Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of exchanging emails with one of the producers of the new documentary film Pond Hockey that debuts in select theaters tomorrow. Andrew Sherburne was nice enough to give us some of his time, and put up with a couple of my inane questions. Our discussions are as follows.
To get the best reading experience out of this, imagine the two of us smoking pipes during a fireside chat in his study. The walls are lined with many leather bound books and a large portrait of Wayne Gretzky rests above the mantle.
BMR: First off, why did you choose pond hockey to be the subject of the film? What was the motivation behind it?
AS: Growing up in Minnesota everybody played hockey. It was a part of life, no different than going to school or playing tag. We had been wanting to do a hockey film for a few years and when the US Pond Hockey Championships started up in Minneapolis we knew there would be a story, so we started shooting. As it turned out, the story was much more than just a standard sports tournament doc - will they win or won't they - it became a study in the changing culture of sports.
BMR: You're talking to die-hard hockey fans here, but for those of us that haven't grown up in an area of the continent where pond hockey is prominent, what's the big deal? Why is this any better than hockey on an indoor rink?
AS: Basketball on the scalding blacktop, baseball at the neighborhood sandlot and hockey on a frozen pond. There's sports for the love of playing and then there is competitive, organized sport. There's a big difference, and even though both have their place, why wouldn't you choose endless puck on the pond over a climate-controlled arena? There's just something special about skating on a frozen lake with the wind in your face, frozen toes, snowbanks for boards, your sticks in
the middle and all of your buddies on one rink. You play until the light is gone, not until the buzzer sounds.
BMR: Since pond hockey tends to be backyard style, did the tournament games end only when someones Mom came out and yelled that dinner was ready?
AS: No, but I noticed that everyone did run inside when the last keg was tapped.
BMR: Is there anything, in your opinion, that can be done to get more people playing outdoors?
AS: There are so many reasons why outdoor hockey is less common these days. Video games, over-scheduled families, even global warming. But I think that the ponds still thrive in places where there's a community around the rink. It takes a special person to play for hours by themselves (Gretzky). Most of us love playing on the pond because that's where our friends are. It's a snowball effect, the more people that are out there the more people will want to be out there.
BMR: Video games, families and global warming... That's a very interesting list of enemies that pond hockey has. Have the Pond Hockey Overlords discussed any plans for world domination and eliminating their enemies?
AS: Well, we successfully lobbied for the NHL to be taken off of network TV. We thought that would help get people off the couch, but it just didn't last. Now we're working on dismantling the free markets, hoping people save money by skating outdoors for free. That plan is working out well so far.
BMR: You guys interviewed Wayne Gretzky in the movie. If you can even put it into words, how was that?
AS: Amazingly normal and simultaneously awesome. There's nothing like meeting one of the greats and feeling like its just a casual chat. He's such a busy guy but once we could find a time to meet he was more than happy to talk about his experiences growing up.
BMR: What pro/former pro players did you encounter at the US Pond Hockey Championships?
AS: We've been back for three straight years. Phil Housley's been out there, Tom Chorske, Gordie Roberts. Those guys won Stanley Cups and Housley's the second highest scoring American ever. There they were duking it out with a bunch of rink rats and former college standouts. Krissy Wendell, current USA team captain was out there playing with men. There were quite a few other guys who had played in the NHL, the minors or overseas for a few years. Let me put it another way, I certainly belonged behind the camera, not on the ice.
BMR: OK, be honest. When the teams picked sides, who got selected last?
AS: Actually Don Beaupre was there, but goaltending isn't allowed. That probably didn't help his draft stock.
BMR: In ten words or fewer, explain why hockey fans need to see this movie.
AS: It's the opposite of the Love Guru. Also, Gretzky.
Mr. Sherburne is one of the filmmakers behind Pond Hockey, which opens tomorrow in select locations. It was developed by Northland Films who have produced many feature films. Pond Hockey is the company's first documentary.