The movie is being described as ‘Slap Shot’ meets ‘Superbad.’
Hockey may not be the most high-profile professional sport in the US, but it has definitely spawned some of the most memorable sports movies. The most legendary of them all is Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman and Michael “Sheriff Harry S. Truman” Ontkean (but not Adam Driver) as players on a minor league hockey team that resorts to violent play to fire up fans in their small, declining mill town. Slap Shot is awesome because it is authentic to the experience of being a blue-collar hockey fan but also entertaining enough to appeal to audience members who don’t know what a power play is.
Then there is Miracle, the Kurt Russell-led dramatization of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” when a group of American amateurs beat the seemingly indestructible Soviet Union team and went on to win Olympic gold. Miracle is the kind of inspirational underdog story that anyone can appreciate, whether you’re a sports fan or not. We also have Goon, the cult-classic comedy about a bar bouncer (Seann William Scott) who parlays his willingness to get violent into a gig as a minor league hockey enforcer. And of course, who didn’t grow up watching The Mighty Ducks?
Part of what makes hockey movies so appealing is that it’s a sport that is remarkably lacking in glamour. The lifestyles of these guys, especially those in the minor leagues — and let’s be real, all of the best hockey films are about the minors — are so much more relatable than in other sports. Also, hockey may not have the most fans in the US, but those fans are definitely some of the most passionate and are usually up for having a laugh over the ridiculous and niche nature of their favorite sport. Relatability, intensity, hilarity — when all of these ingredients combine, the result is, more often than not, movie magic.
That’s what Yellow Bear Films is hoping. According to Deadline, the fledgling production company (it was founded last year) has picked up a script from Billions writer Adam Perlman that chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the most violent minor league hockey team in history. The Trashers tells the story of the Danbury Trashers, who racked up more penalty minutes in one season than any other team before or since, yet somehow also managed to have the best record in the league. The president and general manager of the team was 17-year-old AJ Galante, who was put in charge of the team by his father, “the local king of waste management.”
No director is yet attached to Perlman’s script, which is based on a Sports Illustrated article by Jon Wertheim and described as Slap Shot meets Superbad — a pretty winning combination in my book. Perlman and Wertheim are set to receive executive producer and co-producer credits, respectively, on the project. Tom McNulty, whose previous credits include The Benchwarmers, Date Night, and The Spectacular Now, will produce.
As a hockey fan and movie fan, I cannot help but be incredibly excited by a project as ridiculous-sounding as The Trashers. All of the little details lend the entire affair a tone of absurdity that proves truth is often stranger than fiction. Obviously, a lot will depend on the talent recruited from here, particularly the director and stars. In particular, it will take a special young actor to play the part of Galante without coming off as a spoiled rich kid jerk — unless that is the tone of the script, which I think would be a misguided move. After all, you’re going to want the audience to root for the Trashers and their unlikely leader, not be annoyed by them.
That’s one reason why Slap Shot is such a classic — it is impossible not to root for Newman’s charming player-coach Reggie Dunlop and his haphazard team, even the wildly violent trio of the Hanson brothers. If you’re going to focus on the enforcer side of hockey, like Slap Shot and Goon, you’ve got to make sure the characters are as good at winning the audience over as they are at racking up penalty points. But based on the source material, I have high hopes for The Trashers.