Steve Carell unveiled his power as a skater in "The Office," but was it enough to push the show into first place? Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal
We released our top five hockey movies (that aren’t really about hockey) list two weeks ago. If you haven’t seen the list, you won’t find Rob Lowe and “Youngblood,” or Kurt Russell and “Miracle” on it, but instead there's some Vince Vaughn, Adam Sandler, and even a musical and horror film included.
Now, we’re turning the sport on its head once again as a reporter shares his top five hockey television shows that (sort of) include hockey.
Hockey isn't what comes to mind when watching "House, M.D." but it delivers plenty of New Jersey Devils references throughout its run to reach the rare crossover hockey fan. Photo courtesy of 20th Television
The eighth season of “House, M.D.” is pure gold for hockey fans who also enjoy medical dramas (I’d love to see the data on that crossover). The eighth episode of the season, “Perils of Paranoia,” opens with a court scene showing a defendant on the witness stand saying, “Absolutely! We watched the Devils demolish the Ranger — the game started at 7.” The defendant then adds, “Four, zip. Kovalchuk had two, Arnott and Parise each had one, and Marty got the shutout.” Then, the prosecution rips the defense apart by showing Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur wasn’t in net that night, but Johan Hedberg, before suffering an apparent heart attack — all before the opening credits roll.
I couldn’t find any game that information from the scene might be based on, but the show deserves credit for providing the little details. (FYI: The Devils had five 4-0 wins from 2008 to May 2012, and Patrick Elias scored a hefty seven times in them.)
Eight episodes later, the show unveils its first hockey-playing patient in “Gut Check.” An enforcer decks his opponent, however, as he’s headed to the penalty box he begins to cough up blood and ends up face down on the ice. Dr. House then shows off his skills at bubble hockey, co-worker Chris Taub talks about his disgust for fighting in the sport, and a career in the NHL is saved.
Robin consistently brought the Vancouver Canucks into her arguments regarding Canadian versus American superiority in episodes of "How I Met Your Mother." Photo courtesy of CBS
"How I Met Your Mother" is a sitcom that has endless Canadian jokes targeted at principal character Robin Scherbatsky, but she cements her love for her home country by consistently referencing the Vancouver Canucks.
She goes on a date to a Canucks versus Rangers game in the first episode of the fifth season. Donning the only Canucks jersey visible in the camera shot, Scherbatsky yells, “Hordichuk! You miss another gimme like that I’m gonna come down there and put a slapper right up your bear hole. Come on!” It was in reference to then-Canucks forward Darcy Hordichuk who scored just five points in 73 games for Vancouver the year before the shout out.
Scherbatsky is played by Vancouver-native Cobie Smulders, who told NHL.com in 2009 about her own first date preferences, saying:
“I love dates at hockey games. I think dates should be an adventure, something fun. My first date with my [boyfriend Taran Killam], we went to play mini golf. You have to have an activity. That is the best way to do it. If the date sucks, at least you went to a hockey game.”
Scherbatsky goes on to sport the green and blue jersey several more times throughout the show's run. She dresses up as a goalie for Halloween, gets into a bar fight, and wears a Roberto Luongo jersey while drunk. She also has a fling with a former hockey player and references longtime Canucks player Mason Raymond in the same episode.
Michael Scott, a true hockey fan, loved his Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins jersey until he saw the back. Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal
For the first time on this list (but not last) we have a main character lacing up the skates!
Most episodes of “The Office” fittingly take place in an office, but the 19th episode of the second season features employees of Dunder-Mifflin escaping the confines of their workplace, lacing their skates in birthday celebration for their regional manager, Michael Scott. Scott, played by former Division III hockey player and the self-proclaimed “LeBron James of rec hockey” Steve Carell, shows off his game in a four-minute segment. He smashed his least favorite person, Toby, into the boards and helped two young kids learn to skate. Olympic figure skater Burt Lancon made an appearance as a body double for Oscar and Michael received a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey jersey as a gift.
Carell was back in the rink last December when “The Office” released a short film titled “Threat Level Midnight,” based on the screenplay written by Carell’s character. Scott’s alter-ego, Special Agent Michael Scarn, learns to stick-handle with a mop before going undercover to stop a bomb threat at an NHL all-star game.
Dennis Leary seems to feel at home in a hockey jersey. To go along with his numerous FDNY jerseys, the star also casually sported a Bobby Orr sweater. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
I never got to see Phil Esposito do what he does best and post-up in the crease before redirecting a shot in net so regularly that he would eventually retire from the NHL with the most points scored until a certain No. 99 (appearing later in this list) overtook him, but I imagine his post up of Denis Leary before redirecting for a goal in an NYPD versus FDNY street hockey game during the sixth episode of the third season looked like a similar, slightly slower version. Boston Bruins President Cam Neely also appeared on Leary’s FDNY squad.
It had to be an amazing experience for Leary, a life-long Bruins fan, to play against his heroes. The actor from Worcester, Massachusetts, had an ice rink at his home in Connecticut and puts on many hockey-associated charity events, including an annual benefit for cancer research called Comics Come Home, which was co-founded by Neely.
Leary’s “Rescue Me” is an extension of his love for hockey as his character Tommy Gavin cares more about his ice and street hockey teams than anything that's not fighting fires throughout the show’s seven seasons. The FDNY and NYPD have a rivalry spanning a game count in the double-digits and Esposito even comes back for two more cameos.
The seminal hockey episode came early in the show’s now 30-plus-year run in “Lisa on Ice,” from the show’s sixth season in 1994. On the verge of failing gym class, Lisa must join a club sport and after Milhouse fails as a pee wee goaltender. Coach Apu uncovers Lisa’s talent when she deflects some cups in a fight with Bart. Apu rifles a few slap shots at the defenseless girl to make sure it's no fluke and sure enough she’s a star. She quickly eclipses Bart’s talent leading to a not-so-healthy sibling rivalry. It culminates in a winner take-all shootout with rabid fans snarling as they look on. They decide to end the game in a tie, causing a riot in the stands.
If that were the only episode with hockey involved it still probably makes the list, but the longest-running scripted show in primetime TV history has gone out of its way to prove its love of the game. I would highly recommend "Helter Shelter," an episode where the Simpsons find out what the finer things of having skybox tickets is like.
Mike Commito did a great job gathering most of the series’ early references to the sport for Vice News, highlighting Bart’s use of a Gordie Howe photo to catfish his teacher and an appearance of the Broad Street Bullies from the Philadelphia Flyers' 1976 Stanley Cup winning season. References have slowed the past several years, but hockey lives on in Springfield.
Wayne Gretzky lent his voice to the show, shouting “He’s got a gun!” in “The Nightmare After Krustmas” from the 28th season before skating off into the snowy lands of the North Pole. The show even appeared on track to predict a future Stanley Cup victory for a Vegas team 19 years before the Golden Knights were stopped by the Capitals in a five-game 2018 Stanley Cup Final, and also took a pretty funny jab at the Ottawa Senators last season.
Sheer abundance cannot be denied, marking “The Simpsons” as the greatest not-so-hockey hockey show on television!
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