it’s shaping up to be a lovely hate fuck of a series.
The first period of this game was easily the best 20 minutes of hockey I’ve seen so far, with both teams fighting so hard to score that it feels like it’s already the final game of the series. I just wish every time the Blackhawks scored they didn’t play the sound effect of a giant truck honking it’s horn, because if I wanted to hear that I’d go back to drunkenly stumbling around the freeway on Wednesday nights. I think it might be an organ. Seabrook takes a stick to the face so hard it reminded me of slavery but the refs didn’t see it, so the Madhouse goes fucking apeshit screaming at their checkered asses. For the rest of the period everybody plays their balls off, leaving the score tied at 5-5 going into the third.
The final period wasn’t quite as intense, with the Blackhawks scoring midway through the period and keeping that lead for the duration of the game. The NetMinder for the Blackhawks (Antti Niemi) is bombarded constantly for the final 10 minutes and lets nothing past his giant mitt of NetMinding.
I’m starting to find hockey to be three parts hypnotic and one part “where the fuck did the puck just go.” I’m excited for the last three games, as these teams appear to be very evenly matched and extremely aggressive towards one another. There were no fights, but harsh words and angry looks were bandied about, freely and with no regret.
Disc three is all about Game 2 of the playoffs and it delivers. There is a game. While not high scoring or down to the wire, it really builds on the rivalry between The Hawks and the Flyers. The same guy who hit Seabrook in the face with his stick in the last game nails another Hawks player in the face this go round, as well. Guy’s a dick. At the end of the 1st, there’s still no score but it’s twice as intense as Game 1. The players are hitting harder, getting into a lot more near fights (and the first thrown punch so far) and not letting anything slip by them since they’ve adapted to each other’s SkateFighting styles.
The teams definitely slow down a bit for the first half of the second period, but that only lasts for a bit until they’re slamming each other into the boards so hard that some kids are definitely going to be born retarded. In the final five minutes of the period, The Hawks score 2 goals on The Flyers, who seem to be running out of steam and not using all that rage to their advantage.
The Flyers play their asses off in the third, scoring a goal early but never able to tie the game up due to the superhuman goaltending abilities of Antti Niemi, who makes an incredible 32 saves, only letting one slip by. He’s not perfect, but, alas, he’s just a man.
I think I’m starting to feel hockey now. I still don’t know what the hell is going on half of the time and am confused by talk of “Neutral Zones” and “Icing”, but I like the gumption these guys have, flying across the ice with no fear of injury or persecution. It’s beautiful, in a bearded Canadian kind of way.
Disc four jumps all the way to Game 5 since The Flyers won Games 3 & 4 and the whole point of this box set is to show off The Blackhawks and their skill of winning. It’s a little biased, but no one really cares about losers. Anyway, The Hawks score 3 in the first while the Madhouse (who might be some of the best fans I’ve ever seen) goes absolutely wild. Seriously, I bet these guys take home teeth they find on the ice and keep them in jars.
The second period is really wild and sloppy with The Blackhawks scoring 1 and The Flyers scoring 2, making the score 5-2 going into the third. I think The Flyers are starting to get really pissed, as there are quite a few flying elbows and brow-to-brow standoffs. I think there might be blood in the third. Possibly semen.
No blood (a little semen), just more chaotic hockey with The Hawks and The Flyers both scoring two more leaving the final score at 7-4. This game made me fall asleep a lot, but I think that has to do with the disadvantage of knowing who is going to win and by how much. I feel like I’m Biff in Back to the Future Part 2, just waiting for the final buzzer so I can collect my cash.
Finally, we reach disc 5 of The Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship season, comprised of Game 6 of the series. Immediately, the dynamic of the game is different as the sea of red signifying The Madhouse fans of The Hawks has changed to a sea of pumpkin, since this game is the first in the box set to take place in Philly. I don’t know what The Flyers stadium is called. Possibly The Anger Shack?
I lost a lot of respect for The Flyers in this game, as they just seem to turn into a pack of SkateFighting thugs. They punch Hawks in the back of the head as they skate by and then get foaming at the mouth angry when they get a penalty for it. It feels like they finally realized they were outmatched and decided to just play like dicks. By the end of the first the score was 1-1 and you could tell that the game was going to be bitterly fought. Like Tea Party supporters fighting reason. Ooooooh, he made it political.
In the second period you can really see The Hawks start getting fed up with the referee’s calls, which always seem to favor The Flyers, but The Hawks counter this by becoming more precise and continually executing excellent hockey. The Hawks go into the third period leading 3-2 and, even though I already know that they win, I’m rooting for them since they really seem to be playing the classier game of SkateFight.
The final period of this, my hockey deflowering, was pretty slow until the the final four minutes when Philadelphia scores, tying the game at 3-3. This shit would have been so intense live that I bet I would be pacing or, at the very least, chewing something meaty with furious abandon. We go into overtime, where both teams play as if their lives depended on it and, depending on if there’s a Canadian Mafia, they very well might. Less than five minutes into overtime, Patrick Kane scores, winning the Stanley Cup for The Chicago Blackhawks. This leads the fans of the Flyers into booing so loudly and intensely that the Commissioner of Hockey and All Hockey Related Subjects can barely award the MVP trophy. Keep it classy, Philadelphia.
My MVP award goes to Scott Hartnell who, aside from his super curly mullet and ginger beard, also managed to be a part of every big play The Flyers made. He scored 2 goals in Game Six, while checking people harder than I thought humanly possible. Excellent playing, you crimson king.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed the hockey. Sometimes I got bored and slept and then rewound, but other times I was leaning into my laptop and cheering the sheer amazing goaltending skills of Antti Niemi. I never learned the things I wanted to, but I’m surprisingly fine with that.
It was weird reviewing this box set since I’m used to looking for shot compositions and checking performances for nuance and color and for this I was just watching modern day vikings compete in a sport that seems like it would have fit perfectly in a Roman coliseum. Sand Hockey? It made me feel manly while simultaneously making me feel like I was found wanting. I wouldn’t recommend this box for anyone who is new to hockey, since there’s no pre-game material to fill you in on the roads the teams had taken to get to the Stanley Cup, but I think it would be perfect for Hawks fans who just want a DVD collection that has the games exactly as they aired on NBC, sans commercials.
I feel like I grew a little. I got in touch with the side of myself that also goes to rodeos to watch cowboys get gored. It made me realize that I don’t really like that side of myself and might not go to rodeos anymore. But I like hockey and how it makes me feel- dirty in a good way. Watching Hawks fans all decked out in red from head to toe; on their feet in The Madhouse, screaming love at the players they know so well, I realized that there’s nothing in the world that I love as much as those people loved those five games. I can live with that.
If I was grading on the discs alone, this would probably get a 1 out of 5. There are no special features at all (which I find extremely odd for a five disc set) and each disc ends randomly, as if it went to a commercial that never comes. The sound cuts in and out on three of the five discs and the transfer is so horrible that when the players get going really fast, they just become a cream colored blur. It’s presented in a “matted widescreen format which preserves the aspect ratio of the original television exhibition.” I don’t know if this is the cause of the shitty picture but, if so, don’t ever do it again.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars