I just watched a video preview for the HBO tv show that will follow the Caps and the Pens on and off the ice as they prepare for the next Winter Classic. We don’t really often get a chance to see that much footage of the teams off the ice (besides the players interviews and stuff like that), so I was kind of hoping for some stuff that would surprise me a bit, or at least change from what we usually are shown.
Well so much for that. I was struck instead by the amount of clichés used in that 12 minutes preview. Granted, that was just a preview, and HBO has a target audience that is not limited to hockey fans (luckily for them I guess…), so it was expected that they would rely on those clichés. But still, it made me think about how hockey is ALWAYS portrayed in the exact same way on tv documentaries and shows that don’t focus immediately on the day to day coverage of the game results.
Every single time, these will include the following (sometimes in that order, but not necessarily):
- some kids playing outdoor hockey while the narrator pontificates about the roots of the sport
- a player skating, stickhandling, and/or shooting pucks at an empty net, alone in a dark and empty arena.
- a mention of the Stanley cup as the “ultimate prize”, the “hardest trophy to win in all sports”, or the “holy grail”
- close-ups on the grimacing faces of guys lifting weights in the gym (because you need to do that to get that cup)
- shot of players jumping out of the bench in slow motion, in a darkened arena
- MULTIPLE close-ups of guys lacing their skates, taping their sticks, putting their shoulder pads on, and sharpening their blades (because sparks look great and it’s just like someone sharpening a sword, which fits well with the usual “soldiers preparing for the battle” lazy analogy that the narrator usually used at that point)
- the camera following players walking in the corridor from their dressing room to the ice (with muted sound of the crowd cheering in the background)
- shots of fans cheering in the stands or waiving playoffs towels
- at least one slow motion shot of a puck bouncing on the ice, presumably during a face-off
- a series of bodychecks (half of which are actually charging penalties) filmed from the behind the glass, while the narrator lazily explains how tough players are
- a toothless player grinning on the bench because hockey players are not only tough, they’re also crazy goofy guys
- a brutal fight
- a coach going Playfair behind a bench
- a few classic highlights (crazy looking goals generally, and maybe a big glove save)
- a pile-up of players filmed after a team wins a playoff series
And I’m sure I’m still missing some… I find it a bit sad to see hockey so often reduced to these clichés. I think it has much more to offer than that, no matter how nice and flattering some of those images are.
If you can think of any other clichés I missed, leave them in the comments!