‘Hockey 24’ documentary a welcome return to Canada’s signature game

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TORONTO — When Scotiabank asked Canadians to share video snippets of community hockey across the country on Nov. 17, it hoped to capture something special.

But it had no idea that hockey — like almost all other sports — would be on hold due to the global pandemic when the finished “Hockey 24” documentary was ready to show.

For Clinton Braganza, Scotiabank’s chief marketing officer, the 90-minute documentary billed as “a film by Canada” resonates louder as a result.

“This is much much more than just a hockey documentary,” he said in an interview.

“What we actually found is as much as these are stories about hockey, you’ll find that these are actually stories about Canadians and humanity — and the life lessons that hockey teaches its players, whether it’s inclusion, whether it’s hard work, whether it’s team work, whether it’s dedication,” he added.

“And so in many ways, as humanity is now under duress, I think this is the perfect time to be telling this story that is wrapped in our nation’s game.”

For Hayes Steinberg, chief creative officer of The Mark agency that put the film together, “Hockey 24” documents the ties that run through the sport.

“What makes it especially relevant now is more than ever those bonds are what’s getting us through this moment,” said Steinberg, who is the film’s executive producer.

Scotiabank asked Canadians to submit home videos and photos from Nov. 17 that demonstrated their love of hockey. And it sent out 25 documentary film crews to add to that footage, each with plans to document anywhere between three and 15 people.

The result is a homage to hockey — and the role it plays in Canadian life.

It is a chronological look at the day. The 12 minutes made available to the media before the full film airs May 24 on TV (it will also be available May 25th on the Hot Docs website) documents the time-honoured ritual of families getting up early to go to the rink

It’s full of coffee, yawns and the anticipation of hitting the ice, not to mention the worker who fires up the lights at the neighbourhood rink.

“If I’m not here working and not here watching or not here coaching, I’m at home watching (hockey),” explains Dean Bevan, supervisor of Galt Arena Gardens in Cambridge, Ont., which dates back to 1922. “It’s something you love to do, then it’s not a job.”

One of the many stories told is that of courageous Quinn Kinsella, a member of Ontario’s Flamborough Sabres who has cystic fibrosis — the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults.

Hearing an emotional Ryan Kinsella, Quinn’s father, describe his nine-year-old son’s frustration at the disease tugs at your heart.

But hockey is his son’s haven.

“You would never know Quinn has cystic fibrosis. He lives a daily life like every other kid,” said Greg Large, his coach. “As a coach it makes you feel so good the things that he can accomplish on the ice and off the ice. And when you see him, it makes you proud that you’re part of his life.”

The documentary also tells stories from the LGBTQ community, new Canadians and those with physical disabilities, among others.

The filmmakers chose Nov. 17 in part because there were a number of events that Scotiabank was involved with and because the date worked for some of the hockey names involved.

“It checked off all the boxes in a very lucky way,” said Steinberg.

There is some Scotiabank branding in the film through the likes of “Scotiabank Teammates” Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Lanny McDonald, Natalie Spooner and Darcy Tucker.

Tucker, a former Maple Leaf favourite, is shown in his role as coach of his son’s Toronto Titans bantam AAA team.

The filmmaker went into the day with a plan, knowing where their documentary crews were going.

“But when we opened it up to literally all of Canada … we really didn’t know what to expect,” said Steinberg.

They got “thousands” of submissions, which produce hundreds of hours of film.

“We were very pleasantly surprised but also very touched with the intimacy of the stories that we received,” said Braganza. “It’s absolutely wonderful how hockey binds us as a nation. And you see that in the entire 90 minutes.”

The producers sweetened the pot for video participants by offering prizes of an expenses-paid trip to the NHL all-star game as well as $24,000 in funding for a community hockey team or association.