Former Hermantown star and Mr. Hockey winner Blake Biondi plays a large role in Hockeyland, a documentary that hones in on hockey life on the Iron Range.
HOCKEYLAND, a documentary about two rival Iron Range towns seeking a common goal, is more than just telling a hockey story. It tells a life story. Because, after all, hockey is life on the Iron Range.
Writer/Director Tommy Haines captures exactly how we picture life on the range – the frozen toes from the outdoor rinks, the snowbank filled streets, shoveling heavy wet snow off of rooftops, and the cool crystallized air that would make any person from a southern state wonder why anyone would live in such a place.
But even a southerner will fall in love with this place because HOCKEYLAND has people and passion, and that passion is not just hockey — it is coaches, it is teammates, it is family, it is community.
The story follows two schools: Eveleth-Gilbert and Hermantown. The former used to have the upper hand 25 years ago, but now Hermantown is the major power in the region. In fact, Eveleth-Gilbert is no more and has since merged with rival Virginia to form Rock Ridge.
But this was 2020 and Eveleth-Gilbert’s last season and their main goal was to meet up with the Hawks from Hermantown in the playoffs, which they do.
While there are plenty of great scenes of dangles, snipes and cellies, the story is also about families and friendships.
Haines zeros in on the Dowd Family: two brothers playing on the Hermantown squad, a supportive, hard-working father and a true-to-heart hockey mom who is battling cancer and MS. He also hones in on Hermantown’s star player Blake Biondi, now a junior at UMD, who in 2020 was about as big of a celebrity someone can be in a small iron range community.
On the Eveleth side he follows two best friends, Will Troutwine and Elliott Van Orsdel, who are polar opposites but share a common passion. Their friendship validates how hockey can bring people together.
Hermantown Coach Patrick Andrews tells his own story in this film, and it’s a good one. Hockey, family, coaching are his daily fuel. Eveleth-Gilbert coach Jeff Torrel is a bit more reserved, but both men share a common goal and it isn’t just to win hockey games. It’s more about ensuring the young men under their tutelage leave their program a better person with a brighter future.
Haines tells the story of hockey being life for many, but also that there is more to life than hockey. He captures the hockey culture we all know and love, but sometimes need to be reminded of why we do it. More importantly, he captures that those who strap on the armor, put knives on their feet and a blade in their hands, are just kids who are finding their way in life, building relationships, growing friendships and learning lessons. He shows how hockey helps them do just that.
HOCKEYLAND gives you a helicopter ride to the barren lands of northern Minnesota where the snow stacks as high as the modest houses. It’s just as much a window into the hockey culture as it is into the homes of those who live it.
It’s a window we all want to peek into.
If you haven’t seen HOCKEYLAND yet, go see it. Haines goes top shelf on his goal to tell a story we may be familiar with but love hearing over and over again. It will reinforce what the State of Hockey is all about: Passion, purpose, family, community, all brought together through one common love — hockey.
It also reinforces that Minnesota, particularly the Iron range, is indeed HOCKEYLAND.