Hollywood and Hockey

The acting careers of Brodeur, O’Ree

The TV/movie careers of Martin Brodeur and Willie O’Ree
Martin Brodeur has lent his likeness and voice to French-Canadian live-action cinema and American animation. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin Brodeur has as many acting stints as he does regular-season NHL goals — two apiece. Not too shabby given that goaltending was the basis for a career that will land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame next week.

Then again, Brodeur was fairly versatile, all things considered. He was a prolific playmaker, tallying 45 assists in 1,266 regular-season games. His postseason stat line dried at 205 games, 12 helpers and one goal.

Like his first goal of all (against Montreal in the 1997 playoffs), he scored his first regular-season marker before a New Jersey home crowd. Later, in 2013, he was credited with another on the road versus Carolina.

Fittingly, Brodeur’s reach in entertainment, sparse as it is, is just as varied. One of his acting endeavors was on an American kids’ cartoon. The other was in a more mature, live-action French-Canadian movie.

Brodeur’s IMDB profile lists three credits under “actor,” though only one is from a scripted work. Amidst the season-long 2004-05 NHL lockout, he devoted some of his free time to the fourth installment of the Les Boys film series. He joins Simon Gagne and a host of NHL retirees in a friendly against protagonist Stan’s (Rémy Girard) titular team.

Together with fellow goalie actor Paul Houde, Brodeur steals one notable scene. For his part, all he has to do is stand and stare from his team’s blue line during “O Canada.” At the opposite end, Houde’s character, Fernand Rivest, passes out upon meeting Brodeur’s eyes late in the anthem.

On the game’s first play, Brodeur takes his puckhandling skills to lacrosse proportions, setting a goal in motion. Moments later, he multi-tasks stopping the puck with signing the stick of the first player whose shot he denies.

Stan’s boys are decidedly less mature in their encounter with Brodeur than the kids on Rocket Power. Of his 14 “Self” credits, a voice role on the old Nickelodeon series is the lone scripted spot.

Set in the ficticious Southern California town of Ocean Shores, Rocket Power revolved around four preteen extreme-sport enthusiasts. Anything that involved boards or wheels was fair game, and roller hockey was no exception.

Three years before Brodeur’s cameo, the series began with nerdy Kansas transplant Sam Dullard accidentally discovering his own goaltending prowess. This revelation allows him to join Reggie Rocket, Otto Rocket and Twister Rodriguez in a 3-on-3 league.

By April 2002, the network capitalized on an easy opportunity to cross-promote its NHL Breakout roller tournament. With the festival in their town, the kids meet Brodeur — who Sam speaks of in cheesily hyperbolic terms — plus forwards Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick. The quarter-hour “Power Play” episode also enlists Los Angeles Kings broadcaster Bob Miller.

Robitaille and Miller, in particular, were and always have been more media-seasoned than Brodeur. By 2002, Robitaille had already been in D2: The Mighty Ducks, Sudden Death, H-E Double Hockey Sticks and on Airli$$. Miller had lent his voice to the first two Mighty Ducks movies and a slew of other scripts, including an episode of Cheers.

But when the NHL guests step aside for the plot to unfold between the boards, Brodeur’s position becomes the crux. The Rockets and Twister decide to shake things up and replace Sam with Twister’s older brother, Lars.

Upon surrendering four unanswered goals, they make amends for their betrayal and reinstate Sam. Back in his rightful place, Sam stops the bleeding and the team closes the gap to 4-3. Although the comeback falls short, the three NHLers commend the kids for correcting and acknowledging their mistake, then join them in a driveway scrimmage.

With Miller and Robitaille already honored in their respective categories, Brodeur makes the “Power Play” guest list three-quarters HHOF. Among his 2018 induction classmates, he is not alone in sporting a touch of TV seasoning.

A half-century after his barrier-breaking NHL debut, O’Ree appeared as Old Man Willie (opposite Kevin Weekes) in one scene of a hockey-themed episode of Everybody Hates Chris.

When Chris and Drew venture out to seek Wayne Gretzky’s autograph, O’Ree starts as an alter-ego upon their chance encounter. He then admits that he is, in fact, the pioneer they speak of.

With the series set in the mid-1980s, Willie takes the opportunity to tell the boys of another prominent pioneer player. He mentions goaltender Grant Fuhr as one of the Gretzky’s teammates on the Oilers. The way he imparts this knowledge to Drew and the less enthused Chris reflects the real-life O’Ree’s Diversity Task Force.

When the episode aired in March 2008, Fuhr had been a Hall of Famer for five years, having broken the museum’s color barrier. A decade later, O’Ree will be enshrined in Toronto himself as a builder for his initiative.

Al Daniel

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