There's a good chance that, before August, you've never heard of the Danbury Trashers.
Not unless you lived in Connecticut. Not unless you were a fan of the defunct United Hockey League. Not unless you're truly immersed in the weird, wild and wacky depths of hockey the regular fan will have touched.
And yet, it's the topic of one of Netflix's trending documentaries right now.
Released at the end of August, the streaming service launched Untold: Crime and Penalties, the story of the crazy beginnings of the Trashers minor pro hockey team. Jimmy Galante, a "real-life Tony Soprano" as he's described in the film, purchased an expansion hockey team for $500,000 and put his son in control. Not the craziest thing you've ever heard, considering rich guys buy their kids expensive things all the time. But they don't typically gift a hockey team to their 17-year-old sons and put them in charge of the organization. But that's exactly what Galante did for his high-school offspring, A.J.
The Trashers were focused on having a bad-boy image - piss everyone off and win the hearts of the blue-collar town. The first player signed by the teenage GM was Brent Gretzky - yeah, the former NHLer known for contributing a whopping four points to the best brother duo in hockey history. That, plus the ridiculous age of the man behind the operation, should have made them the laughing stock of the league.
And somehow, they became one of the best teams in the UHL.
They had Jon Mirasty, a well-known hockey goon who had nearly 400 penalty minutes in his first year of pro hockey and did his best to carve in anyone's head that got in his way. They had Rumun "Nigerian Nightmare" Ndur, a former Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers heavyweight who had 289 penalty minutes in his one year with the Thrashers. One of the stars of the show was Brad Wingfeld, a Canadian tough guy who legitimately had 576 penalty minutes in 2002-03 with Elmira. Among other clips, they showed his leg pointing the wrong direction, him screaming in excruciating pain and, oh, part of his missing finger from a different hockey incident. So you can start to tell what team they were trying to build here.
They even had Mike Rupp, two years removed from scoring the game-winning goal to win the Stanley Cup for the New Jersey Devils. With the NHL lockout, Rupp's inclusion was definitely unique, but he was a near point-per-game player in a town that couldn't get enough of having an NHL-caliber player in the fold.
This was pure minor league hockey at its... worst? But it was a hit, with most games throughout the season getting packed to the brim with fans looking for a show. It was the first real professional hockey team in the city, and they embraced the truly weird team.
But there were problems behind the scenes, and that's the focal point of the movie. Without spoiling too much, there's a reason why the team is named after literal trash with an angry circular waste bin as a logo. While Galante and his family were quickly becoming known for a hockey team with a fight-first focus, it wasn't how Papa was making his money to fund it all, and there was some other legal issues going on with the team and the league behind the scenes. Using money earned elsewhere, the Trashers had the league's highest payroll - and it wasn't legal.
The team lasted just two years, but they're always a popular trivia piece in minor league hockey history. If you're a fan of true crime with a sports twist, you're going to love this. Untold is a five-part documentary series looking at other controversial sports moments, including a look at the infamous Malice at the Palace. It's designed so sports fans will enjoy it, but that non-sports fans won't be left confused, either. That solid blend of storytelling helped the show in a big way, and it's definitely worth watching if you enjoy zany hockey re-telling.