Eveleth, Minnesota, is home to fewer than 5,000 residents and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Up here, hockey is a way of life—specifically, high school hockey with the Eveleth Golden Bears. 

The Golden Bears used to be a juggernaut, but that was a decade ago. These days, the neighboring Hermantown Hawks are the team to beat, with star defenseman Blake Biondi destined for the NHL. Destined doesn’t even feel like the right word: The local news did a story on Biondi when he was 10. When Biondi says hockey has been his whole life, he really means it.

Directed by Tommy Haines, Hockeyland follows the Hawks and the Golden Bears on and off the ice. The Biondi-led Hawks are favorites to win it all, but the film begins to enter Hoop Dreams territory as the Golden Bears emerge as a stout contender.

But Haines doesn’t seem interested in producing a story of rivals, more a survey of the two schools and what hockey provides these kids. There is a significant focus on the players’ health, both physically and mentally, and interviews routinely reveal that when the boys are not playing hockey, they are capable of getting into all kinds of trouble. But the pads and the puck provide focus, discipline, and purpose. And though a few players stand out, Hockeyland is more about the team, the game and the towns than it is about the individual.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hockeyland (2021)
Directed by Tommy Haines
Written and produced by J.T. Haines, Tommy Haines, Andrew Sherburne
Greenwich Entertainment, Not rated, Running time 108 minutes, Premiered Nov. 13, 2021 at DocNYC Festival

The above blurb first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 30, No. 9, “Drama of the real.”