The first season of Hulu’s Shoresy accomplished quite a few impressive feats. Not only did it turn series creator and star Jared Keeso’s foul-mouthed supporting character from Letterkenny into a fully formed, sympathetic protagonist, but it also managed to deliver one of the most realistic portrayals of small-town hockey you’ll find on any screen — big or small.
In order to achieve the latter, Keeso and the rest of the series’ creative team took an unconventional approach (by Hollywood standards, at least) to casting the show: Bringing in actual, professional hockey players to play many of the characters, regardless of acting experience.
In the series, Keeso’s titular, taunting character — nicknamed “Shoresy” — finds himself on a dysfunctional, perpetually underperforming triple-A senior hockey team, the Sudbury Bulldogs. When the team’s general manager threatens to fold the team, Shoresy vows that the team will never lose again, and recruits a ragtag team of former professional players to help restore the once-successful team’s winning ways.
Former hockey pros Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Terry Ryan, Jon Mirasty, and Brandon Nolan portray several members of the misfit — and in many cases, missing teeth — squad that helps Shoresy turn the Bulldogs’ fortunes around. They’re joined by several other former pros in the show’s cast, many of which make their acting debuts in the series.
“The learning curve was huge,” said Nolan, who played for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and minor-league Albany River Rats over the course of an eight-year career. “I didn’t know anything going in. I didn’t know about call sheets or scripts. We just went in totally blind. But [everyone] was really gentle with us at the beginning. The hardest thing for us was trying not to laugh. It would take a couple more takes than it’s supposed to sometimes.”
One thing that came easy for the hockey pros in the show’s cast, however, was portraying the life of a player both on and off the ice.
“Jared would always consult with us, and it was nice to be able to give him input — because we’re guys that have been there,” said Mirasty, who earned the nickname “Nasty” for his aggressive play in professional leagues over the years. Mirasty and Nolan, as well as Nolan’s brother, Jordan, portray a trio of correctional officers — all named “Jim” — recruited to toughen up the roster.
“[It was] little things like how our stalls in the dressing rooms would be set up, or something with hockey fights. … Jared’s a pretty good hockey guy himself, but it was always nice that he would come and get us involved and offer our point of view,” added Mirasty.
“The way the boys are in the room [and] the way we’re on the bench throughout the game, [Shoresy] just perfectly depicts how hockey players act and operate,” agreed Nolan. “And aside from that, it perfectly depicts how a senior triple-A hockey team would operate. The things that go on throughout the season of Shoresy, it’s really how senior hockey would be in Sudbury.”
In some cases, the show mirrored reality so closely that cast members found themselves essentially playing fictionalized versions of themselves.
For example, former first-round NHL draft pick Terry Ryan, a native of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, was cast in the series as Ted Hitchcock, a former first-round NHL draft pick from … wait for it … Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.
“I found the hockey not only authentic with the stuff you’re going to see on the ice, but off the ice, too,” Ryan told Digital Trends. “When they would say, ‘Cut,’ we’re still there telling stories. I hate to overuse the word ‘surreal,’ but that’s what it felt to me because what we were doing on camera emulated what we were doing in real life and what we had already done.”
Nashville Predators 2013 draft pick Jonathan-Ismael Diaby also plays a modified version of himself in the series.
“The way the story is written it really is just like a hockey team,” agreed Diaby. “Like a real hockey team, there are problems with girls, guys fighting, guys getting drunk, and so on. And like Terry said, after they say ‘Cut,’ we’re just sitting in the room talking hockey, chirping and telling stories.”
Of course, even though the subject matter was nothing new for the former hockey pros cast in the series, their experience on the show still provided plenty of learning material.
“The dry humor was really hard, because you want to laugh at it,” recalled Mirasty. “But I’m the kind of guy that likes to get thrown in the fire. And there couldn’t have been a better group of people out there to help us. We’re all good friends now. So it was an awesome experience.”
“Season 1 felt no different to me than going through a whole playoff round with a group of guys,” added Ryan. “Hopefully we get to do it again.”
All six episodes of Shoresy season 1 are available now on Hulu streaming service.
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