Overtime: Why not play hockey forever…

Films

The first time I viewed the NFB documentary Overtime, I remember thinking that the characters in it were so old! I was in my twenties then but I still got immense pleasure from the film. How could you not love the characters we meet in this doc? They are all men between the ages of 38 and 54 who play for the Toronto Lakeshore Oldtimers hockey team. Men with nicknames like “Tubby,” “Sniffy” and “Sinker,” who are happier in January than they are in June.

I am now close to the upper end of that age group and can appreciate the film that much more. What sets it apart from similar documentaries is the sense of fun that exudes from every frame. Director Marrin Canell focuses on the incredibly strong bonds between the players but is never afraid to show the men as they really are.

“Tubby” Aherne, the team’s goalie, is our guide to this team and its world. An ex-pro, he had a “cup of coffee” with the Toronto Maple Leafs but spent most of his career in the minor leagues. The happily married father of two is the glue that keeps the team together. He quit his insurance business in order to organize Oldtimers’ tournaments around the world full-time. His love of hockey is evident and because of his talent he gets the lion’s share of the games. We are there with him through his many injuries and his resolve never wanes, even when one injury threatens to end his season, and maybe even his career.

goalies2

Other Oldtimers include “Sinker” Sicinski, the team’s top scorer, who played over 350 games in the World Hockey Association (with the Chicago Cougars and the Indianapolis Racers). Unfortunately, a series of knee injuries put an end to his promising career. Sicinski has talent enough to play at a much higher level than the Oldtimers, but it is clear he feels very comfortable with these guys.

The player I found the most fascinating is the team’s reserve goalie, “Sniffy,” who has no problem with middle age. He was close to death at one point in his life and is now thankful for every day. Then there’s “Ace” King, a self-made millionaire who is not good enough to play on the team but fills in wherever he can as trainer or stick-boy, as the need arises. There is also the playing-coach who had to coach the team for a few years—until he was old enough to play!

This hilarious and touching look at middle age was shot during the 1982–83 season. After it was edited, filmmaker extraordinaire Donald Brittain was brought in to write the commentary and narrate. His observations are simply sublime, including his summing up of what motivates the players: “Three times a week they reduce the complexities of life to a simple proposition: The putting of a puck in a net.”

Overtime was completed in the fall of 1984, but unfortunately no one picked it up. The filmmakers had always intended to make a film for television but no networks were interested. The CBC hemmed and hawed and finally bought it. The film was broadcast on April 9, 1985, just one day before the NHL playoffs began. Reviews were mostly positive, though one reviewer felt it was a one-hour beer commercial!

team pic

I don’t agree with that review. To me, the film shows the strong bonds these men have and the love of the game that keeps them together. These guys are there for each other, on and off the ice. They are clearly enjoying this game as much as they did when they were kids.

I invite you to watch this uplifting film with its terrific musical score. If nothing else, it will make you smile and appreciate our national game. Who knows? You might even get the urge to strap on a pair of skates and head to an outdoor rink for a little shinny.

Enjoy the film.

Overtime, Marrin Canell, provided by the National Film Board of Canada