Must-See DVD: “RoadHogs”

Thankfully, the 2009-10 minor league hockey season is about to start. So, what’s the first thing hockey fans should do to prepare for what will hopefully be an exciting, trophy laden season? Buy your season tickets? Send your hockey jersey to the cleaners? Not even close.

Before the first puck is dropped, your must see DVD viewing should be “RoadHogs: The Other Half of the Season.” Forget about “Slap Shot.” The two hour documentary, “RoadHogs: The Other Half of the Season” provides the most accurate and interesting view of what really happens in the world of minor league hockey.

Produced by Chris Toltzman from Seven11 Productions, “Roadhogs” follows the on and off-ice action of the United Hockey League Rockford IceHogs during the 2004-05 hockey season. Forget the idea that minor league hockey players live a “rock star” lifestyle. Toltzman trimmed 45 hours of footage down to a finished two and a half hour gem of a film that proves otherwise.

The film follows the Hogs as they take bus trip after bus trip to UHL towns like Ft. Wayne and Muskegon. Select players were mic’d before, during and after games. So was head coach Steve Martinson. Toltzman’s documentary provides up close and personal insight from players, Martinson and support personnel as they reflect on their upcoming games, teammates, love for the game, as well as future prospects.

Most surprising was that players rarely “paint the town.” Put simply, minor league hockey players don’t have the time or cash to chase down women or beers. All night bus rides and meager salaries tend to put a damper on those activities.

The 2004-05 hockey season was the year of the NHL lockout. During the lockout, future NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios played for the late, but never great UHL Motor City Mechanics. The mic’d on-ice chatter between Chelios and IceHog’s players is hilarious. Just as funny were some of the team rules enforced by Hog’s players. Anybody taking a dump in the team bus bathroom was fined $50! Needless to say, taking a team bus ride from Ft.Wayne to Muskegon created a different type of “pressure” that none of us wants to experience.

A lot has changed since the ’04-’05 hockey season. The UHL turned back into the IHL. The IceHogs now play in the AHL. Head Coach Steve Martinson is now behind the bench for the ECHL Elmira Jackals. But one aspect has never changed. The love for the game and challenges faced by minor league hockey players stays the same.

Speaking of challenges, producer Chris Toltzman also shot all of the documentary footage, wrote the script, edited the footage and did the voice-over work. All of which completed within a very meager budget. Credit sportscaster Mike Beck for opening alot of doors. And yes, Toltzman is exploring the possibility of producing a similar documentary on the AHL Rockford IceHogs.

To order the DVD and to review video trailers and news, go to the website for “RoadHogs: The Other Half of the Season.” Paul Newman and company premiered “Slap Shot” in Hollywood. Conversely,”RoadHogs” premiered in front of 200 fans at Rockford’s 10th Inning Bar & Grill. In this case, the “location” does not matter. The documentary film, “RoadHogs: The Other Half of the Season” rates a thumbs up and four stars!

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