________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 15 . . . . March 28, 2003


Shinny: The Hockey in All of Us.

David Battistella (Director). Gerry Flavive (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
73 min., VHS, $49.95.
Order Number: C9101 194.

Subject Headings:
Hockey-Video recording.
Hockey-Social aspects-Canada-Video recording.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Denise Weir.

**** /4

Are there any rules to the game of Shinny? Well, according to this video by the National Film Board of Canada, there are 12 rules. Counting backwards from rule 12 to 1, the viewer experiences a game that symbolizes the geography, climate, temperament, politics, and the Canadian identity. Simulated filmstrip effects divide each of the 12 rules. The rules listed from 12 to 1 are the following:

     Hard work pays off; Pass the Puck; Mother Nature owns the ice; If Daddy builds the rink, the rink gets used; Everyone is welcome; If you want to play, you have to shovel; All ice is home ice; No team is ever really beaten; Be your own hero; No fighting; You play for fun; Make your own rules.

     The video reflects the Canadian experience on many levels. The first scene of the video is of a picturesque mountain lake as it freezes and winter settles in. The viewer then experiences the preparations for the backyard sport of shinny, as well as the flooding of community outdoor rinks. The final scene of the film is the coming of spring. Icicles are melting; rinks have been dismantled. The shinny season is in recess.

     Urban or rural, north or south, east or west, Canadians all must live with the hardships of a harsh climate. Shinny is the game that makes the best of a cold frontier. Shinny can only be played in a cold climate on man-made rinks or the rinks made by Mother Nature, such as mountain lakes, prairie sloughs, and the "largest skating rink in the world- the Arctic Ocean." It is a game that brings people out of their winter isolation to build family, community, and national bonds.

     While the "rules" of the game alternate between the poetic "Mother Nature Owns the Ice" to the realistic "Pass the Puck," the "rules" all reflect the Canadian identity as a peaceful, democratic nation. "Everyone is welcome" portrays the "rule" that all Canadians are welcome to play at the "backyard rink" at Rideau Hall. This open policy has been in existence for 129 years since 1872 when Lord and Lady Dufferin built the first rink. The rink is open for all Canadians from the Governor General to the youngest child.

     Peace and freedom are portrayed by the expanse of the Canadian landscape where families choose to connect with each other and nature. In the Stanley family backyard rink in Ottawa, we are told that the world disappears while father and sons play the game.

     The quiet sound track and whispered voices of the players also portray the peaceful, solitude of the Canadian landscape and with it the Canadian psyche. It is obvious that the producers of the film placed a great deal of thought and attention into exposing the viewer to the Canadian landscape and the values that Canadians project on a national past time.

     While this documentary has limited historical or technical information about the game of shinny, it is an excellent social commentary about Canadian ideals. The video will appeal to audiences over the age of eight who are avid hockey fans. Younger children may not be aware of the connotations of the video, but they may enjoy watching the game and the preparations for the winter sport. Non-athletic fans with little interest in hockey will find this movie to be an enjoyable, relaxing, and entertaining film full of nationalistic pride. It really does appeal to the "hockey in all of us."

Highly Recommended.

Denise Weir is a library consultant with Manitoba Culture Heritage and Tourism.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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