TORONTO — Jay Baruchel’s passion for hockey is as well documented as his acting and filmmaking career.
The comedy star has frequently stated his love of the Montreal Canadiens, and made two hockey films with the “Goon” franchise.
But in his new memoir/sports book, “Born Into It,” the Montreal native digs even deeper, providing an in-depth history of the team, the sport and his life, and expressing strong feelings about the NHL.
“I take issue with where it’s at, with what they’ve done to the game,” Baruchel said in an interview, noting that while the NHL has treated him well over the years, his devotion is to the Habs, not the league.
“Now, I’m just some lunatic at the back of the bar hollering at the TV with this stuff. I’m not trying to legislate anything. But I was bred to hate the Americanization of the NHL and the game of hockey.
“As a Canadian hockey fan, the messaging is that we are not as big a deal as the States. The expansion teams always go down there. And we don’t need this many teams and we don’t need a league this big. The only way it should get bigger is if we put more teams in Canada.”
Hockey fans in Canada support their teams with their wallets more than those in the U.S., Baruchel posited, noting the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are among the top 10 most valuable teams in the league.
“It’s really hard when you’re a fan of one of the 10 to suffer the nonsense of salary caps and … this aspirational idea that we need to get more and new fans, as opposed to rewarding and cultivating cultures that already exist,” he said.
“Also, the best hockey of the year is consistently junior hockey, and it’s way more entertaining, way more on the line and just way more fast-paced.”
The NHL, by contrast, has a much longer season and is “whitewashed,” he added.
“It’s dumbed down and it’s a bit boring, and they seem to remove what’s interesting about it time and time again, without making the changes that I think need to be made,” Baruchel said.
“We shouldn’t be playing on rinks as small as we play on. The boys are bigger and faster than they’ve ever been, they’re wearing more pads than they’ve ever worn, brain damage is skyrocketing. Well, it’s because we’re playing on the same … rink that they played on when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.”
Released on Tuesday, “Born Into It” aims to capture “the romance and mythos of watching the game” and “what it is to be a fan of this particular sport in this particular country,” said Baruchel.
The typically private actor opens up about growing up with a Catholic mother and Jewish father in a lower income bracket than those of his schoolmates from the affluent Westmount suburb of Montreal. His father was a huge Habs fans and plagued with addiction issues.
Revealing such details “was very, very weird and counter-intuitive,” said Baruchel, “because in addition to being private, I was also raised to air my dirty laundry in private. I was also raised to believe that my life is not as interesting as any other things that we could be talking about.”
But in order to detail the experience of being a Canadiens fan, he found he couldn’t separate it from his family dynamics.
“I had to just suck it up and own that my story might help some people,” said the star of comedies including “Knocked Up,” “Tropic Thunder” and “This is the End.”
“That’s how I was able to reconcile and justify typing about myself, was that maybe there are some other kids out there who have had similar experiences but nobody has described them yet.”
Baruchel is now editing his next directorial effort, the Canadian horror “Random Acts of Violence,” which he also co-wrote.
“I’m so incredibly proud of this thing and so eager to show the world,” Baruchel said. “I think it’s going to mess some people up. We went very, very, very hard with it. It’s a horror movie but it’s also very artsy, it’s unique and colourful and vivid and incredibly, incredibly harsh, and hopefully real compelling, too.”
He’s also engaged to be married and living in Toronto. So, does he attend Leafs games these days?
“Only when the Habs are playing,” he said with a laugh. “Actually, that’s not true. I’ve gone to one Leafs game that the Habs weren’t at.
“Winnipeg was in town last year and I went to see them — and of course I was rooting for the Jets the whole time.”
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press