June 20, 2008
Hollywood speaks on root of Leafs' problems
By LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media
Leave it to Tinseltown to find the real reason the Maple Leafs haven't won the Stanley Cup going on 42 years.
Women. Always in the way of a Bay St. parade. The disappearance of Bill Barilko and the curse of Ballard received a lot of the blame in their day, but femmes fatales? Who knew?
The Love Guru, a new Mike Myers comedy opens today, the second Leaf-oriented movie that links romance to ruination for the team's title hopes.
Myers' carefully honed Guru Pitka is worth the price, but the actual plot has Leafs' scoring star Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) losing his bombshell gal to Jacques Grande the L.A. Kings' vane goalie (Justin Timberlake) on the eve of their Cup final. Indian mystic Myers must restore Roanoke's self confidence, while trying to get his $2 million fee and other favours from hottie Leaf owner Jessica Alba, who feels the loathe from fans after inheriting the team from her father Hank Bullard.
You'll just have to close your eyes and imagine the rebuilding Leafs and Kings will someday go all the way to a decisive game, that Oprah has an interest in the Leafs and that pachyderms can roam at will through Toronto.
The Leafs also appeared headed for glory in 1971 in Face-Off when rambunctious rookie Billy Duke (Art Hindle) fell for flower child singer Sherry Nelson (Trudy Young). It covered every hockey cliche and had everyone from George Armstrong to Paul Henderson to the late Scott Young and George Gross in cameos. Harold Ballard played the Leafs' team doctor with John Vernon (Dean Wormer in Animal House) as the stoic coach, Fred Wares.
Billy gets his head together in time for the big series at the Gardens (against the expansion Vancouver Canucks!), with actual footage of the Leafs with Jim McKenny looking vaguely like the star.
Love Guru's hockey scenes were shot during intermission and post-game during the Leafs' 2007 exhibitions at the ACC, and include stunt doubles such as Abba Copeland of the Nubian Kings of the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League. Real-life NHLers Rob Blake and Bob Probert make an appearance (Norris Trophy winner Blake re-born as a Kings' centreman), while Probert balked at being given Tie Domi's blue and white No. 28 during rehearsals.
The Leafs and Raptors' dressing rooms were utilized in the filming, but expect 5-foot-10 Leafs coach Ron Wilson to get ribbed for the dollhouse sized office of Mini Me Verne Troyer, who plays a pint-sized Punch Imlach type. Watch for some clever spoofs of Hockey Night In Canada traditions.
Myers, a tireless promoter of his boyhood club, who once named his dog after Nikolai Borschevsky, had no trouble helping his movie team get permission to use the Leaf logo or rent the ACC. The NHL controls all manner of video distribution, but gave the last word on script concerns to the Leafs, who were good sports about the Cup curse becoming fodder for more jokes and will likely do some cross promotions next autumn.
Last year, the Leafs in accordance with the NHL became the first major-league sports franchise ever to lend their logo to a gay-themed movie, Breakfast With Scot, about a gay ex-player and his partner adopting a young boy.
"Obviously something disparaging in the script about our team or about our fans would be a concern," said Tom Anselmi, COO and senior vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. "But a bunch of our guys went to the Love Guru screening and came back killing themselves laughing at how funny Mike is."
Shinny movies and romance have come a long way since King of Hockey, a 1936 Hollywood hour-long number starring Dick Purcell as Gabby Dugan, who among other foibles, takes penalties just to be near his girlfriend's seat behind the sin bin.
Love Guru might not win an Academy Award, but will likely become a piece of pop culture for long suffering Leaf fans. At least it will only cost around $13 bucks a seat to see Toronto win a Cup, instead of $1,300 for a pair from a scalper if life ever imitates art for a Game 7 here.