Sports | Shoot and miss

Score: A Hockey Musical attempts to address social issues in hockey, and fails

“We’re proud Canadians / and we’ll always find a way / to play hockey / the greatest game in the land.” Score: a Hockey Musical never lets its viewers forget this. Best described as High School Musical on ice, Score is the story of Farley Gordon, a home-schooled teenager who has never played a game of organized hockey. After being discovered and called the next Sidney Crosby, Farley joins a league only to be bullied for refusing to fight. The movie centers on Farley’s struggle over whether to fight, and the conflicts that arise with his team, parents, and best friend. Score oozes with nationalistic pride and encourages a dialogue on fighting in hockey and masculinity, but in the end missed its mark by remaining wholly superficial.

Although the movie was clearly intended to be as “Canadian” as possible, the excessive use of stereotypes is overwhelming. Songs include references to Tim Horton’s, Canadian hockey players, Kraft Dinner, and specific Canadian geographic features (like Red River floods). The filmmakers were obviously attempting to mock the existing stereotype, but they only succeed in exacerbating its portrayal in mainstream media.

Whatever the use of stereotypes, the focus of the movie is fighting in hockey, and by extension masculinity. The debate serves as the major theme, and rightly calls into question the place of violence in organized sports. Farley’s admitted pacifism became a problem early on in his hockey career – his scoring talents overshadowed by the frustration of his team and coach. After quitting and rejoining the team, Farley comes to the decision to “hug it out,” much to the homophobic disdain of his teammates and opposition. The team’s coach (in song) claims that, “hockey without fighting is like Kraft Dinner without cheese.” This theme is represented throughout the hockey community in the movie, with characters simply not understanding how hockey could exist without fighting, a common sentiment. Traditionalists of hockey believe in fighting as a way of settling scores in a fair face-to-face way, instead of through an underhanded illegal hit later in the game. Score shows that a player can minimize their role in hockey fights. When Farley does end up in a fight, he soon realizes that he would prefer to be recognized for his skill alone.

Although this does help the image of hockey as a sport of force, the rest of the hockey community in Score remains unchanged in its views on fighting and neglects the issue of masculinity. Farley’s pacifism is acknowledged as a rarity, and the traditions of hockey are upheld. This acceptance of fighting as a norm is the true pacifism in the movie, as the filmmakers unfortunately present no real questioning of the roots of the issue. Farley is warned that, “when someone challenges your manhood / you go toe-to-go.” The suggestion that Farley needs to fight or “go lace up his toe-picks,” gives the movie a tone of hetereonormativity that is not-so-subtle and unsettling. The idea that certain sports or activities are categorized by gender is upheld by the movie. Characters that fail to live up to their gender roles are ridiculed and little room is provided for more progressive attitudes. Score attempts to address important issues around sports, but in failing, simply upholds existing standards.