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Ice Guardians: A tribute to enforcers

I love enforcers. Always have. Always will. There’s something about an ice badge climbing onto the rink and distributing justice to opposing players taking too many chances with their star players. It’s one of the most underrated romantic qualities of hockey. A big reason my favorite hockey film is Goon and not Slapshot.

One man picking up a stick and kicking the other man’s ass to make a point. Every fight is a statement and unfortunately in today’s NHL’s climate, fighting isn’t a favorable way to protect players.

Ice Guardians, a documentary that took the Toronto Film Festival by storm and premieres at The Pageant on November 7th, takes a look into the psychology of these enforcers and what makes them do what they do. Former St. Louis Blues tough guy Kelly Chase and star winger Brett Hull participated and the trailer is a delicious tease of the provocative world that fighters travel in.

“If you take a cheap shot at me or my teammate, I don’t care if you have one fight or a hundred, I’m coming after you.”

When I think of hockey and enforcers, I think of a school yard. There are innocents, bullies, teachers, and spectators. If someone is doing something wrong and doesn’t get the proper discipline, he will continue to do it because he thinks he is above the law. An enforcer is the person who puts that person in check. He makes sure that certain unwritten rules are followed. A fight ensues but it’s between two guys and that is it. What is so wrong with that?

What is the difference between a player getting cross checked head first into the boards and leaving a game and a player getting knocked out for cross checking someone into the boards? Injuries happen. Fighting keeps the established order alive. If you ask me, fighting is a better safety device than better helmets or more penalties. It may sound nuts, but it’s true.

Listening to Kelly Chase dish on the Morning After Show on 590 The Fan KFNS, you get the feeling that the perception of fighting in the NHL is crooked and misleading. While someone may get hurt merely playing hockey, the injuries have gone up without the ability for enforcers to keep the order. It is how the game was born and how it was made into something great.

Ice Guardians doesn’t just prove a point. It invigorates a conversation between the pro-fighting faction and the anti-fighting congregation. Both sides have their reasons for standing so firmly where they do, but something tells me this documentary will get people talking.

I love enforcers. They make the game of hockey a sexy seductive entertaining game to watch. What is so different between two boxers climbing into a ring to hurt each other and win by making money and a pair of fighters on skates protecting their teammates by fighting and also making money? Some may say the gap is large, but I don’t see it that way.

Fighting in the NHL is a means to an end and helps the game progress closer to safety. A message can be sent faster when it flies off someone’s fist than when a verbal warning is issued.

Ask Chase. Ask Tony Twist. Ask Hull, a guy who admits his career would have been different if he didn’t have the two aforementioned brawlers looking out for him.

The game of hockey can be a violent arena. Some of it is required and other parts are too much. Fighting belongs in the former group. If people can’t see that, they have gone soft.

Ice Guardians has a special premiere in St. Louis on November 7th, 2016. Tickets go on sale right here tomorrow at 10 AM.

If you like behind the scenes goods from the world of sports, see this film. If you love enforcers like I do, see this film. It is going to knock you out.