When Civic Theatre manager Jason Asbell was growing up in rural Alberta, there was nothing more exciting than immersing himself in the Cold War era’s hockey scene—watching as the Soviet hockey enterprise developed into something akin to another branch of the Russian military.
Laying belly-down on the carpet, he was transfixed by these seemingly superhuman players.
“I was maybe 8-years-old, and I remember staying up to watch these hockey games. I mean, I grew up with Reagan introducing the Star Wars program and with nightmares of atomic bombs. These hockey games —not to mention it was beautiful hockey—took me somewhere else completely.”
That’s why Asbell is especially thrilled about the film they’re screening on April 2 at 7:30: Red Army, directed by Gabe Polsky and co-produced by Werner Herzog.
The film follows captain Slava Fetisov as he transforms from a national hero to a political enemy.
“He was a player that started out as a 15-year-old in the Soviet team in the 70s, and he basically played through right until the collapse of the empire. He was the one that broke the boundary where Russians started playing in the NHL.”
From the USSR to Russia, the film examines how sports mirrors social and cultural movements.
“This film displays the beautiful parallel between the political system and the sport. Essentially it was a propaganda war. These guys were taken away from their families for 11 months of the year to train. In the trailer it showed that one of these guys, his father was dying and sick, but he wasn’t granted time to go visit. He had to prepare for the next game.”
Asbell said the hockey played during that era was incredible to behold. He said coaches studied ballet and chess to increase their team’s efficiency, producing orchestrated offensive movements.
The so-called Red Army hockey team was defeated in 1972 by the U.S., and by Canada during the 1980 Olympics, but those were rare exceptions in a decade-long streak of victories said Asbell.
“The price they paid was huge,” he said.
“What excites me about this type of film is you’ll get your cinephiles out, but you’ll also bring this whole other demographic of hockey fans. This film is equally if not more interesting to a political historian and someone who loves the history of it.”
Basically, he said, “this is a sports documentary for someone who doesn’t necessarily have to like sports.”
For more information visit civictheatre.ca.