Director: Alex Gibney
Writers: Jim Podhoretz, Larry Weitzman
Stars: Donald Brashear, Marty McSorley and Chris Nilan
Today’s sports documentary suggestion is “The Last Gladiators” which can be found on Netflix streaming. The film takes a look at some of the last enforcers in the National Hockey League (NHL). The story is centered on Chris “Knuckles” Nilan a former enforcer for the Montreal Canadians. There are other players known affectionately as “goons” who are mentioned but the story always makes its way back to Chris.
“Gladiators” tells the story of men whose main job was to fight and protect their teammates. Nilan’s story is a complicated one that we see play out in sports all the time. He was raised in a tough hardnosed household. Nilan suggest that his upbringing followed him to the role he would go on to take in his hockey career. We get to take a look at the life of man who is pushed to the limit on the field of play but struggles to turn off that engine when he is off it.
The film paints a narrative of these enforcers whom more than a few have hard life after their playing days were over. The film is mostly about Nilan but it does a good job of using his contemporaries to give some perspective on what the era was like in the NHL. The meat of the story comes with Nilan’s struggles off the ice with drug addiction and his in ability to adjust with life post playing. It speaks to a tragic tale that is seen in all sports after the fans stop cheering and they have to live their lives.
Keith B. Holt
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