The 47-year-old works as a police officer in Hanson, Mass., not far from where he grew up in Hanover or where he now lives in Halifax with his wife and two young daughters. So how exactly is it that a fictionalized version of Smith’s life story is now the subject of a major motion picture starring Seann William Scott, American Pie’s Stifler himself, as Smith’s screen alter ego?
“I was shocked to say the least,” Smith said. “It’s not every day that something like that happens to Doug Smith. I lead a pretty simple life. I’m married with a couple kids. I work my 40 hours a week, and then some. I got a phone call from Adam and he said there’s some Hollywood people sniffing around. They want to buy our book and make a movie about me and we were just in shock. ‘How? Why?’ were all we could think.”
Adam is Smith’s lifelong friend Adam Frattasio, who now works as a teacher. A couple decades ago, he was teaching Smith how to be a hockey enforcer, starting Smith’s strange and wonderful odyssey on the ice, where Smith was not always so mild mannered. He battled his way up through the ranks of professional hockey in a wild ride that the pair chronicled in the book, Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey.
The film version of Goon, which is already in theaters in Canada and will open in the United States on April 13, is not a true story. Screenwriters Evan Goldberg, one of the writers of Superbad, and Jay Baruchel, who starred in She’s Out of My League and appeared in Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, took some liberties with the story. But the fictional tale of Seann William Scott‘s “Doug Glatt” captures the spirit of Smith’s real-life journey.
“It’s a comedy,” Smith said. “The story has a realistic side to it, but it’s almost like it’s a spoof on hockey fighting, too.
“It came out better than I thought it was going to be,” Smith added. “It’s not a true autobiography. There’s a lot of Hollywood script in it, but there are some realisms in the movie that are true to the book and to my life, so that’s good enough for me. I’m not going to complain.”
Smith, who played for seven teams in four leagues with stops ranging from Louisiana to New Brunswick, has been traveling almost as much since the film was finished. He and Frattasio were invited to the film’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, and attended a premiere in New York earlier this year.
“That was an incredible experience,” Smith said. “I got to meet the directors and producers, all the actors. I got to meet Seann William Scott, who plays me so to speak, and Jay Baruchel, who plays Adam. They were great guys. They had read our book, studying for the role so to speak, and were excited to meet us too. After the film they actually called me up on stage. And I don’t think a lot of people thought this was based on a real person and they were like, ‘This is real?’ So that was really cool for me.”
A Crazy Idea Turns into a Dream Come True
And while the film is an entertaining take on hockey life in the minors, with its raunchy comedy and on-ice violence drawing inevitable comparisons to the classic Slap Shot, Smith’s real story is even more interesting.
Unlike most professional hockey players, Smith didn’t grow up skating on local ponds or playing youth hockey. He didn’t skate at all until he was 19. That was when Frattasio came up with the idea of turning his boxer buddy into a hockey pugilist.
“Adam was the one who was a hockey player growing up,” Smith said. “I was an amateur boxer and I fought in all the local tournaments as a kid growing up, the New England Golden Gloves and all that. Adam always felt that if I could learn to skate I could use that fighting background and I could be a goon. And back in the 80s, fighting was a huge deal in the NHL and in the minor leagues. A guy could hardly skate but could play in the minor leagues at least just if he had the ability to fight and the willingness to drop the gloves. That was Adam’s vision.”
So with Frattasio tutoring him, Smith hit the ice, often literally at first.
“I would do power skating with little kids,” Smith said. “And people would be like, ‘You’re like 20 years old, what are you doing out here with these 8-year-olds?’ But once they saw me skate they knew why.
But Smith picked up the basics well enough, while also learning how to translate his fighting skills to the ice, and within a few years, he had his first shot at pro hockey with a tryout for the Carolina Thunderbirds of the fledgling East Coast Hockey League in 1988.
“For me to get out on the ponds at 19 was hard,” Smith said. “I didn’t play in high school. I didn’t skate as a little kid. I didn’t play organized hockey until I was 20. And maybe I was lucky, maybe I was an athlete and was able to pick it up, but three or four years later, I was in the East Coast League.”
