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In The Crease

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Since some of you (*cough-Newport Rebel-cough*) have taken to demanding articles, I've decided to make you regret your request and subject you to the meanderings of my mind.

Twice this week I was reminded of the 2006 documentary In The Crease (covering the California Wave's journey to the AAA national tournament), and the reminders came from a couple of unlikely places.

First, I tilted my head while I was watching the NHL 11 preview video that runs through the opening sequences for a WHL game in the upcoming EA Sports title. Plain as day, they had Mitch Wahl as the starting center for the Spokane Chiefs If you saw In The Crease, you'll remember the curly haired and wide-eyed Wahl as the goal-scoring Seal Beach native who grew up quite the Ducks fan. Wahl won't be with the Chiefs next year, as he has played four full seasons in the WHL and joined the AHL's Abbotsford Heat this past spring. The kid is climbing the ladder in the Flames organization, and he may be the highest California-bred Draft pick to play an NHL game this season.

Second, I was reading up on Bollywood news, a hobby of mine that one never expects to intersect with this blog, but lo and behold: Mumbai-star Akshay Kumar is producing a Canadian hockey film called Breakaway, which will be helmed by D3: Mighty Ducks director Robert Lieberman. The film begins shooting next month, but Alliance Films has already purchased the distribution rights, meaning it could see a rather respectable theater release in the US and Canada. Starring Vinay Virmani and Emily Van Camp, the movie follows the story of a young hockey player who hails from Canada's rather large South Asian community.

Of course, I immediately thought of In The Crease's story of Wayne Ravdjee, who hails from Southern California's own rather large South Asian community. Moving from India and settling in Sylmar, California, the patriarch of the Ravdjee household liked to play the ponies. And back in the late 80s, horse racing results were often pre-empted by Kings games. It was a complete accident that he fell in love with the sport and Wayne Gretzky, but as he says in the film, 'watch three hockey games, and you'll be hooked.' He named his son after The Great One, and Wayne has just completed his first season with the NAHL's Kenai River Brown Bears, not quite on the same trajectory as his former teammate Wahl but still committed to the game.

So, if you haven't seen In The Crease yet, you really should. I could take or leave the interviews with the pros; the real meat of the film is the California kids. It's the story of an entire team making the sacrifice to play travel hockey in California. But it's also the story of Mitch Wahl, who may be the next California-bred NHL regular. And it's the story of Wayne Ravdjee, an Indian kid who took up hockey, which is apparently unlikely enough to warrant a feel good movie, even in hockey-crazed Canada. Somewhere, Manny Malhotra is saying, 'he's not so special.'