North Americans have a rather unique relationship with high school and college sports. While it differs from place to place, football, baseball, basketball, hockey and wrestling, amongst others, take up a disproportionate amount of time and money. These teams can often become the heart of a community. Fostering intense rivalries with local adversaries and providing a focus for the academic year. Creating an almost tribalistic fervour.
Many of these regions offer few job prospects for children. Sport can offer a way out. A potential future and chance to study at an elite institution. The North Country of Minnesota is a hard and unforgiving place. The mining industry is one of the biggest employers. Skating is at the heart of two communities with hockey offering both an opportunity to become a local hero and the potential of escape. The fortunes of two local teams are captured in Hockeyland.
Hockeyland is a fascinating portrait of small-town America and the lure of sports as an escape from a life of unrewarding labour. While these teenagers are playing for the love of the game, huge rewards await the chosen few who get drafted. Tommy Haines’ documentary takes a studied observational approach and mixes this with the action on the ice. Hockeyland is an intimate and a low-key film which is subtly enthralling.
Hockeyland is out in US cinemas from 9 September.