Dave Babych is chatting on his cellphone as he drives through Vancouver en route to his next shoot. No longer is he that big bear of a defenceman who played almost 1,200 games over 19 National Hockey League seasons for five teams. These days, he's Mr. B, Hollywood Dave, technical adviser and soon-to-be-star of the silver screen.
Only he doesn't quite see himself that way.
"What kind of character do you play in the movie?" he is asked.
"I'm pretty much the same character as always," he replies. "A big, slug defenceman."
The makers of Slap Shot II: Breaking The Ice are filming in Vancouver, and the man in charge of co-ordinating the hockey scenes to ensure they look and sound as legitimate as possible is our close friend Hollywood Dave Babych. Months ago, the retired player met with director Steve Boyum and signed on as a behind-the-scenes consultant. Now, the guy who recorded 142 goals and 970 penalty minutes has scenes of his own, including lines, some of which don't include profanity.
Here's his best, as delivered over a crackling cellphone while negotiating traffic in British Columbia's Lower Mainland:
"I'll set it up," Babych said.
"We're talking about this team we're going to play and it has a bunch of college guys on it. The guys are all named Trent, Blain, Ash. And I say, 'Sounds like all the guys I beat up in high school.' "
"Did you ever beat up guys in high school?" he is asked.
"No, I was never really like that."
"Are you taking acting lessons?"
"Acting lessons? I've been acting for 20 years."
Slap Shot II is scheduled for release in 2002, the 25th anniversary of the cult classic starring Paul Newman. Even non-hockey fans love the original for its rawness, colourful language and unforgettable characters, such as the half-baked Hanson brothers.
According to industry gossip, Newman will not appear in the sequel. Stephen Baldwin, who has almost as many brothers as Calgary Flames forward Ron Sutter, is the central figure in the movie with Gary Busey. For sure, Steve and Jeff Carlson and their cousin Dave Hanson are back in full farce as the horn-rimmed version of The Three Stooges Meet The Broad Street Bullies.
"The Hanson brothers are the main carryovers from the first movie," said Babych, who added that he's not at liberty to reveal much about the project, other than it is scheduled to wrap up shooting this month.
"They've been really funny. Some of the shots with those guys have had the whole set cracking up. They've really got their act down.
"I actually played against Steve Carlson once in junior, in an exhibition game. He high-sticked me. Being an exhibition game, I didn't think it would be a good time to fight. He probably fought better than I did, anyway."
Like countless other NHL types, Babych has a permanent soft spot for Slap Shot. He said he always watches it if he happens to catch it on television. He chuckles at all the lines and remembers how often they were repeated in NHL dressing rooms and on the ice. He said he has tried to stay true to the original movie, as well as to the game, when overseeing the hockey sequences and dialogue.
"We talk in the dressing room just like it's the NHL," he said. "Paul Houck [who played three games with the Minnesota North Stars in the late 1980s]is the only other NHLer. They've got mostly actors who can skate, but we have a lot of laughs.
"The director's been good to me. He's said, 'Be yourself.' I said: 'What's yourself? Maybe I should have taken acting lessons.' But it's so relaxed and the guys are so easy to work with. They enjoy it as much as I enjoyed playing hockey."
There is time for only a few more questions as Babych arrives at a New Westminster arena where he will shoot his next scene, one that Hollywood insiders say could see him nominated for a best slug award at next year's Oscars -- either that or coaching in the NHL.
"Has anything in the movie matched one of your NHL experiences?" he is asked.
"Every day, something pops up that reminds you of something," he says. "We were doing a scene last night and there was a skirmish here and there. They asked me if I'd ever fought in the NHL. I said I did when I was younger. That reminded me of a line [former NHL goaltender]Glen Hanlon once said about me. He said the last fight I won was by four blocks."
"Will that line make it into the movie?"
"Who knows? It might."