There’s often a lot of excitement about new sports documentaries looking back at the past, but it should be noted that many excellent documentaries have already been done. NHL Network is showing off one of those past documentaries to what will likely be mostly a new audience, airing the 1987 documentary The Boys on the Bus Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. Eastern).
The documentary went behind the scenes to follow Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe (who narrates) and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers through the 1986-87 season, which would climax with them winning their third-straight Stanley Cup (claimed in seven games against the Philadelphia Flyers). Here’s a clip NHL Network provided, which has some rather interesting commentary on how Gretzky handled hearing the same questions in each city, some footage of him joking with teammates at a meal (and showing off a lighter side of his personality than media and the public often saw), and Lowe commenting on how Gretzky carefully maintained his public persona:
The hour-long documentary was directed by famed journalist Bob McKeown, who’s worked for CBS News, Dateline NBC and CBC’s The Fifth Estate. McKeown, a former football player at Yale and with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, has also directed other documentaries, including 1988’s Strangers in a Strange Land: The Adventures of a Canadian Film Crew in China, and written others still, including 2007’s The Wild Horse Redemption.
The Boys on the Bus does reflect the styles of the time in some ways, and it doesn’t have the flourishes of modern behind-the-scenes shows like 24/7 or Hard Knocks, but the access McKeown managed to get to a team (and a player in Gretzky in particular) that often didn’t dole out much is still impressive today. It’s a worthy documentary for NHL Network to re-air, especially considering that many hockey fans today may never have seen it. Those interested in Gretzky (who NHLN has been doing lots on lately; E.J. Hradek and Steve Mears reported from Gretzky’s fantasy camp in Las Vegas Tuesday and Wednesday), the 80s Oilers’ dynasty, or NHL history in general may want to check this out.
The Boys On The Bus will air on NHL Network at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Wednesday.