It’s Tuesday morning at the Chicago Wolves’ practice rink in Hoffman Estates. Goaltender Matt Climie stands in the crease and pretends he doesn’t know what’s coming next.
With several Wolves teammates standing behind him, forward Nathan Longpre carries a puck toward the net and deliberately crashes into Climie. Both go sprawling to the ice, though their falls exaggerate the amount of contact Longpre creates.
Then Longpre does it again. And again. Finally comes the word from the director: “CUT!” The cameras set up on Triphahn Ice Arena’s home-team bench stop rolling. Film-crew people resume bustling around and doing film-crew people things.
Oh, you didn’t know there’s a movie being made that involves the Chicago Wolves? And that the team’s practice rink was taken over by the film crew on Monday and Tuesday? Then let’s back up a little bit.
“Who Gets the Dog?” is a romantic comedy featuring Alicia Silverstone and “True Blood” actor Ryan Kwanten that’s being filmed throughout Chicago and due for release in the fall. We won’t spoil the plot here, but it doesn’t take much Googling to discover that Silverstone and Kwanten play a divorcing couple battling for custody of their dog.
Kwanten’s character, as it turns out, plays goaltender for the Chicago Wolves. Once the production company and the Wolves started to talk, it became obvious Kwanten’s role ought to be carried out as realistically as possible. Kwanten and some members of the film crew started hanging around the team in late January to prepare. Last week, Kwanten visited the practice rink so Climie could tutor him.
“He hasn’t been a goalie before, hasn’t really skated before, being from Australia,” Climie said. “I was showing him the finer points of being a goaltender and some little tips. He wanted some advice on how to look like a goalie and play like a goalie. It was like 30-40 minutes. I was taking shots on him and helping him figure it out. He was wearing the full gear and I put him through drills. He had a pretty good sweat going by the end.”
On Tuesday, Kwanten had the chance to put his new skills to the test. He, along with several extras, borrowed full sets of Wolves gear from equipment manager Craig Kogut and his staff in order to shoot scenes on the ice.
After filming some scenes in the early morning, Kwanten took a break and 10 Wolves took the ice to film some practice scenes. Climie, wearing the same outfit as Kwanten right down to the mask, got in goal while Rob Bordson, Mathieu Brodeur, Jake Chelios, Jani Hakanpaa, Longpre, Brent Regner, David Shields, Brent Sopel and Yannick Veilleux wore their usual practice gear. They did so for authenticity’s sake and because the Wolves had a 10:30 a.m. practice in Triphahn’s other rink and they needed to go straight there once their shoot concluded.
(Now’s a good time to back up a step and explain how Climie might deserve a sliver of his first screenwriting credit. Before the Wolves took the ice, the director visited Climie just outside the locker room and explained that the script called for Kwanten’s character to take a puck to the head and fall to the ground. When Climie suggested that goalies take shots to the head all the time and manage to stay upright, they discussed alternatives and decided to switch to the Longpre crease-crashing scene mentioned above).
In addition to Longpre’s star turn (which he repeated later with Kwanten in goal), the real Wolves were asked to skate around with a puck as if they were scrimmaging while their coaches (not John Anderson, Mark Hardy and Brad Tapper) watched from the stands.
They checked each other gently, roared in to shoot on Climie and, if the smiles on their faces were any indication, enjoyed themselves to the fullest.
“It was fun,” Brodeur said. “You realize how hard it is to be an actor with all the cameras and all the takes they have to do. You do a scene three or four times and that was only for one angle of the camera. Then you have to do it another 3-4 times from another angle. It was a great experience.”
“I’ve got high hopes for my part,” Chelios deadpanned. “I’m looking at it as a launching pad for my Hollywood career, so I would be crushed if it wound up on the cutting-room floor.”
One person who almost certainly won’t be on the cutting-room floor is Wolves assistant general manager Bill Bentley, who has been the film crew’s primary liaison throughout this process. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Bentley already had filled four separate roles in the movie. (Here’s a hint: Bentley and Wolves TV Production Manager Sarah Draheim will be battling for the 2016 Oscar that goes to Best Scoreboard Operator).
Want more info on “Who Gets The Dog?” Check the Wolves’ Twitter and Instagram feeds for behind-the-scenes photos…and you might want to come out to the Wolves’ home game on Friday against Oklahoma City.