Smith played 28 games for Carolina that season, racking up 179 penalty minutes and adding an assist for the lone point of his pro career. A handful of games for the Johnstown Chiefs, coached by Steve Carlson, one of the legendary Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot, followed the next year. Then came a season in the New Brunswick Senior League with the Miramichi Gagnon Packers.
The Fight of His Life
It wasn’t until the 1993-94 season that Smith got his big break, with a call-up for his first game in the American Hockey League with the Moncton Hawks. There he took on the AHL’s reigning heavyweight champ, Frank “The Animal” Bialowas, who was fresh off a stint in the NHL with Toronto, where he had fought Tony Twist and Tie Domi.
Smith readily admits he came in second in that bout with Bialowas, but it still represented the highpoint of his career.
“People always ask me what was the best fight you ever had and what was the worst fight you ever had, and I tell them it was the same fight,” Smith said. “My best fight was against Frank Bialowas. He gave me the opportunity to fight in the American Hockey League when I got called up to Moncton.
“I started off pretty good, but he was a strong guy and I lost my grip on his right arm and he tagged me with two or three shots,” Smith continued. “I think the thing I was most grateful for was that I was able to take a good punch. I definitely took four or five straight, hard shots, but I was happy I didn’t go down. I took the punches and skated off. I went in for repairs and took eight or nine stitches over my eye, and it was glorious. It didn’t matter that I lost the fight. I was there. I had made it to the American Hockey League, the second-best league in the world. And just a couple of years before that, I was skating on ponds.”
Smith had two more stints in the AHL, both with Springfield, plus a cup of coffee in the old International Hockey League with the Phoenix Roadrunners before ending his career back where it started, playing a pair of games and getting in one final fight in the ECHL with the Louisiana IceGators in 1997-98.
Smith and Bialowas have never spoken outside of exchanging invitations to dance nearly two decades ago, but Smith has never forgotten how the veteran brawler was willing to give an unknown kid a chance that night in Moncton.
“I have never met Frank Bialowas before or after, but we have met on the ice,” Smith said. “But if I could meet Frank Bialowas today, I’d give him a hug and a kiss and tell him thanks for giving me the opportunity because you made my life as a hockey player for real.”
In the movie, Doug Glatt does get to meet with the legendary tough guy he’s destined to clash with in the film’s climatic final scene. Glatt’s opponent, Ross “The Boss” Rhea, is played by Liev Schreiber, part of an impressive cast that also includes Eugene Levy as Glatt’s father and Kim Coates, of Sons of Anarchy fame, as his coach.
The film also ends with a touch of reality, with clips of Smith’s actual minor league fights and interviews shown over the credits.
Staying Involved with the Game
Smith’s own hockey credits continued long after his playing days ended. He served as an assistant coach for the Hanover High team for 20 years and worked as a consultant for the Bruins for eight years. Smith served as a fighting instructor for the organization, working with young players coming from Europe and out of college to teach them how to defend themselves on ice if necessary.
He also worked closely with the club’s enforcers with their AHL affiliate in Providence, helping them to hone their fighting skills. Among Smith’s pupils were heavyweights Dennis Bonvie, Doug Doull, Colton Orr and Steve MacIntyre, who all went on to spend time in the NHL.
Smith currently stays involved in the game working as a linesman in local junior leagues and the Federal Hockey League, and still runs a fight camp each summer.
But his primary focus is on his family, which now includes daughters Vanessa, 3, and Victoria, 20 months, and his work with the Hanson Police department, where Smith has gone from performing the role of a policeman on the ice to an actual police officer on the street.
Along the way, he and his lifelong friend Frattasio just happened to put together a book about the journey, which has now been made into a movie and put Smith into a spotlight he never dreamed of when he took those first tentative steps on the ice as a 19-year-old with a crazy dream of being a hockey goon.
“We never thought it would get as much attention as it did,” Smith said. “So to have a movie loosely based on it is unbelievable. Who would ever have thought that?”