When hockey fans have their bar room arguments or social media debates, one question that usually pops up is “who was the greatest goaltender of all-time?” While there is no definitive answer to this question, due to all the changes in the NHL & because of the evolution of the gear, the rules, the training, etc; there’s always one name that will pop-up in these debates and that man’s name is Terry Sawchuk.
When talking about the greatest goaltenders of all-time, fans can make arguments for guys like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Dominik Hasek, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante and several others. And yes, these arguments are all a matter of opinions, yet fun to discuss. However, what’s not an opinion, is that Terry Sawchuk’s name is part of this conversation. In fact, in the eyes of many fans, players, reporters and hockey people all alike, Terry Sawchuk is indeed, “the greatest goaltender that has ever lived.”
When I first saw that there was a movie coming out on Terry Sawchuk, I was excited. After all, I consider “Terry Sawchuk- The Troubles and Triumphs of the World’s Greatest Goalie” one of the best hockey books that I’ve ever read. When I found out that Adriana Maggs, who produced & directed this movie, used this book as her source material, I couldn’t wait to see it.
A few years back, I reviewed David’s book on Terry Sawchuk. You can read that in-depth book review here: http://doinow.com/ts/
When I finally reached the back cover of “Terry Sawchuk- The Troubles and Triumphs of the World’s Greatest Goalie”, I was stunned, awed, amazed and floored. The book, which was published in 1998, pulled no-punches and left no stone unturned. As I said in my review then, “When I finished this book, I wanted the autograph of Patricia (his ex-wife) and not Terry’s. She was the real hero.”
Like many films that use a book as a source material, I felt “Goalie” didn’t exactly capture the book in the best way possible. While Terry’s personal life was part of “Goalie”, many devastating and terrible things that were talked about in-depth in David’s book were left out. Of course, Maggs is putting together her own movie and using her own vision.
Unlike the end of David’s book, where I felt that Sawchuk was somewhat of a monster, when you get to the end of “Goalie”, Sawchuk is somewhat lionized as hero. I know the old adage is that “it’s not kind to speak out against the dead”. After all, the dead can’t defend themselves. That said, serious issues such as serious domestic violence, family abandonment and forcing your wife to have an abortion were omitted from the movie.
I am not a film critic or anything like that. I’m just a fan with an opinion. However, it’s fairly easy for movie-goers to recognize things such as good acting and storytelling. In “Goalie”, you had both of those things. My only issue with the movie, is that it does “Hollywood” some things, but I guess realistically, that is what it takes to make a movie as well. I just wonder if other people, who saw both the movie and read the book, came to the same conclusion that I did – “the movie was great, but the book was much better.”
There’s no way for me to know this, but I would suspect that if you just saw “Goalie”, and didn’t read the book, you would thoroughly enjoy the movie. Even with the book on my brain during my viewing experience of “Goalie”, I was engrossed with the movie.
And really, in defense of Maggs and “Goalie”, it’s an impossible job to recap Sawchuk’s life in a movie that clocks in just short of two hours. You would need a 13 episode mini-series on Netflix to cover everything in detail.
At this time, I’ll now move away from the book vs movie debate.
If you haven’t seen the trailer for “Goalie”, you can view it here:
Outside of Kevin Pollack, who played Jack Adams in “Goalie”, I wasn’t really familiar with the cast of “Goalie”. The movie featured several Canadian actors, as that is where the movie was filmed, in Canada. However, after viewing “Goalie”, I thought the two leads, in both Mark O’Brien and Georgina Reilly, were great in their roles. Again, I’m no film critic or know how to grade actors. I can just tell you what I think is good and what I think is bad. That said, I don’t think you’ll find anyone who can negatively criticize the performances of the two leads. I thought they did an all-around knock-up job.
The movie tries to tell you that Terry Sawchuk was heavily influenced by childhood trauma. There was the real-life event of the passing of his 17 year old brother. There was also a story about Sawhuck’s father, Louis Sawchuk and how he had a tough relationship with his eventual famous son. The movie even uses dead puppies as a way for you to sympathize with Terry. I don’t know if this story about the dead puppies featured in “Goalie” ever happened or not. It seems plausible. However, it’s more likely that the scene with the dogs was a Hollywood device in order to get you to root for Terry & understand what he had to deal with.
The movie, produced on a shoe-string budget, doesn’t really come off as cheesy or as a “B” movie at all. The one glaring omission that any hockey fan will notice during this movie is that “Goalie” didn’t get the permission from the NHL to use their licenses. In other words, while the team names and players are mentioned, the jerseys in the film look like cheap knockoffs that you’d get from China. However, the jerseys in the film doesn’t make or break the film and you get used to it.
After the movie deals with Sawchuk’s childhood and teenage years, we see how Sawchuk made it to the NHL. Long before the days of guaranteed contracts and a two goalie system, the goaltender job was the worst job in hockey. It was a stressful job. It was a job of no guarantees. Whereas wingers and defensemen could be juggled around the line-up, for goalies, you were only as good as your last game. Oh, and let’s not forget, it was a job of pain, where goaltender faces looked like gory Halloween masks.
