Doug Smith, a 47-year-old who made a name for himself as a brutal “enforcer” in minor league hockey in the 1980s and 1990s, is experiencing renewed celebrity these days as the inspiration for a new feature film called “Goon,” available now via On Demand and in theaters March 30.
In a dark locker room in Quincy, Mass., Doug “The Thug” Smith patiently laces and re-laces his skates for 20 minutes as a Canadian TV crew trains a camera on his feet from one angle after another.
Later, when one of the producers instructs him to look more “intimidating” as he leans forward, Smith finally balks.
“I’m not intimidating,” the Hanson, Mass., police officer and longtime hockey coach protested. “This isn’t Hollywood.”
Smith, a 47-year-old Halifax, Mass., resident who made a name for himself as a brutal “enforcer” in minor league hockey in the 1980s and 1990s, is experiencing renewed celebrity these days as the inspiration for a new feature film called “Goon,” available now via On Demand and in theaters March 30.
Sean William Scott, a Minnesota native best known for his role as “Stifler” in the “American Pie” franchise, plays Doug Glatt, a dopey but loveable bouncer who is given the job of punching out hockey players in the rink even though he can barely skate.
Though the movie is based on a book written by Smith and childhood friend Adam Frattasio about Smith’s career as an enforcer, Smith insists the fictional Glatt is nothing like the real-life Doug Smith –– except for their shared love for slugging it out with other hockey players on the ice.
“I didn’t fight out of anger – I fought out of sport,” he said. “On the ice, I wasn’t mean or intimidating. I wasn’t that kind of player.”
A Quincy native, Smith moved to Hanover as a teenager and spent much of his free time working out and boxing with Frattasio in the Hanover Police Boys Club, a community gym where a photograph of one of Smith’s fights now hangs on the wall. Frattasio and Smith became interested in the brawls they saw during hockey games and the two began practice-fighting in hockey gear, first in a boxing ring at the gym and later on a frozen pond in Hanover.
After being turned away from a training camp for the Carolina Thunderbirds in 1988 because he couldn’t skate well enough, Smith was invited back later in the season to join the team as an enforcer, a player tasked with protecting his teammates and keeping opposing tough guys in check. Smith continued to play for various minor leagues as a “rent a goon” whom coaches would call in when facing a particularly brutal opponent, even when it meant he had to show up for his part-time job as a Hanover police officer with black eyes or cut lips.
Sometime after Smith retired from professional hockey to take a job as a full-time officer with Hanson Police in 1999, he and Frattasio decided to compile the stories from his brief but brutal career for a book. Called “Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League,” the book was published in 2002 and circulated well, particularly among fans of hockey’s rougher side.
Page 2 of 2 - Then in 2005, Frattasio got a phone call from Jesse Shapira, a Pittsburgh-bred hockey fan who had come across the book while doing research for a movie he wanted to produce about hockey enforcers. Shapira bought the rights for the movie and began writing a script with Evan Goldberg, the co-writer of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” and Jay Baruchel, a Canadian-born actor known for roles in “Tropic Thunder” and “Knocked Up.”
Like Smith’s real life, the move is an underdog story about an unlikely hockey player with little skill on the ice who finds success in the minor leagues because of his talent for knocking people out. But it also includes plenty of Hollywood dressing, including a romantic side plot and a backstory about a gay brother.
But like Smith, the fictional Glatt is an even-tempered and polite guy who never fights out of anger and often thanks his opponents for a good bout on the ice.
“He doesn’t get emotional,” said Frattasio. “I very, very rarely saw Doug Smith fight in anger. It’s almost like it’s all business.”
Smith had planned to visit the set while the cast of “Goon” was filming fight scenes at a rink in Canada, but he realized his passport had expired at the last minute and Frattasio had to make the trip without him. When he finally ended up meeting the cast on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival in September, Baruchel stopped in the middle of signing an autograph and tackled him with a hug.
After watching the film at the festival and again when he got home, Smith gives it a diplomatic review: “It was better than I thought it was going to be.”
He said the R-rated movie was a little vulgar for his tastes, though he acknowledges that that could be evidence that he’s getting “old and soft.”
Smith said he’s still a little uncomfortable with the extra attention he receives these days, particularly because it’s been more than a decade since he left professional hockey and several years since he stopped coaching high school hockey and training minor league players.
Though Smith is the one being chased around by Canadian television crews, he insists Frattasio deserves the credit for writing the book and getting it turned into the movie.
“Getting punched in the mouth was nothing to me – I enjoyed it,” he said. “Adam did all the work.”
The Patriot Ledger