There have been over a dozen cartoons featuring hockey, but sadly, most of them are not very good. Cartoons like The Raccoons on Ice (1981) and The Magic Hockey Skates (2012) are your typical children’s stories where the good guys come out on top no matter the odds. Others, like Hockey Homicide (1945) and an episode of South Park from 2006 entitled “Stanley’s Cup” play up the violent aspect of the sport without giving any of the game’s more graceful elements a second thought.
But among the clichés of heroes overcoming impossible odds or hockey really just being about the fights are three excellent cartoons that are required viewing for hockey fans, young and old.
No. 1 – The Sweater (1980)
What it is about: A Montreal Canadiens’ fan recalls his boyhood in Quebec during the 1940s, where every boy idolized Maurice (Rocket) Richard and owned a Habs sweater with No. 9 on the back. When the boy’s mother orders him a new Canadiens’ jersey from the Eaton’s mail order catalog, he receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey by mistake and is ridiculed by his friends and teammates.
Why it is awesome: No other hockey-themed cartoon comes close to The Sweater, written and narrated by Roch Carrier, and based on his book The Hockey Sweater. We know what it is like to be a kid in awe of an athlete — and what it is like to love a team and to hate that team’s rival. Carrier’s tale is as funny as it is relatable, regardless of your age, nationality or favorite team.
No. 2 – Shaybu! Shaybu! (1964)
What it is about: In this Russian cartoon, a young hockey player gets his shot on a local team during a championship game when a player is injured.
Why it is awesome: Shaybu! Shaybu! — Russian for “Puck! Puck!,” or more specifically, “Give me the puck!” — is your typical hero’s journey. Most who play hockey aspire to make it to the next level, to prove themselves and dream to be the hero of the game. The cartoon, by animation director Boris Dёzhkina, has virtually no dialog, meaning that anyone can appreciate this tale of rising to the challenge. Four years later, Dёzhkina created another hockey cartoon, aptly titled The Rematch, which is not as good but still fun to watch.
No. 3 – The Simpsons: Lisa on Ice (1994)
What it is about: In this episode from the sixth season of The Simpsons, Lisa is failing gym class. To get credit for gym, she joins a youth hockey team and plays goalie — much to the chagrin of her brother Bart, who is the star forward on another team.
Why it is awesome: Released back when The Simpsons was still at the height of its popularity, “Lisa on Ice” has many great hockey references. Lisa joining an all-boys team as their goalie is an obvious nod to Manon Rheaume, while Bart’s team — The Mighty Pigs — is clearly meant to riff on one of the NHL’s newest expansion teams at the time. Even Homer Simpson does a great job at being a stereotypically-bad hockey dad. The episode culminates in a championship game between the siblings, but in the end proves that the bonds of family are stronger than the thrill of competition.