Grant Fuhr, the first black superstar in the NHL, played 79 games of a 82-game season for the St. Louis Blues in his mid-30s, a league record. The next season, he played 73 on a completely rebuilt knee. When he started out at age 19, he became the starting goalie for one of the biggest dynasties in sports, the Edmonton Oilers, where he played 10 years and earned five Stanley Cup championships. During the 15 years in between, he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, Fuhr won 403 games in the NHL.
“Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story” displays his acrobatic playing style and cat-like reflexes that made him a 6-time all-star. It also delves into his troubles on and off the ice – calling hometown fans “jerks,” announcing his retirement at age 26 as a contract stunt and suspended for a whole NHL season because of cocaine use.
The ultimate “money goalie,” Grant Fuhr’s tale of highs and lows, and redemption to cement his reputation as one of the true greats, is not that uncommon for professional athletes. But what makes a standard sports documentary “Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story” stand out is the legend himself.
Director Don Metz captures what a fierce competitor he was, and in candid interviews, Fuhr, 57, is an affable, interesting person. As a person of color to break a lot of barriers and rack up “first” achievements in sports, Fuhr’s life is a captivating journey.
He grew up in Spruce Grove, Alberta, the adopted son of white parents, Betty and Robert Fuhr. His birth parents were an African Canadian father and a Caucasian mother, but he had no connection to them, he says in the film. He spent his youth playing hockey, and left home at age 16 to play junior hockey, signed by Victoria. He was the eighth overall draft pick when signed by the Oilers in 1981.
Written by Scot Morison, the film focuses on his playing years and does not spend much time on his personal life. Fuhr wasn’t one to court the limelight. One must watch the credits to see the list of all his accomplishments – and that he works now as the golf pro at the Desert Dunes in Palm Springs.
Among the talking heads are his Oilers, Kings and Blues teammate Wayne Gretzky, who called him the greatest goalie in NHL history, teammates Mark Messier and Martin Brodeur, his Oilers coach Glenn Sather and Blues teammates Chris Pronger, Brett Hull and Kelly Chase. Former Blues Coach Mike Keenan is also in the film.
Fuhr was signed by the Blues as a free agent in 1995, was out for the ’97-’98 season with injuries and was traded to the Calgary Flames in 1999. He retired from hockey in 2000, and his number 31 was retired with the Oilers in 2003.
In a smooth and tidy 72 minutes, Metz matter-of-factly presents the material, seamlessly weaving game video with archival photos, newspaper clippings and talking heads.
The film opens exclusively at six Marcus theatres in St. Louis Oct. 4 for one week only: Des Peres, Chesterfield, Ronnie’s, Arnold, O’Fallon and St. Charles.