‘Lions in Waiting’: Trying to Fit in the Lockers

Will a young man have the courage to discover more about himself and another person as he tries to fit in with his new hockey team and a new city?

(Image: GagaOOLala)

Lions in Waiting“, is a Canadian short film that debuted in 2017 and offers a realistic perspective on how LGBTQIA+ athletes integrate into a largely male sport. This Jason Karma film revolves around Ray’s struggles on and off the ice as he joins a minor league hockey team and tries to adapt to a new city. It stars Taylor Kare, Bob Frazer, and Riley Davis.

 

Warning: Spoiler alert. Read at your own risk!

 

In the first scene of the seventeen-minute film, Ray (Taylor Kare) is seen inside his room snapping pictures of his bare body while his mom yells at him to hurry so he won’t be late for hockey practice. Because he was late, the team’s strict Coach ordered the whole team to sprint through the ice or perform suicide skates as a warm-up, making everyone irritated at him. Rigid training comes after.

While his mom waits for him to complete training, Ray sees her talking to a man in the hallway. His mom proudly shows off photos from his past games, in which he won the top player slot for his former team. The man is introduced as the father of Ray’s teammates, Peter and Shelby, neither of whom is interested in getting to know him. Ray’s mom wishes him a happy birthday and gives him cupcakes as a gift, which he awkwardly attempts to avoid because there are still strangers around them. The dad and son pair leave, but not before adding, with a tinge of mockery, that they’ll have to wait and see if Ray will remain the best player on the new team. Ray consoles his mom, who appears to be offended by the remarks made about her son.

The team plays and wins in a competitive game while Ray and Dave, another newcomer, remain on the sidelines. The entire group starts to celebrate in the locker rooms after their victory, talking about girls, boosting one another, and passing around cans of beer. Someone shouts to go grab them just as the newcomers are about to taste their beer, alerting the group that the hazing has begun. Ray and Dave are shoved to the ground with arms choking their necks. The two try to fight off Peter and Shelbey when they start to pee on them, calling them Rooks in a mocking tone while someone records the hazing event. At home, Ray cleans himself roughly and then starts to touch himself after. Later that night, his mother observed a bruise appearing from where he was choked; he shrugged and attempted to downplay the incident. Realizing that her son will not talk about what happened, she tells him that his dad will be proud of him for playing hockey.

The following training day, the team is put through a rigorous warm-up, and Dave teases Ray for being unable to keep up. The two share a laugh. The coach calls everyone to the locker room and shows the recorded hazing video going viral on the internet. Peter tries to argue that it is just for fun and part of being a newcomer—getting support from the rest of the team. He even argues that their Coach has probably done the same during his time, which enraged the latter more. Shelby, who posted the video, defends himself and insists it is just a joke, while David has a pained look on his face. Coach suspends Shelby and reminds everyone that they are there to play a sport and that they can do better. On the rink, Ray and Dave play together before the official training starts and continue to talk in the lockers.

The hockey team faces an aggressive team in the following game. Ray, who is waiting for his turn in the bleachers, becomes anxious when he observes that the other side plays dirty. Even though the referee warned the violent players, it is clear that this won’t change the way they play. When Ray enters the game and helps the team save a puck, the opposition team’s Captain charges at him and knocks him to the ground, starting a line brawl between the players. The coach asks Ray if he wants to sit out the game after noticing that he is the target of the opposition’s attention. Determined to get back, he declines and resumes the game, where the opposing Captain makes fun of him and taunts him by calling him “pretty boy” during a faceoff. After Ray successfully moves the puck to their end, the two sides engage in a fierce ice battle until Dave steals the puck and slides it back to Ray, who is well-positioned to score a goal. Ray takes advantage of the situation and scores, giving the team the victory. He shouts in delight and gets hugged by an equally happy Dave.

Ray’s mom, who watched the game, waits for him outside and makes fun of him once more for being late. The latter responds sarcastically that he is busy. His mother tells him that his father would have been pleased with him, and she is filled with joy. Before hugging his mother, Ray gives her a glance. She asks him to celebrate by going out to dinner, but he politely rejects it and says he has other plans. His mother grinned and released him. Dave is settling his car when Ray sees him and approaches him. The two pose for a picture while giggling at one another, and Dave reveals that he saw his profile. Ray leans on the car’s trunk while grinning, while Dave looks around before leaning in for a kiss, which the latter returns. They finally stopped when a dog started barking in the background. The two enter Dave’s car, looking happy, and drive off.

 

Writer’s Thought: Although “Lions in Waiting” appears to be a simple example of how homophobia and toxic masculinity manifest in a sport that is dominated by men, it also highlights the difficulties that everyone, regardless of gender, faces when adjusting to a new environment or fitting in. It is also noticeable that there is a recurring reference to how Ray’s dad would be proud of him playing hockey, which suggests that family expectations and pressure may be stronger than a person’s passion. It may not be clear until the very end of the film if Ray enjoys playing hockey or if he only does it as a duty to his mother, who is extremely outspoken about her support for him, but it may also be a euphemism that life is a compromise. In a way, the film leaves you cheering that Ray found a way to prove people who doubted him wrong while finding someone who shares the same worries but is there to fully support him.

 

Watch “Lions in Waiting” on GagaOOLala.

 

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