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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ice Guardians is a 2016 documentary that argues for the role of "the enforcer" in professional hockey. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of hockey violence. In fact, with the exception of the player interviews and the handful of interviews with fans and doctors, this documentary is essentially one long highlight reel of hockey fights. While there's some discussion of injuries and even deaths in pro hockey, these facts are presented in the context of the argument that contrary to popular belief, the majority of concussions and other injuries don't happen due to hockey fights or enforcer malfeasance. That said, while the arguments made are persuasive, they might not always be what parents want to hear if they're concerned about their kids getting injured (or requiring expensive dental care) as a result of playing hockey or other sports such as football where concussion worries are at the forefront of the national conversation on sports and kids. It's a provocative documentary that should inspire discussion about the role of violence in hockey and in sports in general, and whether or not such violence taps into our deepest animal natures. Some profanity, including "f--k" used several times and "p---y."
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What's the story?
ICE GUARDIANS is both a celebration of and defense of one of hockey's most loved and hated roles in the NHL: the enforcer. As violence in sports and the long-term consequences of concussions have emerged in recent years as an issue of concern, Ice Guardians makes the case that while many enforcers seem to the less-informed as little more than "goons" on the ice who play dirty and fight, the reality is that enforcers prevent even greater violence, providing protection to better-known star players, and that the violence enforcers engage in has an unwritten code of conduct in which there are clear-cut reasons to fight. Furthermore, the bottom line is that nothing, not even goals, gets the fans on their feet and excited and cheering as much as hockey fighting.
Is it any good?
In these days of concerns over the long-term effects of concussions, a documentary defending fighting in hockey might seem as outlandish as a documentary praising cigarette smoking. And yet, Ice Guardians sets out to do just that by interviewing the most loved and hated players of the NHL: the "enforcers." Interviews with players who performed the role of fighting any opposing players who got a little too aggressive with the enforcers' teammates present the idea that enforcers -- here lamented as a dying breed -- actually discourage rather than encourage violence, and that without enforcers on the ice, the better-known high-scoring players are far more likely to face injury. The documentary always makes the argument that fighting has been an integral part of professional hockey since the very first game, is a crucial component of the game, and is a huge part of the appeal for the fans in the stands, tapping into our most primal instincts.
The arguments are cogent and rooted in the authority of players, coaches, doctors, and even some of the more authoritative fans of the sport. It is, however, also a very long documentary with a redundant formula of interviews interspersed with a seemingly endless barrage of hockey violence, then more interviews, more violence, and on and on and on until the end. While longtime hardcore hockey fans will enjoy this, others might find the points to be belabored. Also, the counterarguments aren't really explored, except in a dismissive way about a culture that has perhaps taken "safety first" a little too far, and the film doesn't delve very deep into undeniable facts that the professional athletes of today are much stronger, faster, and better protected than in decades past. And while it does do an excellent job of explaining to those less knowledgeable about the role and background of the enforcer and the fighting that takes place on the ice, it's difficult to imagine experienced hockey moms and dads walking away from this thinking the violence and potential for injury in hockey is worth it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the arguments made in Ice Guardians. What are the arguments? Do you agree? Did the movie change your mind on any points?
What might be the counterarguments made by those who see violence in hockey as a dangerous anachronism, especially in a time when players are much faster and stronger than they were in the past?
Did the footage of hockey violence in this documentary glamorize the violence of the sport, or did it serve to highlight the bigger points being made?
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