We all know Kevin Smith is a hockey fan. But is the rough scene he recently posted online from the current draft of his hockey movie Hit Somebody — based on the Warren Zevon song about a Canadian goon (a defenseman known for his hitting) who dreams of scoring a goal — as good as we think it is? To find out, we phoned TV analyst Ken Daneyko, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and logger of more than 2,500 penalty minutes with Smith’s beloved New Jersey Devils from 1983-2003, and asked him to break it down for us. First, read the full scene here. As Smith says in his set-up: “It’s 1961 and our lead character, Buddy McCracken, is 11. Buddy’s suffering from a personal loss when he’s visited on his family’s Saskatchewan farm by the man who’ll be his first hockey coach, Blue Jay Jennings (written for John Goodman).” Let’s start there…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: John Goodman as a hockey coach. We love it. What do you think?
KEN DANEYKO: I think it makes sense. I remember the movie with Dennis Quaid, Everybody’s All-American. He can be serious. He fits the mold. Just picturing him, the way he’s speaking to this kid, it’s a good fit. I know he’s a leaner guy now, too. But not that that means anything. Coaches, we know, are heavy sometimes. [Laughs]
Blue Jay connects to Buddy by telling him, “Every hockey player I know that didn’t die in a car wreck lived to be 80 years and died peacefully in their sleep.” He says they don’t have heart attacks because they have an outlet for the stress of adulthood: “Hockey players are allowed to beat people up.” True?
You know, to an extent it is. I’ve joked to friends over the years, you don’t have to be a tough guy off the ice or do stupid things because we’re the only sport that you can get in a fight, get your aggression out, and get five minutes in the penalty box and not get arrested. [Laughs] I will say the game has changed somewhat. It’s not as prevalent, because the skill level has gotten higher across the board, but it’s still always physical and in the fabric of hockey. In my heyday, there was a lot of fighting. After practice on the ice, we’d wrestle each other, try to learn different techniques, how to grip properly so you can protect yourself from the guy punching getting full leverage, how to tie guys up. We used to always do that. I mean, in my first years, in the mid-’80s, we had a kickboxer come in and teach us how to get the maximum power. Usually fighters took the course, but it was also for conditioning. If you talk to Kevin Smith before I do, tell him that’s what I’ll be in the movie. I’ll be the former hockey player who fought a lot that teaches this kid Buddy to fight. He might like that.
If the movie follows the song, Buddy will eventually be a goon who really just wants to score a goal. Does that ring true as well?
Oh look, when I came up as a young kid, I was an offensive player like everybody else. I loved scoring goals. I scored one in the Stanley Cup finals in 2000. I think the bench was more excited for me than I was for the simple fact that it really pumps your bench up when you’re not a goal scorer — you’re the guy who’s doin’ the dirty work in the trenches — but you score. I got a great thrill out of it, but when you get to the National Hockey League, there’s only a select few that can be offensive defenseman. I’ll tell you when I knew I wasn’t one: I’d already played three or four years, I used to get a few points here and there, and our general manager, Lou Lamoriello, came to me and he said, “Kenny, I liken my team to an orchestra. If we don’t each play our instrument, we don’t make beautiful music.” I wasn’t fighting enough or playing physical enough. He said, “There’s violinists, drummers, and pianists. What category do you think you fall into?” And I got the message. [Laughs] I was the drummer. He said, “If you want to be a violinist, I’ll try to find a team that needs a violinist.” I was very angry and emotional at the time, but I got the message quickly and went on to play 20 years.
Blue Jay also tells Buddy, “I never met a hockey player who wasn’t polite and respectful out of a sweater.” And that’s not just because they’re in Canada?
People say, “You guys are the most approachable, friendly, nice athletes,” and we take pride in that. I think it’s from our roots. From a hockey player’s perspective growing up in Canada, the U.S., or Russia, you want to play at the highest level, the National Hockey League, so bad. That’s what we eat, drink, sleep and dream, so we’re very grateful when we get the opportunity. [Laughs]
Judging from this scene, do you think Kevin Smith is the right person to tell this story?
There’s no question that his passion for the game, even just in this little scene here, comes out. Buddy shooting pucks against the barn brings me back. Kevin captures a lot of what young hockey players do. If you weren’t shooting against the barn, you were puttin’ boards up and shootin’ hundreds of pucks a day into the garage. You’d missed the board, and your parents would come out and say, “Stop! You’re wreckin’ the garage!” He knows the game.
So this is a very positive review then.
If he casts me in the film, then I’m really gonna say nice things about him. I’m holdin’ out. [Laughs]