I won't lie when I tell you that I have a slight movie obsession. I tend to watch movies more often than I watch regular television programs. Because of this movie insanity, I have a lot of Disney movies on DVD. They range from the classics like Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950), and The Lion King (1994) to some lesser known titles like The Three Caballeros (1944) and The Brave Little Toaster (1987). In viewing some of these titles, it occurred to me that Walt Disney must have done something in regards to hockey with all the animation shorts that he's put together over the years. And sure enough, there are some shorts that he's done.
The first one that I found is entitled "Hockey Homicide" with Goofy as the star. While this is clearly a humourous and exaggerated look at hockey, this is a good examination of hockey in this seven-minute animated clip from 1945.
While there's no doubt that some of the aspects of hockey are hyperbolized in this animated short, there is a lot of hockey knowledge that is displayed by Walt Disney's animators and by the narrator/play-by-play man.
"Hockey Homicide" is actually Walt Disney's second animation based upon hockey. In 1939, Disney animators featured Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Duey, and Louie, in a comical look at pond hockey in a short called "The Hockey Champ".
Of course, Walt Disney got into the NHL business by obtaining an expansion franchise based in Anaheim, California, and named their expansion franchise as the Mighty Ducks. Using their half-hour "after school" cartoon slots, called The Disney Afternoon, Disney created the "Mighty Ducks" animated TV series and it aired in 1996.
Overall, the series wasn't received well, and only 26 episodes were produced. It was last officially aired in 2004, and hasn't appeared on television since. It was a far-fetched story to say the least, and it didn't attract many young fans as it was less about hockey and more about the heroes - aptly named Wildwing, Nosedive, Tanya, Duke, Mallory and Grin - who battled the evil Saurians. Needless to say, I didn't watch this show.
In any case, I think it's kind of neat that Walt Disney jumped into the hockey world with his very early cartoons. The cartoons feature excellent knowledge of the game, so it appears that someone in the animation studios at Walt Disney had a good grasp of the game by the late-1930s. Essentially, Disney was ahead of the curve in terms of American corporations with their looks at hockey. They even beat some of the larger sports media outlets to the punch!
In 1959, Sports Illustrated ran a nine-page, in-depth look at the game of hockey. Calling it a "strange, violent sport", they attempted to breakdown the game for people who had no or little exposure to the game. With some of the bigger stars in hockey attracting nation-wide interest, players like Jean Béliveau and Gordie Howe were on the verge of being household NHL names in places like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Vancouver even with the NHL not being in those cities at that time. But in order for the casual fan to understand the game, they needed a basic guide in helping them the understand the game.
Sports Illustrated's William Leggett and artist Robert Riger collaborated together to come up with an article called "The Violent Skills of Ice Hockey" that ran in December 1959. I have pieced together the articles, and are presenting them to you here. I encourage you to read through each page. It's a pretty comprehensive, albeit rudimentary, look at hockey.
- Page One - introduction.
- Page Two - explaining the attack.
- Page Three - continuation of the attack.
- Page Four - explaining defense.
- Page Five - continuation of defense.
- Page Six - explaining the goal and goaltending.
- Page Seven - continuation of goaltending.
- Page Eight - explaining how the game is played.
- Page Nine - continuation of how the game is played.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!