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Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck

1975, Starring Marthe Thierry, Michel Maillot and the 1975 Montreal Canadiens. Directed by Jean LaFleur and Peter Svatek.

I love Disney movies. The Little Mermaid? Never seen it. Lion King? No, thanks. What I love those are those live action Disney barrel-scrapings that entertained us Sunday nights throughout childhood. And our parents thought the word Disney stood for quality. Suckers? While they were making dinner, I was being warped by questionable fare like Bride of Boogedy, Midnight Madness, Condorman, and Watcher in the Woods.

That's why I was excited when I first saw that Canadian cult director Jean LaFleur, who had just finished making one of those Ilsa films, made Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck. Although not a real Disney film, jewel smugglers hide a cache of diamonds in a Montreal Canadiens' hockey puck in this kid's movie. It seems like almost every one of those live action Disney movies had jewel smugglers foiled by kids and a spunky pet.

Despite it's obscurity, Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck is one of the more Canadian films reviewed on this site. Young Pierre and his sister Catou are big Montreal Canadiens fans who live at the orphanage in Chicoutimi. One day when Pierre goes to buy flowers, he overhears the shopkeep talking to a man about a diamond smuggling scheme. Pierre's eyes open wide as he hears our dastardly duo Mr Belletete and bumbling florist Napoleon discuss how they are going to retrieve a puck full of diamonds from a jeweler in Quebec City. Then, they are going to slip the puck into a Montreal Canadiens equipment bag, and retrieve it at the next hockey game in the United States. Pierre runs off to tell someone, foolishly leaving his wallet behind. Mr Belletete realizes that they were overheard, and vows to get that boy.

Back at the orphanage, Pierre tries to convince Sister Margaret and the other nuns, but to no avail. Finally he decides to take matters into his own hands, and with Catou, he sneaks out of the orphanage just as a suspicious flower delivery van pulls up. Pierre and Catou stowaway in the back of the van when Mr Belletete and Napoleon go in to talk to the nuns, and the kids are discovered missing.

Later, on the way to Quebec City, our young detectives are almost discovered when Napoleon has to pull over. They quickly run out of the van and after a brief chase though the wilderness end up meeting a RCAF pilot who agrees to fly them all the way into Quebec City! And they're just in time for Winter Carnival!

When Pierre and Catou arrive, they sneak into the crook's warehouse full of Carnival floats and props. There they see the smugglers talking to "The Boss," a mysterious woman who is wearing a giant plaster clown head(!) to obscure her identity. Once again, they overhear the secret plans, including the password to get the dummy puck from a local jeweler. The next day, Pierre and Catou beat the others to the shop and manage to get the puck. Belletete spots them though, which leads to a huge chase through several Quebec City monuments, including the Carnival ice slide and the people-mover. When they go to the police station, the cops do not believe them (of course), despite the fact that they show them the puck filled with diamonds and a pair of special sunglasses given to them by the jeweler that make the puck appear orange. This amazing special effect is produced by going to Canadian Tire, buying a couple pucks and a can of orange spray paint.

So, with all these disbelieving adults, what are Pierre and Catou going to do with the cache of diamonds? Nothing, really. They go to the parade, where they are almost caught, and then they decide to try to tell the Canadiens themselves. While waiting to get bus tickets, a kindly old woman offers to drive them into Montreal if they will help her find a car to rent. Not surprisingly, we soon find out that this old lady is really "The Boss," and her menacing chauffeur takes the puck (but not the glasses) away from them when they get to the old lady's mansion. Despite this, the kids once again escape (via snowmobile!) and take the train into Montreal. Once there, they sneak into the Montreal Forum to tell the Canadiens about the plot. As they watch the game, the old lady, Belletete and Napoleon show up. Always the buffoon, Napoleon accidently loses the jeweled puck in a huge pile of pucks, enabling Pierre to retrieve it with the help of the glasses. While escaping on a catwalk, Pierre accidently drops the puck to the ice below, where the Canadiens play awhile with it. Finally, the game ends, and Pierre manages to convince the Canadiens what the thieves were up to. Everyone is arrested, and Guy LaFleur presents Pierre with his very own Canadiens jersey.

Not only does Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck feature Canadian settings and real Canadians, it's plot is directly tied to Quebec Winter Carnival and hockey. In fact, this film is so Canadian that it often seems like it was produced by the Quebec Tourism Board. Although Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck provides quite a bit of eye candy in the way of recognizable locations, the actual plot seems slightly slow. While this may be easily tolerable for adults, the bus station intrigue would have bored any normal sugar-high 8-year old.

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