What does it mean to be an enforcer in the NHL? The documentary “Ice Guardians” produced by Adam Scorgie and directed by Brett Harvey answers just that. You may remember Ice Guardians from a recent episode of the podcast. We also had the opportunity to view Ice Guardians at the Calgary International Film Festival on September 24th. Ice Guardians successfully provides a unique and informative exploration of what the life of an NHL enforcer is like. This continues to become more relevant as the amount of enforcers in the league steadily declines.
Through conversations with dozens of current and former NHL players, the team behind Ice Guardians are able to shed light on what it means to be an enforcer. So often, enforcers are seen as goons or thugs, which is certainly a possibility, but more often than not they are the favorite player in the locker room and treat each other with great respect. Both Brett Hull and Jarome Iginla expressed their desire that they wouldn’t want to play without an enforcer on their team. This was played out this summer by Luke Gazdic (also in the film) following Taylor Hall from Edmonton to New Jersey. Hall certainly had an impact on Gazdic’s signing with the Devils.
Current enforcers like Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan joined retired players Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Dave Semenko and Kelly Chase (to name a few) to give insight into what it means to be an NHL enforcer. While every player said that they would do it again if it meant that they got to play the game that they love, it certainly wasn’t easy. Between nerves, tire less nights and sleep fights on airplanes, the life of a fighter is not only physically demanding but also mentally. We’re fairly certain that we lost track of the number of plates in Todd Fedoruk‘s face.
Scorgie and Harvey do not avoid the controversial part of the physical and mental demands on enforcers either. Over the course of filming, Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien all passed away. The deaths of these players certainly impacted the players interviewed, as they were teammates and friends. However, they don’t believe that their struggles are an inherent part of their jobs. Concussions are a hot topic in the sports landscape currently, and Ice Guardians does a great job of exploring all aspects of concussions in hockey. With the help of neurological research they look at how and when concussions happen and how enforcers play a part in the occurrence and prevention of them.
Everyone has an opinion on fighting in hockey, which is what makes Ice Guardians such a great part of the story. Watching the film is a fantastic jumping off point for conversations about the role of fighters in hockey, the way that it has changed and where it will go. By getting stories right from the ice guardians themselves, they are able to tell the multifaceted story of NHL enforcers. If Ice Guardians is showing near you, make sure to see it. If not, you can see it October 8th at 9PM ET on Super Channel. You won’t be disappointed.