‘Goon’ Is This Generation’s ‘Slap Shot’
Goon is an adaptation of the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, the player upon whom main character Doug Glatt is based. It stars Seann William Scott, who plays Doug Glatt, Jay Baruchel who plays Doug's best friend (and who also co-wrote the script), and Liev Schreiber as the veteran enforcer and antagonist Ross "The Boss" Rhea.
We had the pleasure of attending the round table interviews with Jay, Seann, Liev, and director Michael Dowse in New York back in February. As we waited for them to arrive, we received a surprise visit from three of the most iconic personas in hockey- The Hanson Brothers.
The trio known for their starring roles in the top hockey comedy of all-time, "Slap Shot", shared their experiences filming and screening the 1977 cult classic along with how it compares to this effort from Baruchel, Dowse, Evan Goldberg (Superbad), and Magnet Releasing. Most of the their responses addressed the movie's authenticity. Here are some highlights from our time with them.
The Brothers collectively believe the film's got the potential to be "the second greatest hockey movie of all-time", giving it a rating of "8.5 or 9" out of 10.
On the differences between the game then and now:
"It’s a whole different ballgame now, the equipment they use now is a weapon. We were the big boys back then 6’2”, 6’3”. Nowadays these guys are 6’7”, 6’8” and can skate like the wind. We used training camp to get in shape, now they show up to camp in shape."
"Bigger, faster and rink isn’t getting any bigger, it’s getting smaller. It’s a lot more violent now. Players don’t to be as aware now of the code that we had."
On their love for the game, waxing nostalgic:
"$8 / day meal money. You appreciate the game a lot more when you make it to a higher level. I coached Doug Smith. It’s not a fun level. Thirteen players make it to the bigs. When I was coaching high school, I asked a kid if he liked playing the game and he said he liked it and I said that’s the difference between you and me I love the game. It’s the greatest game in the world."
"A player played for his teammates. We played for the passion. The money was just a benefit. When we played in Johnstown, our first three paychecks bounced. How many players now would keep playing if their checks bounced?
"Fighters fought the fighters. I roomed with Gretzky his rookie year in Edmonton, you don’t touch him. You don’t fight him, that’s just the rule. A lot more respect back then."
On Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber's character):
"I think he did a great job with of portratying the role. You fight hard for that respect, your days are numbered. The figthers are the ones who are most respectful. Consummate team guys. The fighters know when you’re in trouble they don’t hit you anymore."
On hockey being able to survive without fighting:
"There’s 2 reasons why people stand up at a hockey game – if you take fighting out you’re only gonna stand up once. When [the fighters] hit the ice, the excitement builds, and they put on a great show. Would it survive? Yeah. Would it be as entertaining? No."
On the role of the enforcer:
"In the first 3 games, [an enforcer they played with] got 5 goals. Coach told him you’re not here to score goals, you’re here to hit people and fight. He stayed but they didn’t want him scoring goals."
Even though their playing days are well over, we'd hate to square up with them on the ice. After a brief intermission, Jay, Seann, Liev, and Michael made their way in.
Most of the questioning focused on Seann's performance, which many, us included, thought was a tremendous departure from his previous roles. The two main takeaways from the forum were - Jay Baruchel is extremely passionate about hockey, and Liev Schreiber can absolutely 100% CONTROL a room full of people (and would be an AWESOME hockey player in real life). Here are the top quotes:
SEANN, on his hockey background:
SEANN: I had no background. My friends played. I played baseball, basketball, football. All the hot girls would go to [hockey] games.
Another reporter chimed in with, "That's something Stifler would say" and you could tell it affected Seann. He wasn't the same after that jab. Really unfortunate.
SEANN: [This sort of role] is the reason I came out to LA to pursue acting.
LIEV, on legendary enforcer Bob Probert:
LIEV: Me and Bob Probert spoke, he was on my mind and in my heart while shooting, thing I remember most about him was the bitterness that people didn’t think of him as a hockey player. People thought of him as an enforcer, as a goon, this was a guy who was constantly evolving as a player his whole life.
MICHAEL DOWSE, on other sports movies that influenced production:
DOWSE: The Longest Yard, North Dallas Forty – a lot of sports comedies today are a little too high class. I wanted to get back to that blue collar feel.
On the suggestion that this film is a farewell tribute to the enforcer:
DOWSE: I think they’re evolving back to the way they used to play the game like probert and chris nylon, in a way you’re right it’s hard to keep an enforcer on your bench as a 4th line player. I think it’s positive, it gives them value and relevance.
On Georges Laraque (famous enforcer who plays a minor role in the film):
LIEV: Funny story that George laroque told me, rookies or guys who were falling off the roster would come up to him and very politely ask him ‘Hey George, would you go a couple rounds with me and take it easy the coach is thinking about putting me on waivers’.
We had a chance to see the film and we'd be willing to go out on a limb and say it's one of the most underrated sports comedies ever made. With the NHL in a state of renewal, trying to rebuild its once great popularity of the 90s, this movie is a testament to the game's passionate fanbase and players.
Here's the official redband trailer.
Goon released in theaters, Friday, March 30th.