Dale Morrisey is a filmmaker with a passion for hockey documentaries. His latest work, entitled “Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans,” takes a long look at a long-forgotten NHL team. The Americans pre-date the “Original Six” Era and contributed more to the long-term success of the NHL than most would credit them for. At the same time, the Americans were a horrible team, struggling for years, first in New York City and then finally Brooklyn.
Morrisey, 45, was born in Oshawa and is, in his words, “a long-suffering Maple Leafs fan.” He previously wrote and directed documentaries “The Father of Hockey” (2014) and “Hockey’s Lost Boy” (2016). Recently, he spoke about his newest work, and why anyone should care about a team that’s been dead for over 75 years.
Sal Barry: Please explain the meaning behind your film’s title, “Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans.”
Dale Morrisey: That’s from Thomas Wolfe’s short story “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” which appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1935. The gist of the story is that it takes an entire lifetime to know Brooklyn, and even then, you wouldn’t know all of it. So, we played off of that, because the Brooklyn Americans area forgotten team, and only someone who was around back then would really know and understand who they were.
SB: The Americans have been gone for how long now?
DM: About 76 years.
SB: Why would anyone care to know about the Americans today?
Twenty-five years ago, in October 1992, The Mighty Ducks flew into movie theaters and changed hockey forever. The film hatched two sequels and had an NHL team named after it, all in a five-year span. Terms from The Mighty Ducks like the “Flying V” and the “Triple Deke” became part of hockey’s cultural lexicon. A few years before all of that happened, though, it was just an idea, flapping around the mind of an unemployed screenwriter.
It is the late 1980s. Steven Brill started working on his script for a hockey movie. He combined his memories of playing hockey as a child, his renewed interest in the game after Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and his love for the film The Bad News Bears.
Steven Brill, writer (and movie cameo as ‘Frank Huddy’): I played peewee hockey as a little kid, on one of the worst teams ever, and it was just a horrible experience to be horrible at a game that I didn’t know how to play. We had a mean coach, but I loved being part of a team. It was something that always stuck with me. My passion for hockey and memories of my youth made me always want to revisit the sport.
August 9, 1988 was arguably the single most important day in hockey history. On that day, the biggest trade in professional sports took place when the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. Here, the best player in his sport was traded at the height of his career. Gretzky’s trade changed hockey forever. “Kings Ransom,” an ESPN documentary directed by Peter Berg, recounts that fateful day and the events that led up to it.
Unfortunately, “Kings Ransom,” released in 2009, is not the documentary that I hoped for. It tries so hard to be dramatic and doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.
Documentary shows that hockey can bridge religious and gender gaps
Thin Ice takes place as far away from organized hockey as you can imagine. In the northern region of India, just south of the Himalaya mountains, a young woman named Dolkar loves to play ice hockey. She dreams of competing in India’s annual National Ice Hockey Tournament, which is only open to males. But she will not be deterred.
Slap Shot came out 40 years ago and has endured as the greatest hockey movie of all time. However, there was never a set of Slap Shot cards to collect.
But as you probably know, some of the characters in the film were actually hockey players and did have cards made. Even better, some of the more recent cards are autographed and aren’t too difficult to track down, meaning that you can build a pretty impressive Slap Shot-themed collection.
If you are so inclined to “foil up” your collection a bit, here’s a list of cards to look for.
Last night, the NHL Network televised the film Slap Shot in celebration of its 40th anniversary. I probably lost count of how many times I have seen this film. However, I have never forgotten the very first time that I saw Slap Shot.
Because people tend to be a bit older when they first see Slap Shot — due to it being Rated-R — they remember when, where and who they were with.
Slap Shot wasn’t a movie that you randomly caught on TV one night. Either your friends made you watch it, or you sought it out on your own.
The first time I saw Slap Shot, it was under a bit of unusual circumstances. In fact, it was a perfect storm that I actually got to see the movie that night, as I saw it at the house of two teammates who had a mother who didn’t let her kids watch anything cool. Continue reading “The First Time I Watched Slap Shot”
Earlier this month, The Hockey News published an article that I worked diligently on writing: “Blood, Guts & Glory – The Making of Youngblood: An Oral History.” For those who subscribe to the magazine, it is in the current issue. However, THN also put my “Youngblood” article on their website for everyone to read.
For those who don’t know, “Youngblood” is a hockey movie that came out in 1986. The film starred Rob Lowe as an aspiring hockey player from the U.S. who joins a junior team in Hamilton, Ontario. The film co-stars Patrick Swayze (who sadly passed away in 2009) as the Mustangs’ team captain.
While Lowe, through his agent, refused to talk with me about “Youngblood,” I still spoke with many awesome sources: director and writer Peter Markle, cinematographer Mark Irwin, hockey coordinator Eric Nesterenko (a veteran of 20 NHL seasons) and former OHL player George Finn, who played the bad guy. I also interviewed a stunt double and two background hockey players, including Steve Thomas.
You can read the article at The Hockey News’ website here. ■
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who enjoyed Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, a television miniseries that first aired on CBC in 2010. Two years later, the Don of Hockey was the subject of a second three-hour miniseries, The Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story II — a great title for a great follow-up.
Last night, I spent three hours binge-watching Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story. The plan was to watch half of the miniseries one night before bed, and the other part the next night, but it was so much fun that my girlfriend and I decided to watch it in one sitting — bedtimes be dammed!
The made-for-TV miniseries, which originally aired on CBC in 2010, is about everyone’s favorite — or sometimes least favorite — hockey commentator Don Cherry. The two-part biopic chronicles “Grapes” long minor-league hockey career then gets into his coaching career and eventual tenure on Hockey Night in Canada. It was written by his son, Tim Cherry.
Hello Puck Junk readers. Sorry that I have not posted too much to this site lately. Truth be told, I’ve been doing some more writing for The Hockey News, and they just published what very well be my magnum opus: The Making of Sudden Death: An Oral History.
For those who don’t know — or vaguely remember — “Sudden Death” was an action film released in 1995, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The film took place at the old Pittsburgh Civic Arena, and was set during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Sudden Death” featured a lot of Penguins personalities, such as Luc Robitaille, Jay Caufield, Mike Lange and Paul Steigerwald, and I spoke with many of them. I also talked with the director, writer and producer. You can read the article online here. Please take a look and let me know what you think. ■