Ice Guardians Premiere

If you HATE fighting in hockey, you’ll LOVE this movie.

If you LOVE fighting in hockey, you’ll LOVE this movie.

If you have no opinion about fighting in hockey,
watch this movie and you soon will.

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NHL Championship Ring

If you know someone who has suffered a brain injury, maybe even you, possibly the result of a mild concussion, this movie will explain a lot about how a damaged brain affects a person’s personality and disposition.

Ice Guardians is a must see for anyone who plays sports at any level, and especially too for their partners, parents, or guardians. There is no such thing as an innocent bump on the head, and this movie brilliantly underscores a few reasons why.

NHL Enforcers Q&A immediately after the premiere screening

Hockey fans everywhere are already feverishly slamming their blades into the ice in favor. It is a given considering the film’s premise. Excitable fans are low hanging fruit. Sold out screenings of Ice Guardians at movie festivals across the country end up as Q&A sessions afterwards “live and in person” with the NHL enforcers old and new who are interviewed and featured in the documentary.

Listening to Wendel Clark talk about his personal experience on the ice and to also hear him comment about his role in the movie while sitting in front of you onstage is enlightening and more heart rending than you can imagine. As he sits on the theater’s stage after the screening, taking questions and responding spontaneously, you start to get a real feel for what it was like to be labeled an enforcer – trapped to fight in order to keep your job.

Think about that for a moment. If you had to physically fight your coworkers every day and risk serious brain injury, how would it affect your sleep at night and how you relate to your family and the world?

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A young hockey player doesn’t grow up
dreaming about being an enforcer.

Players grow up dreaming of being great hockey players, and when that dream comes within reach and they finally make it to the big rink and the dream is shattered, it has a devastating impact on a player’s self worth. Even the toughest and most rabid hockey fans will have a lump in their throats the size of a puck after listening to Kelly Chase’s story. When he is asked in the film whether he would do it again, give in to being an enforcer, the long silence before he answers and the tears welling in his eyes deliver the truth more effectively than any of the punches he ever landed. That long drawn out hesitation is by far the most poignant moment of the film, which ironically almost ended up on the cutting room floor because he was reluctant to come across as being soft. Trust me, he’s not. He’s a modern day man’s man.

The violent role of a hockey enforcer is not what you think.

Fighting is not a random act of chaos and confusion. It’s not road rage.

Fighting is a well orchestrated ballet of brute force
and sophisticated psychological intimidation.

Kelly Chase, Jhod Cardinal (UpStreamFlix.com), Wendel Clark, Adam Scorgie (Producer)
Kelly Chase, Jhod Cardinal (UpStreamFlix.com), Wendel Clark, Adam Scorgie (Producer)

Some hockey enforcers are Ivy league graduates; well trained fighters gliding on razor blades who are calm, calculating, and brutal all in one punch-drunk breath. If you want to know exactly what goes through an enforcer’s mind as he hunts down his prey, this documentary will roll it out for you in very simple blow-by-devastating-blow terms.

The choreographed picture-taking theme on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival World Premiere of Ice Guardians was to pose with a raised fist like a boxer. Oddly, and you’ll know why after seeing the film, the players looked tentative in the PR pose, and not nearly as exuberant as the film’s production team and hangers-on who were beaming beside them for the camera. Players are not proud of being enforcers, but they are proud of the championship rings on their fingers and display them humbly on a backdrop of scarred and broken “you should see the other guy” knuckles.

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Adam Scorgie, Vodka Girl, and Kevin Westgarth

NHL enforcers know the power of their punch and the damage it does to their colleague’s brain. Most of them are no longer proud they delivered such devastating blows, and the truth is, some never were. Ironically though, they know that if they didn’t wield their particular brand of “payback” intimidation aggressively, the constant parade of full frontal head slams into the boards as a result of dirty hits would cause much greater long term brain damage to hockey players – who happen to be their friends.

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Enforcers consider themselves an essential service because they claim the National Hockey League won’t or can’t enforce their own rules. If the NHL can’t do it, players will in order to ensure finesse players like Gretzky and Crosby stay healthy to play another day.

The heated question this documentary poses is, why have the National Hockey League and Gary Bettman been so irresponsible regarding the mental health of athletes? One could speculate it is nothing more than greed and sloth, and one would probably be right. Fighting is the easy answer to a complex tough question. You could never get away with it in any other sport or industry, football included. More importantly, why does the NHL continue to think it’s OK to encourage youth to emulate a behavior that can, with moderate effort, be managed effectively and not cause so much brain damage to young hockey players?

Adam Scorgie, Brett Harvey, Kelly Chase
Adam Scorgie, Brett Harvey, Kelly Chase

If everyone knows concussions and brain damage are bad, why are we still doing it? The film makes the argument someone has to enforce the rules.

Unfortunately, the players paying the price are the young innocents tricked into thinking fighting is the culprit, when according to the film, bad hits cause a substantially higher frequency of serious brain injuries. The documentary argues that if you stop the dirty hits you stop the fighting. Unfortunately that flawed logic hits the crossbar and bounces out. What if we all took the law into our hands?

As Bonnie Nish wrote in her new book “Concussion and Mild Brain Injury are Not Just Another Headline“, even a small hit can spin your brain and have a devastating impact. Hockey players fool viewers into thinking our heads can take a beating, but the truth is, one mild concussion can ruin your life forever, and two concussions, well for twice as long.

Thankfully fighting in hockey is slowly being relegated to the past, but not soon enough.

If you want to be able to understand the hidden motivations behind fighting in hockey and sports in general, and to be able argue this question intelligently, watch this riveting film.

Ice Guardians could do for fighting what the breathalyzer did for drinking and driving.

It’s time to quit fighting in hockey in any league.
The players say so and I believe them over Bettman any day.