In Edmonton at one of the screenings for Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story, a 12-year-old hockey fan gave a quick reaction to the documentary, marveling at how a player can endure so many setbacks, yet still create a tremendous career. This stunned Adam Scorgie, a producer on the film.
“I remember thinking, how old is this kid? This is something a 25-year-old would say,” Scorgie said.
How did it the documentary come together? Don Metz, the Making Coco director and the guy who is responsible for making Edmonton hockey a big deal, knew and loved Grant. He reached out to Scorgie, who was also a big fan, about getting something going. “Don Metz has known Grant for years. He got the hockey team in Edmonton coverage. He asked me about doing something about Grant. Grant told me he liked Ice Guardians, so that was a great start. From there, it came together very quickly,” Scorgie said.
Grant Fuhr’s story is transformative in the most powerful of ways, and Making Coco took the Hall of Fame goaltender right back to the glory days. Glory days that included 403 wins, five Stanley Cups, and countless records including making 76 consecutive starts and playing in 79 games.
“You always remember the good stuff. Remembering the bad stuff is what has made me who I am. At the same time, there’s great memories,” Fuhr said.
The bad stuff being the few times Fuhr came into camp overweight and had to miss time, the instance where the Edmonton Oilers sent him down for a remark about the fans, and the biggest one of all: being given a one year suspension by the NHL, the largest ever, for cocaine use.
Talking about it now, Fuhr takes it in stride. “There’s quite a few things people don’t know about. One of the good things is my kids can see how you can make some mistakes in life and still make a good life out of it,” Fuhr said.
Scorgie thinks documentaries like this will make Fuhr fans even larger admirers. “Grant really shares himself in an emotional way that most don’t get to see him. He shows his heart and soul in this, and that’s always touching,” Scorgie said.
The Ice Guardians producer also thinks the suspension was a black eye for the league. Grant took that head on and did all the interviews. That suspension doesn’t happen today. It’s those things that make a Grant Fuhr fan a giant fan after they see this film,” Scorgie said.
Instead of helping Fuhr, the NHL turned their back on him, handing out a severe penalty without one ounce of true proof, only the player’s own admission of guilt. Fuhr was disappointed back then that the league didn’t seek to get him help instead of blatantly punishing him, but that ill will is gone today. “You’re going to get knocked down over the course of your life, but you can always find the positive in things,” Fuhr said.
One of the positives was playing for some of the best teams to ever take the ice in a game. According to Fuhr, taking shots against guys like Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull in practice made the actual games easier. “Every day, you’re playing against some of the best in the world, so games became easy,” Fuhr said.
St. Louis holds a special place in Fuhr’s heart. He not only played four of the best years of his life as a Blue, he celebrated his 21st birthday in this city. There may have been some shenanigans that evening. “I may have wandered across the bridge.”
Playing for the Blues contains a combination of joy and bittersweet memories for Fuhr. Most notably, the 1996 injury that destroyed his knee when Nick Kypreos fell on Fuhr in front of the net. When I asked him about the chances of that team winning it all without the injury, Fuhr admits there was a good chance but backs off from truly accepting it.
“It was as good of a team as I’ve played on (the 1995-96 Blues team), so there was a chance. But I don’t worry about it. It’s part of the sport,” Fuhr said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Part of winning a cup is staying healthy and playing at the top of their game. For a lot of guys, it doesn’t happen.”
Fuhr looks back fondly on his time overall in St. Louis. “I had a great time in St. Louis. A wonderful organization. We had good hockey clubs. I was surprised at how good of a hockey city it is. The city as a whole surprised me,” Fuhr said.
Out of all the things experienced on this premiere tour, Fuhr loves the reactions and talking to people about it. It allows them to see him in a brand new light, away from the hockey pads and saves made that can be found on a Hockey Reference internet page. After all, they’re only human.
“We’re no different than anyone else. We are normal guys. Dress like everyone else. We get into trouble like everyone else,” Fuhr said.
Fuhr’s tale is reminiscent of Rocky Balboa. They each took shots, but kept on going. After all, winning happens when you keep moving forward against all odds.
“You might get kicked a couple times. At the same time, part of growing is making mistakes,” Fuhr said.
If this man’s story doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will. 12-year-olds are getting the message.