The movie shows us how Sawchuk came into the league, as a clean-cut and naive kid. By the end of the movie, we see Sawchuk employing the same pranks and locker-room antics that he was once green to as a rookie.
The movie does a great job of capturing the pressure the goalies of that time had to deal with. You never knew if you were going back to the minors, only to wonder if you’d ever make it back to the NHL again. That said, of course, later on in Sawchuk’s career, due to upcoming Great Expansion of 1967 (Sawchuck had already logged 17 seasons by then) the NHL would feature a two-goalie system. In fact, right before that 1967-1968 expansion season, Sawchuk would win a Cup in Toronto with his partner, the legendary Johnny Bower, during the 1967 SCF. To this day, that’s the last Cup the Toronto Maple Leafs have ever won.
The film also focuses on three human relationships that Sawchuk had. Kevin Pollack, as Jack Adams, is portrayed as a father figure. I think Maggs used some Hollywood magic and creativity here, as from all accounts, Adams was a stodgy old man that only cared about the bottom line. In fact, Adams was famously known for not wanting players to be married, as he didn’t want sex on the brain of his players.
Marcel Pronovost, played by Eric Bruneau, is also heavily featured throughout the running of “Goalie”. He’s Sawchuk’s BFF, his wing-man and Sawchuk’s partner in a bro-mance. Again, while I don’t doubt that Pronovost and Sawchuk were friends, I think Maggs used her artistic license here.
A major character in both the book and in “Goalie” is Sawchuk’s wife, in Pat Morey/Sawchuk. Pat Morey contributed throughout the book that David Dupuis wrote. While Morey is also portrayed as someone who had to deal with a lot in “Goalie”, the movie doesn’t even scratch the surface of the real-life horrors that she had to endure. Then again, this is Terry’s movie, and not Pat’s.
The movie does depict Terry Sawchuk having one affair, but the scene came off more like an after-thought, rather than showcasing Sawchuk’s deceitful ways. There’s also no mention of abortions or of any of Sawchuk’s mistresses getting pregnant.
Again, when it came to the acting here, I thought everyone were great in their roles and with the material they were given with. I also understand you need to be creative when making a movie, but to me, the stuff that was left out is more gripping than some of the stuff that was made-up.
When it comes to hockey movies, this isn’t “Slap Shot” or “Goon”. It’s a real-life story, that’s fictionalized just a tad. I think fans who didn’t know much about Sawchuk will come to enjoy it. The movie moves at a brisk pace, but at times, some things were either omitted or somewhat glossed over. Even the ending was kind of “meh” to me, because Sawchuk’s death wasn’t your ordinary death. While the movie obviously covers Sawchuk’s untimely passing, I felt there could’ve been more time dedicated to it. Maybe and again, I hate to keep on saying the same thing here, it’s because I read the book first.
When I finished watching “Goalie”, I did leave the movie with a sense of enjoyment. I’m glad a movie like this was made. Sawchuk is such a polarizing character – a legendary Hall of Famer & perhaps the best ever at his position. However, off-the-ice, he was the complete opposite.
The movie did take liberties throughout. Whether you want to blame the political correctness era that we currently live in or not, the movie did try to sprinkle in some “woke” moments. There was a scene, where as a rookie, two black shoe store employees from Detroit instantly recognized Sawchuk and gave him the movie star treatment. There’s no way of knowing if that ever happened.
There was also another scene, where we see Terry Sawchuk, while playing for the Bruins, playing along side of Willy O’Ree, who was the first ever black player in NHL history. The two were never teammates, EVER. Whether this was an error by Maggs or just a way to tip-the-cap to a historical event, I don’t know.
All-in-all, if you’re a casual fan, I think you will enjoy this movie immensely. If you’re a historian or big on this topic, as I am, I think you’ll be a little bit quizzical during some scenes. However, at the end of the day, I did enjoy the movie for what it is. I’m glad that Sawchuk’s life has been put together in movie-form.
As far as trying to see this movie, that’s another topic. I know it was released in Canadian theaters in March of 2019 and was later broadcasted on Canadian television. For Americans like me, I have to admit this – I had to watch a bootleg copy off of my Amazon firestick. I couldn’t find a legal copy of this movie to purchase, here in America, anywhere.
I will say this – I tried very hard to buy this movie legally. After all, I wanted to support this movie financially. This way, as a hockey fan, perhaps we’ll get more movies like this.
That said, there was no link on the Mongrel Media site to purchase the movie. It’s not available on iTunes or on Amazon. I can’t find a DVD or a legal stream to purchase this movie. If someone from Mongrel Media or if Adriana Maggs is reading this review, feel free to email me and I’ll Paypal you whatever the cost of a movie ticket is in Canada!
In conclusion, I enjoyed this movie and it’s definitely worth a viewing for any hockey fan, no matter what your knowledge of Sawchuk is. I also think for non-hockey fans, they would find this movie interesting too.
That all said – buy and read the book too.
I don’t have any corny movie rating system here, so I leave you with this – get a six pack of Molson and a bottle of Crown. Kick back in the recliner and enjoy “Goalie”.
As always, thanks for reading and…
“LET’S GO RANGERS!”
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter