I was born late in 1979, and first saw Youngblood when I was quite young. In fact, it was the first hockey movie I ever saw, and to date the only one I own. Part of my fascination with this film resulted from my passion for the sport of ice hockey, which I began playing at the age of 4 and maintained competitively through the collegiate level.
What I like most about Youngblood is that the story is centered around one player (Dean) and his struggles to advance his career, despite his talent. The obstacles he faces in the film: lack of toughness, and clashing with the coach, and knowing his chances to go pro are running slim, are typical themes hockey players share as they advance toward the ultimate goal of one day playing in the NHL. While Slapshot is hockey's cult classic, it is more like Animal House on Ice than a realistic attempt to portray ice hockey, which Youngblood attempts, and quite honestly a film of such nature should be produced for the avid hockey fans around the world.
Without a doubt, Youngblood fails to portray skillful hockey, and the off-ice action only mildly captures the life of a junior hockey player, but had the proper research been done and certain changes made pre-production, Youngblood could have joined Slapshot in hockey fans' movie collections. The games needed to be faster, the dialogue snappier, (especially the Keanu Reeves brainbusters) and the Rocky-ish training diminished the quality of the film, because not only would Dean not go from being the weakest in the league to kicking the toughest guy's butt in a week, but most wannabe professionals and junior teams have regimented training programs to follow on a regular basis, and do not begin two days before the championship game of the league they're in.
Cutting that scene could have made room for a far more realistic side of the game, such as Dean being contacted by prospective coaches, agents and other interested parties to notify him they'd be coming to watch his games. (like most prospects with hopes of going pro have to deal with)
Dean simply mentions that he wants to go pro and needs to play juniors if he's going to get a contract, but that is the last we hear about him playing pro, aside from mentioning it to Jessie, coach Chadwick's sexy daughter, and Dean's love interest. From my experiences, any player in junior hockey who did not receive a fair amount of attention from scouts was quite likely not going anywhere, so there should have been some effort to include them to advance the plot of his odds of making it, because scouts would have certainly had more influence on Dean playing tougher than anyone in the film does, although in reality his teammates should have been getting on him too.
As for character interplay, Dean's relationship with Chadwick's daughter is entertaining, if far-fetched. Perhaps the most realistic relationship between characters in the film is the one between Sutton and Youngblood, as the top talents of hockey teams often have an appreciation for one another and pal-up off the ice. Not to mention, the Hollywood impact on the film is the only logical explanation for Youngblood leaving the team after Sutton's injury. In all my years as a player, I'd never heard of that one, although, I suppose it just explains Dean's irrational behavior resulting from his conflicts with coach Chadwick and his nemesis, Racki.
On the whole, I appreciate this movie, but I certainly wish it had more of an advanced pace and that it better explored and explained some of the typical stereotypes of hockey players that it shows (star player chases and gets the girl everyone wants, the bar scene, the initiation, the opposing team's heckling fans, etc.)
As a long-time hockey player and fan who now studies Scriptwriting at Ithaca College, I feel somewhat obligated to pen a true-to-life hockey film for the die-hard lovers of the game out there. Somebody needs to!! Youngblood, if nothing else, at least will make a decent reference.