Does a country that already has a Hockey Hall of Fame and a ubiquitous coffee chain named after a defenceman really need a singing and dancing tribute to the sport? Director Michael McGowan thought so and the result is Score: A Hockey Musical, a parody of hockey violence set to a soundtrack that rhymes baloney with Zamboni.
“We do hockey well and we do music well in this country, and the fact that a hockey musical hadn’t been done seemed to me like a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s such a ridiculous idea on one hand, but it is instantly memorable as a film idea. In a crowded marketplace you’re always trying to stand out.”
Helping the film to stand out is a berth as the opening night film at TIFF and a host of stars on ice in leading roles and cameos. Headlining a musical for the first time in thirty years is Olivia Newton John, playing an overprotective hockey mom. “She’s funny and she doesn’t take herself seriously,” says McGowan, “but for her to say, ‘This is the film, a hockey musical shot in Toronto in February seemed virtually impossible.”
Joining John is Promiscuous singer Nelly Furtato, who plays Kelly, the “ardent hockey fan.”
“I had written in the script, ‘She licks the fat bellied man’s stomach,’” says McGowan. “There is not a hope in hell that I’m going to say, ‘OK Nelly, now you lick the fat bellied man’s stomach.’ But she completely embraced it. It was like, ‘If you’re going to play in this world of the hockey musical you have to embrace it fully.’”
Rounding out the cast are newcomers Noah Reid and Allie MacDonald, along with George Stroumboulopoulos, Evan Solomon, sports anchor Steve Kouleas, the world’s most famous hockey dad Walter Gretzky and former NHL star Theo Fleury.
“At the end I was shaking my head about who was actually in the film,” he says.
McGowan hopes that his mix of sports and song will score with audiences. “There are so few opportunities as Canadians for us to express our patriotism,” he says adding that the mix of “hockey and music, in a story that works, will hopefully be a communal experience.”