To kick off our new series, Investigations Editor Jordan reflects on how the sports film Goon impacted his own sporting career
Goons, enforcers, and other unflattering names have all been given to many athletes from all across the sports world, from the ironically named Metta World Peace and Dennis Rodman in basketball, to football’s Marco Materazzi. They’re seen as bullies, whose brutishness has no place in a highly skilled environment. Even in ice hockey, where up until recently enforcers were seen as legitimate needs on a team, the sport has seemingly turned its back. The only evidence of this we need is John Scott jokingly being put in the NHL All-Star Game and the league’s subsequent attempts to kick him out of said all-star game. However, in the midst of that saga, there was an article he wrote that beautifully constructed his perspective as an enforcer and reminded me of a great movie called Goon.
Goon for the uninitiated is a raunchy, small budget, Canadian film about a guy who gets in one fight as a spectator at a hockey game then gets called up from local teams, before eventually to a professional minor league because of his ability to knock the lights out of pretty much any man he can get his hands on. However, despite his inability to skate, play, or contribute on the ice except through fighting and being a human shield, he is not the brute one would expect. He is shy and good-natured and cares more about the team than anyone else. He respects the seal of his team and protects his teammates even when they look down on him. His protection on ice, and his off ice intangibles, make him a valuable player who is willing to spill literal blood, sweat, and tears for his team.
"His protection on ice, and his off ice intangibles, make him a valuable player who is willing to spill literal blood, sweat, and tears for his team."
This movie connected with me in a way no other sports film has. We’ve all seen underdog stories and tired repeated narratives of overcoming impossible obstacles hit that last second game-winner. The problem with all those movies is that they’re bullshit. What makes the Rockys, and Rudys, and Airbuds of the world so inspirational is the fact they overcame unrealistic odds. Goon on the other hand, related to me as a kid. I wasn't skilled at basketball, but I hustled, was a stickler on defence, and even earned the nickname “Taz” in middle school. After someone tried to score on me there was a very rare chance they would make that move again. Neither my middle school nor high school ever kept track of how many times I fouled out, but it's safe to assume I’d likely hold a school record for both.
Now, I never went into the game wanting to foul someone so hard they fell to the floor or be on the receiving end of some nasty elbows, it just sort of happens when you are big and aren’t as skilled as some of the other guys on the team. I trained and practised, often more than my teammates. My teams were always small and outmuscled. I was from a small town with a small team, but I always fought for my team, and tried to put a bit of fear into any team that thought they could bully my teammates. I never got a tonne of minutes, nor got many points, but it didn't matter. I was just happy to have a role on the team. Like Doug, the stats didn’t matter, I knew my role and I would do anything for my team, and that was okay. I wasn’t going to be the leading scorer, but I knew I could still contribute and would take any blow for my team. We might not like the Dougs of the world, but truth be told we need them.
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