It is amazing how a simple internet search can lead you to places you never expected. At times it can be annoying where you waste hours sifting through poorly designed websites or other dead ends, but on occasion you find a gem or at least something so interesting that is perhaps better than your original destination. A few years ago I went to YouTube to search for highlights of the Elk River Elks' 2001 State Championship team. Those highlights were no where to be found but I came across what appeared to be clips of a short filmed titled Nate Sawerchuck, Hockey Player. This 2001 film by Ak Elk Productions tells the story of a young hopeful NHL player named Nate Sawerchuck who comes from a small fictional town called Elk River, Wyoming. There are only two communities called Elk River in the United States; where I grew up in Minnesota and one in Idaho. Elk River, Idaho is very small; just 125 people according to the 2010 census and as far as I can tell, does not have a hockey team. The film was mostly made in the small berg of Idaho City, Idaho (pop. 425 in 2010), and also in Boise as well.
So needless to say the film is a fictional story which is meant to be a satirical look about hopes and dreams; not just from people but those of a small town that apparently does not have a lot to do. The community drives a lot of its pride from sports which is a story that is very real in a great many communities across the country. Just think, how many times do you drive to a town and as you approach the city / town limits you are greeted with a listing of their local school's championships? Small towns sometimes elevate at the status of these athletes to almost gods. Could you take this story and have it happen for real in let's say Northern Minnesota?
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Probably not. No matter how much a small town in Northern Minnesota, an area where hockey is a way of life which would love to see their local heroes make it to the NHL would not be fooled by a player like Nate Sawerchuck having a realistic shot at the NHL. The film is just 23 minutes long, but it tells a story of hype and good intentions gone wrong. But could this actually happen in Minnesota?
Yes, and it has happened (kind of).
The most famous instance of a draft hoax in NHL history was back in 1974 when the General Manager of the Buffalo Sabres, Punch Imlach, invented the player Taro Tsujimoto (a name he supposedly took out of a phone book) of the Tokyo Katanas whom they drafted 183rd Overall. GM's across the league began asking their scouts if they had ever heard of the player. No one had, because he did not exist. Imlach would eventually spill the beans on the hoax just prior to the start of training camp but Tsujimoto continued to be listed in league draft guides into the 21st Century nearly 40 years after the bogus pick was made. In 2000, an Apple Valley teen claimed to have been drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes when he in fact was not. The surprise selection of a teenager who had only played hockey until his junior year (where he only played Junior Varsity) seemed bizarre but a few days later news agencies had to admit that it was all just a hoax. Embarassing enough for a major local news outlet didn't do its homework to factcheck the story, so needless to say they did their best to distance itself from the hoax.
But if you think parents' don't act strange around scouts just go to your local rink and watch how some of these people react when they hear a scout just might be watching. I've seen this many times at a holiday hockey tournament I attend each year, where they are normally NHL, NCAA and Junior league scouts in attendance and you'll see a lot of parents like Nate Sawerchuck's dad where they go out of their way to introduce themselves and sometimes bug scouts for a hint on what they think of their hockey 'wunderkind'.
When I discovered the film Nate Sawerchuck, Hockey Player I was only able to find just a few clips on YouTube. Eventually, I found where I could watch the whole film here via Spike. While the film doesn't really provide a ton of insight into the game of hockey apart from appealing to general hockey stereotypes it does have some lines that should leave most fans chuckling a bit. Here's a nice little teaser clip and then beneath it I will have a link for the whole 23 minute film.
Click here to see the whole film of "Nate Sawerchuck, Hockey Player"
I would like to hear your thoughts on the film. Did you like it? Did you find it humorous or insulting to the game of hockey? Hopefully it will be a pleasant hockey related distraction as we all wait for hockey to begin again!