Hockey, America’s fourth biggest “Big Four” sport after baseball, football and basketball (and Canada’s number one sport period; it’s even on their $5 bill!) gets mentioned occasionally in American animation, though not to the degree of its more popular sports brethren.
Since today’s the new NHL tradition of the “Winter Classic” (an annual outdoor hockey game, this year between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals), I thought I’d list a few of the more prominent portrayals of hockey in animation.
Probably the most prominent hockey-centered cartoon from animation’s Golden Age is this 1945 Disney entry in the Goofy series. The plot is much wackier than usual for a Disney short (or even a Goofy short), with the focus on a hotly contested hockey game between two teams, the “Loose Leafs” and “Ant Eaters.” I guess the Loose Leafs are a parody of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I’m not sure who the Ant Eaters would be. Either way, this is one of the funniest entries in the Goofy series, and the most violent—lots of fighting between the various Goof-players (even beating up the referee!), and the melee toward the end was particularly funny.
Also of interest is that hockey had, even by the mid-1940s, already apparently gained a reputation for fighting. There’s also noting how much the game’s changed since this short was made (no goalie masks, mechanical clocks)…
“Hockey Homicide” can be found on “The Complete Goofy” Disney Treasures DVD set, though it’s been out of print for awhile.
The Hockey Champ
An earlier short, made in 1939, features Donald playing hockey against his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. This short is included in two DVD releases: “The Complete Donald, Volume 1” Disney Treasures set (like the Goofy one, possibly hard to find/pricey), and the cheaper/easier to find “Classic Cartoon Favorites, volume 5: Extreme Sports Fun” single-disc DVD release.
See my previous post about Peter Puck, the star of a series of 70s educational shorts about hockey.
The Mighty Ducks
Apparently, somebody (or a lot of somebodies) at Disney must love hockey. In the 90s, with the success of “The Mighty Ducks” movie (and the real-life then-Disney-owned NHL team created soon after), Disney produced this short-lived cartoon very loosely based on the movies/team. Airing on ABC and “The Disney Afternoon” syndicated weekday afternoon lineup, the cartoon focused on a team of hockey-playing ducks from a planet in another dimension, where hockey was a way of life. The show lasted one season (of 26 episodes), and seems to have vanished from the airwaves since the mid-2000s. As far as I can tell, the series isn’t available on DVD (and only had one or two VHS releaseses in the 90s). The only remnant around today of the show’s existence is that one of the ducks from the series is now used as a mascot for the Anaheim Ducks.
Hockey was the central plot of one episode, “Lisa On Ice.” In this Season 6 episode, Lisa enrolls in a hockey team as a goalie to get a passing grade in gym class. Unfortunately for Bart (who’s also playing hockey), she starts to get more attention from everyone for her skills. This builds up to both their teams playing against each other in the final act.
Funniest parts: Lisa and Bart’s fight in Lisa’s bedroom; Homer eating Marge’s pie (mimicking the justification for the kids’ fight); and the now-dated but well-remembered Apple Newton joke (one of the bullies owns a Newton, and writes on it “beat up Martin,” which changes to “eat up Marsha,” as a joke about the Newton’s handwriting recognition problems). This episode’s available on the Season 6 DVD set.
The Hockey Sweater/The Sweater
Based on the short story “The Hockey Sweater” (or “Le chandail de hockey” in French) written by Canadian writer Roch Carrier, this 1970 tale was turned into an animated short subject in 1980 by the National Film Board of Canada, and renamed “The Sweater” (or “Le Chandail” in French). The book and short focuses on a young boy who, like everyone else in his Quebec community, worships the Montreal Canadiens, but is horrified when his mother buys him a replacement hockey sweater with the colors of rival team the Toronto Maple Leafs. The book and short have gone on to become classics in Canada, with an excerpt from the book (and a scene of children playing hockey) now appearing on Canada’s $5 bill.
Here’s the animated short in its entirety, courtesy of the NFB’s YouTube channel.
While hockey gets mentioned in plenty of Canadian cartoons, this series makes frequent use/mention of the sport. Jonesy‘s sometimes mentioned as being a player on the gang’s high school’s hockey team, and the name of the sporting goods store at the mall is “The Penalty Box,” complete with an actual penalty box. A running gag in the series is the store’s manager, a former jock, punishing his employees for mistakes by sending them to the penalty box.