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.