“Red Penguins” is a new hockey documentary about the strange partnership between the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Russian Red Army hockey team and the Walt Disney Corporation. Back in the early 1990s, the famed Red Army hockey team was broke, so it reached out to NHL teams for help. The Pittsburgh Penguins answered the call, and for two seasons co-owned the Red Army team, re-branding it as the Russian Penguins.
Things went well at first. Pittsburgh Penguins ownership brought in a marketing team that introduced “North American Hockey” to an unsuspecting Russian fan base — from opening-night theatrics, game-night giveaways, strippers (seriously), bears drinking beer and more. It was nothing like Russian hockey fans had ever seen. Unfortunately, this also drew the attention of the Russian Mob, who wanted a piece of the action, too. And that’s when things really go off the rails.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it is because I wrote about it last year for The Hockey News. Last fall, “Red Penguins” was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival and received strong reviews. The film was set to be released in theaters this spring, but then the COVID-19 pandemic swept the continent and closed theaters.
However, “Red Penguins” is finally available as of today via streaming services. You can stream “Red Penguins” on iTunes and on Amazon Prime Video for $5.99.
Stumbling around in a discount book store last fall, I found a copy of 99 Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky sitting by the cash register. I’d seen this book before and had passing interest, as in I was mildly interested in reading it one day, but I’d always passed on it. But this one has a gold sticker in the corner advertizing it as a signed copy and I actually had to put my eyeballs on the ink to see if was real. It was! Who is going to turn down a $15 autograph of the man whose many accomplishments also include hawking a ready to eat soup mix from your own Stanley Cup?
Back in 2018, I was paid $250 to play hockey. No, it wasn’t on a professional tryout contract with a minor league team, but rather for a television commercial. That said, they would recruit practically anyone who owned hockey gear — including me, a guy who had been playing for less than five years at the time.
“Hockey is for everyone” is a wonderful message of inclusion and diversity from the NHL. While it is important that they lead the charge in this effort, there are many inclusive leagues throughout North America. The Madison Gay Hockey Association, in Madison, Wisconsin, is one such league. The MGHA makes sure everyone feels welcome and encouraged to join, regardless of their skill level or orientation.
Maggie Augustin works as the Member Relations Liaison for the MGHA. Being a leader wasn’t always in her blood, but playing hockey helped her discover more about herself than she ever imagined. I recently spoke with Maggie about her work with the MGHA and how hockey has helped forge her into a leader.
KYLE SCULLY: How long have you been a part of the organization?
MAGGIE AUGUSTIN: I have been a skater since fall of 2016. Before that, I had attended some games in the stands just to get a feel for the organization and hockey itself.
KS: What drew you to the league?
MA: My partner introduced me to the league. They said, this is what I do during the winter, it’s really fun and exciting, and it’s so much more than just a sport; it’s a community. So, they kind of put the bug in my ear and that’s why I started watching them play and getting a feel for it. I was 30 at the time and even though I’m athletic, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I had very little experience with hockey, and to me, everything looked so fast. I had no concept of positioning or anything like that, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to learn it.
I’ve been playing recreational hockey — or beer league, as many call it — for about six years now, and I’ve seen my share of crazy stuff. I recall one game being cancelled because the Zamboni broke down in the middle of the ice. Another time, I remember a guy getting kicked out of the game because he was trying to fight with his own teammate. But the craziest thing that has happened is when I had a teammate get up and quit playing on my team — in the middle of a game.
Chris Chelios is the greatest American-born defenseman to play in the NHL. He may be the greatest American to ever play hockey at any position. Chelios spent 26 seasons in the NHL, breaking in with the Montreal Canadians at age 22 in 1984, winning numerous accolades along the way, and finally retiring at age 48 in 2010.
Also, Chris Chelios is my favorite hockey player of all-time. So, I am not sure why it took me this long to review “Chris Chelios: Made in America,” penned by Chelios and former USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen in 2014. Nor can I guarantee that this will be a totally unbiased review of his book.
Regardless of how you feel about Chelios — hockey fans either loved him or hated him for his physical, almost reckless style of play — his book is an enjoyable memoir of his storied career.
On Monday, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins 6-5 in a game that came down to literally the last shot. Travis Konecky, shooting second-to-last, scored in the fifth round of the shootout. Then it was Brad Marchand’s turn for his shot. Only, he forgot to take the puck with him.
Marchand overskated the puck, and the Flyers won the game. This was after the Bruins blew a 5-2 lead, making Marchand’s mistake even more epic. He is the first player since the shootout was instituted in 2005 to overskate the puck on a shootout attempt.
“I was just trying to get going and just missed it,” Marchand told NHL.com. “I know the rule, you touch it on a penalty shot, it’s your shot. Unfortunate. It’s a tough way to lose on a play like that.”
But on Tuesday, Marchand — instead of showing a little bit of humility, or even taking a joke like he is sometimes willing to do — decided to tweet a photo of himself hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Earlier today, I was a guest on the SiriusXM NHL Radio talk show “Under Review,” hosted by Mick Kern and Peter Berce. We talk about the hockey movie “Mystery, Alaska” as well as my article for The Hockey News about that film. We also talk about the Puck Junk Podcast and the new line of Puck Junk t-shirts. The segment is a quick listen — just 15 minutes.
You can listen to “Under Review” everyday on SiriusXM Radio or online here. ■
It was the original Winter Classic. Two teams facing off and getting back to their roots, playing shinny outdoors on a frozen pond under a grey, wintry sky. Only in this story, one team is the New York Rangers and the other is a group of amateurs from a small town. Mystery, Alaska, the classic underdog story of pros versus joes, turns 20 this fall.
Why does the movie Mystery, Alaska resonate with fans two decades later? Perhaps because it is one of the few movies that gets its hockey right. With all due respect to The Mighty Ducks and Youngblood, there are no silly knuckle-pucks or ludicrous stick-swinging duels in this film. Many people with deep hockey roots were involved in the making of Mystery, Alaska – and it shows. Producers Howard and Karen Elise Baldwin were the owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the time and had previously owned the Hartford Whalers. Scriptwriter David E. Kelley was the son of an NHL executive and the captain of his hockey team at Princeton. Brad Turner, the film’s assistant hockey co-ordinator and hockey double for Russell Crowe, played briefly for the New York Islanders and had an eight-year career in the minors. Several former players from the University of Calgary also contributed as Rangers players or as hockey doubles for the Mystery characters.
The Baldwins’ first film to involve hockey was the Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick Sudden Death. It came out in 1995 and had a hearty serving of hockey action. But in Mystery, Alaska, hockey was the main course. Oddly enough, the idea for the film came during a meal.
Y’all ready for some pickin’n grinnin’??? If there was one thing I could collect more than hockey-related vinyl records, it would be guitars. Like, any guitars; doesn’t have be hockey-related. My wife put a cap on my collection, and I’d go real broke, real fast doing that. But I do want to share something that crosses my path that could be worth the cold, hard cash.