| 22 min 04 s
Original English version
Over the course of a weekend tournament, youth sledge hockey teams from the U.S. and Canada battle for supremacy. Designed for players who have a physical challenge, the fundaments of the sport — passing, shooting, trash talking your opponents – remain the same. Director Sam Vint captures the end-to-end action as the Manitoba Sledgehammers do it all.
Q & A with director Sam Vint
The great Canadian tradition of hockey comes with its own sacraments and rituals, whether that’s trash talking your opponents, digging deep and giving 110 percent or partying hard with pizza and pop after the game. The Manitoba Sledgehammers do it all.
Over the course of a weekend tournament, youth sledge hockey teams from the U.S. and Canada meet in Blaine, Minnesota to battle for supremacy. An adaptation of ice hockey, sledge hockey is designed for players who have a physical challenge. But that’s about the only difference. All the fundaments of the sport — passing, shooting, checking, teamwork – are the same.
Director Sam Vint captures the end-to-end action, as well as quieter moments with parents, coaches and fellow players, providing a glimpse into this little-seen world. On this weekend, people with challenges outnumber the able-bodied, and the kids finally get their chance to just be athletes.
At the rink or in the hotel, the Sledgehammers dominate, loud, proud and having fun, led by Isaac Vint, an eight-year-old power forward with a motor mouth and unstoppable energy. It’s a team effort with Isaac, Evan, Alyssa, Natalia, Cooper, Elijah, Logan, Tucker, and of course, Paul the Wall pulling together, mucking and grinding in the corners, and supporting each other with humour and grit.
In the final game, the Sledgehammers face their greatest test yet. Will they bring home the victory, suffer the agony of defeat or collapse into their minivan tired from the greatest weekend of their lives? Isaac sums up his team’s approach with: “Let’s show America, what we got.”
“3, 2, 1…Sledgehammers!”
1) How long have most of the kids been playing sledge hockey? What draws them to the sport?
The kids in the documentary have been playing anywhere from one to five years. There are a variety of reasons that the kids play. Many can’t physically skate, it’s safer for people with intellectual challenges, some have siblings or friends that play, but mostly it’s for the fun of it and a sense of independence.
2) Competitive sport often operates in an exclusionary fashion, but the Sledgehammers embody some of the most positive aspects of sport (i.e., teamwork, determination, inclusion and accomplishment). How important was it to capture sledge hockey culture, both on and off the ice?
What I have learned about para sports is that they live up to the ideal of sports more than able-bodied sports. I have coached and played sports for decades, and I was immediately impressed by the inclusive nature of para sports. No one is left behind. The athletes are pulling for their teammates with more severe challenges than them. In a practice or a scrimmage and even some games, it’s not uncommon to see an athlete with a breakaway get the puck to a teammate so that they get to score a goal.
3) Given that Isaac is your son, was it difficult to juggle between your roles as parent and filmmaker?
In a way, it was easier to work with Isaac, since I know him so well. I had a good idea of what he would do and how he would react to the camera. What made it more difficult was having my family at the tournament. It was a busy weekend and there were questions coming at me from every direction.
4) Can you talk about the different communities that have come together as a result of being involved with sledge hockey?
In the stands, parents are helping each other with advice, we compare doctors, treatments, the services we receive, as well as how to travel, and so on. The kids are from all over the map—Syrian refugees, families with money, others without, athletic kids, non-sports families, and they all need each other. They have an appreciation for every participant since there aren’t many to choose from; they need each other to make this work.
6) How has being involved with the team changed your ideas about ability and disability?
This isn’t a film about disability but rather a film about adaptability, mindset, attitude, being resilient, using teamwork, competitive spirit and determination. It’s a great example of diversity and inclusion.
Photo : Thomas Fricke
A life-long Winnipegger and a proud Métis, Sam Vint has performed various roles in the film and television industry, including research, sound, and camera. Sam’s work is deeply immersed in the issues facing Indigenous Canadians. He researched the NFB docudrama We Were Children, the APTN show The Medicine Line, and Going Native, a new production airing soon on APTN.
Sam is currently focusing his attention on writing and directing documentaries, including Alice & Kevin, the story of a mother fighting for services for her disabled son on a remote reserve; and The Ken Ploen Way, about the life and career of one of the greatest players in CFL history.
Sam’s new documentary short, The Tournament, represents the intersection of his greatest passions—his children, the life-affirming power of sports, and telling a great story with an incredible team.
Alicia Smith is a producer for the National Film Board of Canada’s North West Studio, where she works with filmmakers and artists creating documentary, animation and interactive projects. She produced this river, which won Best Short Documentary Film at the Canadian Screen Awards (2017) and Nowhere Land, which won Best Short Documentary Film at imagineNATIVE (2015). Interactive works include Guy Maddin’s Seances, which launched at Tribeca Storyscapes (2016).
Executive Producer (NFB)
Photo : NFB
David Christensen is an Executive Producer at the National Film Board of Canada. He manages the North West Studio, which oversees NFB documentary, animation, and interactive production in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Recent films from the North West Studio include Tasha Hubbard’s “We Will Stand Up”, “Supreme Law” directed by Katerina Cizek, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s “Angry Inuk”, “ WALL”, directed by Cam Christiansen, and “Metamorphosis”, directed by Nova Ami and Velcro Ripper. In total, the NWS has about 25-30 projects in development and production at any one time.
Written and Directed by
Director of Photography
Location Sound Recordist
Original Music Composed & Performed by
John K. Samson
Vocal Performance by
Composed by Jason Tait
Studio Operations Manager
Executive Director English Program
Michelle van Beusekom
Filmed February 2019 in Blaine Minnesota
at the Schwan Super Rink
Dedicated to Larry Hendrickson,
founding father of the Hendrickson Foundation
A production of The National Film Board of Canada – North West Studio
@2020 The National Film Board of Canada
About the NFB
The NFB is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences. NFB producers are embedded in communities across the country, from St. John’s to Vancouver, working with talented creators on innovative and socially relevant projects. The NFB is a leader in gender equity in film and digital media production, and is working to strengthen Indigenous-led production, guided by the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. NFB productions have won over 7,000 awards, including 24 Canadian Screen Awards, 21 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 100 Genies. To access this award-winning content and discover the work of NFB creators, visit NFB.ca, download its apps for mobile devices or visit NFB Pause.