BIDINI REVISITS '72 SERIES IN RUSSIA
London Free Press, Mar. 28, 2005
BY JIM MORRIS
A journey to meet some icons of the past brought filmmaker Dave Bidini face to face with the reality of the present in his latest documentary, The Hockey Nomad Goes to Russia.
Bidini, a member of the award-winning Canadian pop group Rheostatics and a hockey globetrotter, travelled to Russia in search of the aging heroes of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR.
While he realized his dream of playing a game with the '72 stars, he also tasted life in Russia, a country still struggling to understand the future while dealing with its past.
Bidini spent about eight weeks in Russia, travelling more than 4,000 kilometres from Moscow's Luzniki Arena to Siberia. The Hockey Nomad Goes to Russia will be shown on CBC's The Passionate Eye, Monday at 9 p.m. and repeated Wednesday at 10 p.m. on CBC Newsworld.
"I guess our idea was to get a sense of Russian hockey and Russian life at a closer perspective than the one we've been used to," Bidini said in an interview.
"We had to chase that all over the place because there were so many perspectives. Ultimately the idea was to coach the film to a place where you got a really broad sense of Russia now, as opposed to examining the whole breadth of history and breadth of life."
The trip was like a pilgrimage for Bidini, whose previous Hockey Nomad adventure examined the game in exotic destinations like Dubai, Transylvania and Mongolia.
He still remembers being an eight-year-old in 1972, watching the grainy images of that historic series being broadcast from Moscow.
"The world got a lot bigger after Game 5 in Moscow," said Bidini, author of the best-selling book Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places.
In Moscow, Bidini found Soviet hockey legends Alexander Yakushev and Yuri Bulinov now leading modest lives. They are relics of another era who refuse to be bitter that young Russian players can now earn millions playing in the NHL.
"I don't feel jealousy," says Bulinov. "Why would I count other people's money?"
The great disparity in the new Russia is shown when Bidini travels to Kazan, in Siberia. There a local team backed by an oil company shelled out millions to attract 15 locked-out NHL players.
In the same city, a Russian truck driver spends his own money to build a rink so local kids will have a place to play.
"I think there are people like that in every hockey town," he said.
"People who try to take the game into their own hands and try to set it right in terms of a pure vision of the game. It's easy for these oligarchs to build this arena and bring in multimillion-dollar, locked-out athletes from North America. But the real passion for the game is found in people like the truck driver."
During the film, Bidini plays a game with a rec team in Moscow made up of veterans from Russia's war in Afghanistan. Afterwards, over beer in the dressing room, there's talk of life and politics.
"We don't need war," says one veteran, who spent five years in prison for assaulting a police officer.
"Hockey and love will save the world."
Bidini said it's a scene that could have been shot in any hockey town.
"It's a common ground," he said.
"Hockey dressing room, beer and pucks, sweaty guys."
One thing Bidini wanted to show in the film is the spirit of togetherness that binds the Russian people and the role hockey plays.
"There's a different sort of sense of collectivism and a strength of group," he said.
"Being strong together is very important in Russia because there is crime, there's more property. The system is sort of falling apart and a new one, a much stranger one, is flowering in its centre."
HOCKEY NOMAD SCORES WITH NEW DOCUMENTARY
Edmonton Sun, Mar. 27, 2005
BY JIM SLOTEK
The more he travels the world seeking the true spirit of hockey, the more Dave Bidini feels that the souls of true Canadian hockey lovers are malnourished.
Case in point: Right now, the best hockey in the world is being played in Russia - with NHL players, no less - and all we hear about is the void left by the lockout.
"We're terrible in this country in terms of the media, and I mostly blame CBC and Hockey Night In Canada, telling the same three stories over and over again," says the rocker-turned-hockey-ambassador, whose The Hockey Nomad Goes To Russia airs tomorrow on CBC's The Passionate Eye (9 p.m., Cable 4).
His documentary - a trek from Moscow's Luzhniki arena to Siberia - closes with a much anticipated game between Omsk (featuring Jaromir Jagr) and Kazan, an oil-rich franchise whose lineup includes Sergei Federov, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat.
A followup to his earlier I Am A Hockey Nomad (which saw the Rheostatics' frontman slap on the skates in places like Dubai, Transylvania and Mongolia), the inspiration for his Russian doc came from a rented movie.
"I was watching The Russian Ark - about the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg - and I thought, 'How much as a hockey fan do I know about Russia?' It's like that film reveals to you all these things about Russian history, and you realize how little you actually know.
"What I discovered is, as a Canadian, you have this key into the place. Wander into a town with a hockey stick or a guitar and there are always people opening their doors to you."