‘Goalie’ Tells Real Life Story of Terry Sawchuk

Directed by Adrianna Maggs, who is best known for her writing on TV series like Frontier and Saving Hope, the film Goalie takes audiences behind the scenes of late NHL goalie Terry Sawchuk. Sawchuk’s career took place from 1949 to 1970 where he was a seven-time all star and four-time Vezina Trophy winner (best goalie). In that span, he amassed 103 shutouts and 445 wins eventually supplanting him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Still, his accolades on the ice were never medicine for his off-ice struggles. Maggs guides us through Sawchuk’s tragic story.


I must be honest right off the bat here. If you are looking for a feel-good movie, this isn’t it. It is, however, an honest depiction of the life and times of Terry Sawchuk from his adolescent years through adulthood. Mark O’Brien (Marriage Story, Arrival) plays the heralded netminder in his adult years and expertly shows us how his real life counterpart meandered through his shyness entering the league to eventual moments of raging alcoholism. Sometimes we get too hung up on the athlete for their professional accomplishments while failing to recognize there is a person behind that jersey and there is pain they caused to people closest to them. Maggs’ direction and O’Brien’s acting are a resourceful combination in portraying the toxicity and burden of depression and addiction that Sawchuk carried throughout life.

With an hour and 48-minute runtime, Goalie is a grievous story with its impressive acting and unfortunate reality. The movie is certainly worth a viewing, however, there are some things that I found distracting. For starters, there is no NHL license here, which I understand could be quite costly and this is an independent film with a smaller budget. With that being side, the Detroit Red Wings are identified by a jersey with a sideways scarlet tear drop. The Montreal Canadiens sport a horseshoe logo while the Boston Bruins feature a puck and a stick. As a hockey fan, this was confusing at times as I wondered if there was some bit of NHL history I missed or if production demanded the real logos be replaced.

The other item, and this was a biggie in my opinion, was watching a deceased Sawchuk blink on the coroner’s table. Sorry for the spoiler, but history already tells us the man passed away several decades ago. Despite O’Brien commandeering the role, this was a serious flaw by both him and the director. How this did not get noticed during editing, I have no idea. Talk about taking me out of the moment. What should have been a dramatic scene was ultimately deflating.

For the sum of its parts, Goalie does well to navigate Sawchuk’s life, which was tumultuous if nothing else. It vividly reflects the beating the man took in net back in the days when goalies didn’t wear masks, but it also shows the personal side of him, which was rather saddening but largely accurate.  There are moments that seem to slow the story, but overall things are portrayed in such a way that viewers should not be left with a number of questions.

Still, the film has a few flaws in the way of remaining attached to its flow. It lacks any kind of wow moment and I ended up feeling like Terry Sawchuk was just not a good person. Certainly this comes from someone (me) who hasn’t dealt with anyone who struggled with addiction and knowing their goodness that lies underneath a disease like alcoholism. Truth be told, the hall of fame goalie came across like a bad guy in his later years. Perhaps in that sense, the director succeeded in showing that alcoholism and depression are the real villains here.




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