Ice Guardians (2016)

Ice Hockey has always been one of those sports that I know I should like, but it’s just never grabbed me.

But one thing that will always stop me changing the channel is when two hockey players throw down their gloves and beat seven shades of shit out of each other.

That bloodlust exists in almost all human beings and we should probably be ashamed of ourselves. But fuck that, we wanna see violence, yo!

This highly entertaining and though-provoking documentary (now available on Netflix) looks at the role of the ‘enforcer’ in the game of professional ice hockey. And while it starts off by playing to the aforementioned bloodlust in all of us, it soon examines the darker side of the sport.

I’m not even a hockey fan and I loved this film. While there are plenty of laughs listening to some of the most badass fighters in NHL history discussing their toughest encounters, there are also horrifying tales of addiction and the pain of promising young players realising they weren’t quite good enough for the big leagues – unless they were willing to put their body on the line to protect more skilled team-mates.

Interviews with everyone from players to journalists and doctors are interspersed with thoughts from fans, almost all of whom say they couldn’t imagine the sport without the fights. And it makes the case that the fans’ love of violence is probably why the NHL doesn’t take action to put an end to the fights – quite simply, they sell.

A decent case is made to ban fighting in ice hockey, but some of the featured enforcers make an equally strong case that, without their presence, the most skilful players would be the victims of even more cheap shots and high pace assaults.

It certainly gets you thinking. And what’s the point in a documentary if not that?

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