Men’s Hockey is in full swing at Sochi, as the National Teams of the Big Four (Canada, the US, Russia and Sweden) are duking it out for bragging rights on hockey’s biggest international stage. Although Hockey has had an annual international World Cup since 1920 (actually at the 1920 Antwerp SUMMER Olympics), the Olympic tournament is still afforded at-least equal status in the sport and is an exponentially greater media event. Not to give results away, let’s just say the games are living up to their hype so far.

So if you’ve gone hockey mad this is a perfect time to expand your knowledge temporally, geographically and culturally: check out Kings of the Road: The Story of the Portland Buckaroos (2010) FilmOn’s VOD Service. The Portland Buckaroos were the city’s minor league hockey team, in a few different  incarnations and with different leagues, but the team that is the subject of this film came into existence with a bang in 1960, around the time the US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team was winning gold at California’s Squaw Valley, 500 miles to the south. Occupying a newly built 10,000 seat Memorial Arena, the Buckaroos would win the Western Hockey League Championship in their inaugural season, and would continue to be a dominant force for most of their 15 years of existence.

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This was a time when the NHL still only consisted of six teams, so the WHL (1952-1974) was forging a path somewhat parallel with the Pacific Coast League in baseball, the ABA in basketball and the AFL in football. All of these leagues’ evident and/or growing popularity would eventually be driven out of business and/or absorbed by expansion from the Eastern US-based leagues (the NHL would expand initially in 1968), but they would also be credited with providing much of the character and innovation to said leagues that we enjoy today.

This was a time, initially, when the GOALIES didn’t even were a mask, and much else was wild about the west. Quite interesting to see in context of the Portlandia-forwarded refined hipster image put forward for the city today, although both eras retain a certain subliminal, tribal vibe.

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Some of the many lively former beasties on ice profiled and/or interviewed include:

Connie Madigan: nine seasons as a defenceman/enforcer with the Buckaroos, was the oldest NHL rookie in history when he joined the St. Louis Blues in 1973. Perhaps best known internationally and across generations for his role as Ross ‘Mad Dog’ Madison, one of the ‘goons’ brought on by the Syracuse Bulldogs at the climax of Paul Newman’s classic hockey vehicle Slap Shot (1977).

Jim ‘Red Eye’ Hay: a Stanley Cup Winner with the Detroit Red Wings in 1955, another colorful muscleman for the Buckaroos

Harry Glickman: the founder/president of the Portland WHL franchise, showing all the elements of both Paul Newman’s and Strother Martin’s characters in Slap Shot

Don Head: The brick-like goalkeeper, in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame

Art Jones: another hard-as-nails OSHF member Vladimir Putin would love.

Guyle Fielder: the third highest scorer in professional hockey history behind Wayne Gretsky and Gordy Howe, the shades themselves speak volumes.

You can watch Kings of the Road: The Story of the Portland Buckaroos free via FilmOn:

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