The documentary on the infamous Danbury Trashers United Hockey League (UHL) is a glorification of organised crime and violence
The Danbury Trashers earned notoriety in 2004 after the team was formed by James Galante for his 17-year old son AJ Galante, who was appointed as the General Manager of the team. The documentary focuses on the violence that was encouraged during the matches by AJ Galante, and most importantly James Galante’s links to organised crime and the FBI investigation into his operations.
The production value and the entertainment value of the documentary are unquestionable. The storytelling, the drama, and the story itself are enthralling to a fault. The framing of the shots, the choice of interview locations, the interviewees, and the original footage, and the overall aesthetics largely resemble a feature film, than that of the documentary. This is a rather baffling choice when considering that even iconic films such as The Godfather have received criticism for glorifying the mafia.
It is even more strange considering the filmmakers have interviewed a real mobster such as James Galante who was charged, convicted, and sentenced for his crimes. The filmmakers also interviewed the rest of Galante’s inner circle in the ice hockey side of his operations including AJ Galante, Tommy ‘T-Bone’ Pompessllo, and Brad Wingfield. The former UHL President Richard Brosal, former players, fans, and even Stanley Cup veteran and National Hockey League (NHL) veteran Mike Rupp, who also played for the Trashers in their second season were also interviewed.
The branding of the newly developed team was consistent with Galante’s trash disposal companies. This as well as the fact that brought an ice hockey franchise to Danbury endeared him to the local fans at the time and was revered as a local hero. Brad Wingfield describes them as the real-life Sopranos and even jokes that the Sopranos may have been inspired by the Galantes. Wingfield’s arc in the documentary is an eye-opener after it is insinuated that an opposition player, who severely broke Wingfield’s leg, could be ordered by Galante for a beatdown or worse if Wingfield wished for it.
Tommy Pompessllo, AJ Galante, and Wingfield’s accounts of their time together at the Trashers could come across as a glorification of violence and thuggery. AJ admits that he wanted his team to provide the same entertainment value as the WWE after confessing that he was a massive fan of pro-wrestling when growing up. There is archival footage that shows former WWE star and current movie star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and current COO of WWE, Triple H, attending one of AJ’s birthday parties at the behest of his father. AJ wanted to build a winning team like the Mighty Ducks from the film The Mighty Ducks with fights and brawls during matches sprinkled on top - which he believed was the right recipe to build a successful franchise that the fans will get behind.
The Danbury Trashers itself is a vanity project by James and a gift for his 17-year-old son. James pumped money he attained through illegal means to put the team at the top of the division and at times, even offered money under the table, as admitted by Mike Rupp in his interview. It is eerily similar to how Russian oligarch Roman Abrahamovich purchased English football club, Chelsea, roughly at the same time as Galante became the owner of the Trashers. Abrahamovich has been denied Swiss and UK residency due to his alleged links to organised crime and money laundering.
The documentary is in fact a celebration of those who ran Danbury Trashers. It could be argued that the narrative style would have suited a feature film, rather than a documentary which should ideally remain objective.
The documentary is an attempt at whitewashing the history of the Danbury Trashers. The final scene validates this theory and does not even attempt to mask the fact that the documentary is aimed at putting the Galantes and the Trashers in a sympathetic light.