Films: “Hat Trick” (Patrick Dahl and Matthew Dominick, 2015)

By Brooke Pawling

 

Singing along to Queen’s 1977 hit “We Are the Champions,” the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks celebrated their third Stanley Cup win with drunken grins, soaked through with champagne and loaded down with sweat. In “Hat Trick,” a 65-minute film produced by Blackhawks TV, this chaotic moment of locker room celebration is lifted not only by the thrill of victory, but also the extraordinarily tight bonds between the players.

Impactful moments of brotherhood are what separate “Hat Trick” from the kind of documentary in which the significance of teamwork is depicted in a game-winning goal rather than the intense relationships between the players and their coach.

In a rare moment of public emotion, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opens up about his pride for the team. As he mimes the rollercoaster ride the season took, his hand dragging through the air, the inebriated eyes of his players never leave him. The film pulls back to catch the team standing on locker room benches, puffing on cigars as they listen to Quenneville’s every word. In a burst of cheers, they all spray the coach with another round of expensive champagne.

Of course, there are moments in the documentary that over-use standard slow-motion effects in capturing the action on the ice and directors Patrick Dahl and Matthew Dominick of the video production company Banner Collective are  guilty of abandoning the personable narrative for slickly shot scenes. Among them are the panoramic views of fans flocking to the Stanley Cup parade and Soldier Field celebration.

But when Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg helps the young son of the late team employee and suicide victim Clint Reif  hoist the cup at center stage of a packed Soldier Field, the film’s heart-on-its-sleeve power overcomes the predictable moments.

We also hear backup goalie Scott Darling discuss his ultimate fear of failing after suffering from alcoholism in his teenage years. Shortly he got sober, Darling’s mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. “I thought, ‘This will really push him over the edge,’” she says with tears in her eyes. And now here is, pushing the Stanley Cup up in the air.

“Hat Trick” follows some of the players on the one day they get to spend with the cup in their hometown, a tradition that has been around since 1958. Historically, they have spent the day bringing the 35-pound trophy to charities and locally owned businesses.

For 37-year-old right-winger Marian Hossa, likely lifting the cup for the last time, eating pasta out it in his hometown of Stara L’ubovna, Slovakia, was the ultimate way to celebrate. Aerial shots of a castle flying embroidered banners of his jersey number speak to the enormous pride his countrymen took in his achievement.

Largely absent from the film is left-winger Patrick Kane, who was accused of raping a girl in his hometown of Buffalo, NY, in the summer of 2015. No charges were filed, but Kane was encouraged to drop his planned local appearances with the cup. “Hat Trick” largely ignores the case, but being that the documentary is intended as a celebration of a championship team and the pure, unadulterated happiness they brought to the city and each other, that lapse is forgivable. Kane’s story has been thoroughly investigated in other venues.