‘Lace Bite’ Hockey Documentary Aims To Knock Out Cystic Fibrosis
Hockey is a tough sport full of sacrifice, injuries and deep bonds within the sport’s community.
It’s no wonder that 40 brave women ages 19 to 51 braved to play the longest hockey game ever—243 hours worth in 10 days—to raise awareness and money for cystic fibrosis.
It is all captured in the documentary feature Lace Bite, which will be screened at the Sarasota Film Festival at 3 p.m. Saturday and 3:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20. It is also a selection of the Through Women’s Eyes Festival at SFF. Tickets are still available.
Lace Bite is so much more than a hockey movie by telling the stories of these players who want to raise awareness and funds to battle such a cruel disease.
Cystic fibrosis is an incurable genetic disease that causes inflammation and mainly involves mucus blocking the lungs and other vital organs, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and comes in a variety of mutations. With the help of medications and exercise regimens, the average age of survival for someone with the disease is in their mid thirties, according to the foundation.
“It’s just such a horrible disease. You’re dealt some really crappy hands when you’re dealt that disease because your lungs—that’s your life,” Co-director Carmen Klotz said. “Even now, we met 20-year-olds that go, ‘You know, I’m lucky to be here.'”
The Longest Game
The Longest Game 4 CF as it’s called was played during the summer of 2011 in Burnaby, British Columbia, which is just east of Vancouver. The marathon game/fundraiser was created by Vallerie Skelly, who held the game to honor her friend Lucia Tavano, who she made a promise to before she died 20 years ago.
“They both worked at a Cystic Fibrosis chapter, and Val learned all about the disease and what it was like to live with it, and Lucia’s lungs failed and Val watched her decline and die,” Klotz said.
So Skelly decided to fulfill a promise and raise money and awareness for Tavano, wanting to help end the disease, but how?
“One day she just said, ‘What if we played a world record hockey game and gain awareness for Cystic Fibrosis?'” Klotz said. One after another, more and more women said they were game to beat the Guinness World Record for the longest hockey game ever played.
Other players rallied around Vancouver area resident Eva Markvoort, who passed away three years ago, and was the subject of the documentary 65 Red Roses, which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network. That led to the inspiration to beat the previous record by 65 minutes.
The team featured players of all abilities, including goalie Danielle Dube, who won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan for Team Canada.
Tugged by the story, Klotz and co-director Sharron Bates wanted to capture it.
“We didn’t know anybody with cystic fibrosis, and for us, it was just about doing something that is going to help others, and we were moved about,” Klotz told Patch in a phone interview. “I think it says something for anybody to ignore their own situation for a bit to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and help.”
The normal National Hockey League game lasts 60 minutes, maybe 65 minutes with overtime, with 82 games in a full season (not counting this lockout-shortened season). These women played the equivalent of three NHL seasons.
“They had two teams of 20 women, and they couldn’t switch teams. They could only stop 10 minutes every hour to clean the ice,” Klotz said. “Otherwise, the game was always on. It was always on for 10 days.”
The two referees, which were required, kept track of which player scored, but decided not to tally assists, and that could get to be a bit much. The White Team won 1,211 to the Red Team’s 849 goals.
Games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which can go to as many overtimes as necessary to resolve a tied game, don’t even come close. The record is a paltry six overtimes , with 116 minutes and 30 seconds, with a Detroit Red Wings victory over the Montreal Maroons way back in 1936. The score of that nine-period game? 1-0.
“Every time you walked into that rink, the game was on unless there was an injury, and that would be an example where the game might be stopped just to handle the injury,” Klotz said.
And those injuries—while nothing on the extreme of a broken leg like Kevin Ware, players could barely move. One of the main culprits was a condition called lace bite.
“I can tell you from a player’s point of view it sucks a lot,” Bates said. “It is pretty debilitating. What it is, is the tongue of your skate and the laces come across the top of the foot comes across a tendon that’s at the top of your foot. Having a constant pressure of the laces while you’re skating constantly bruises that tendon, so every time you skate, it basically being punched.”
In one scene, players are shown putting a combination of petroleum jelly, cut-out yoga mats and shrink wrap to help create extra comfort and padding to avoid the pain from the lace bite. Blister kits ran out after the first day, too. Other players increased their skate size by two full sizes as their feet swelled. Some goalies couldn’t even walk up stairs. No time to just throw somebody else to take your place.
“They only had one sub, so out of those 20 people, they had the players and one sub, so in an hour, you only got off every 15 minutes,” Bates said. “You were skating constantly in that amount of time.”
The average hockey shift is about 40 to 60 seconds, maybe a three minutes if you’re pushing it in a beer league.
One player even had a chiropractor come in to fix her back, according to the filmmakers. Another girl was out with a concussion, staying on the property to recover and re-entered the game near the end. The players were only allowed a four hour break to shower, eat, sleep and recover and were not allowed to leave the premises. A rare eight-hour break was provided a couple times, but that didn’t mean it was easy to fall asleep.
“The arena didn’t have a place to stay to sleep, so they stayed in an RV in the back,” Klotz said.
Heck, even the Zamboni had to have surgery. It takes 9 to 10 minutes to clean and resurface the ice, Bates explained, and that was just too long for the game.
“They had to physically alter the Zamboni so they could clean the ice in seven and a half minutes,” she said.
Surprisingly, the ice wasn’t that chopped up from the players.
“They weren’t skating very hard to cut up the ice,” Bates said. “They were so exhausted, they were just trying to stay injury free.”
Word spread around about the game, and more and more people would show up to support the fight against cystic fibrosis.
“The families would come and they were crying,” Bates said. “Everybody in their was crying because everybody was so tired, and they’ve been thinking about it.”
Wiping away the tears, the women refocused on their mission and some caught a second wind of energy to carry them through.
“Some of the girls had direct experiences with cystic fibrosis, but it really wasn’t that many,” Bates said. “They were learning about it, meeting people as they went , and they were getting more and more interested.”
The inspirational moments, mixed in with the cabin fever the players go through, help lighten the mood of what could easily have been a heavy film.
“It really is a ride that you don’t feel, ‘Oh my God, it’s so heavy, I can’t take it,'” Klotz said. “We take you to really an inspiration.”
Groups have asked Klotz and Bates, Beyond Your Eyes Productions, if the movie could be screened as a fundraiser, and the filmmakers are also reaching out to Cystic Fibrosis organizations for screenings, too. A DVD of the film is available for purchase that organizations are using for awareness as well.
The filmmakers just wish they could be in Sarasota to witness the reaction to the screening in sunny Florida and are honored to be part of the Sarasota Film Festival and Through Women’s Eyes.
“We hope that people give the film a chance,” Bates said. “Some people may think that a film about a world record attempt by 40 women might not be that interesting, but the comments that we receive are that it’s enjoyable 68 minutes, and that they’re glad that they’ve seen it.”