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They say it’s who you know in the entertainment industry, and luckily for Michael Shanks he knew two people that would eventually land him the role of any hockey fan’s lifetime: Portraying Gordie Howe on film. Shanks worked with director Andy Mikita – yes, a relative of Stan Mikita – during his run on the “Stargate” television franchise, where Shanks played Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader’s role from the big screen version) from 1997 through 2010. He also worked with writer Malcolm MacRury on “Saving Hope”, a Toronto-based medical drama. MacRury is the writer behind “Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story”, a film that just happened to land in the hands of … Andy Mikita. It was a small world for Shanks, and the opportunity he’d been waiting for. “I would have crawled across broken glass to be in this movie, because I always wanted to be in a hockey movie,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Mr. Hockey” debuts in the U.S. on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, May 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and 8 CT, after strong reviews upon its debut in Canada. It covers Howe’s return to hockey at age 45 to play in the World Hockey Association with his sons Mark (Andrew Herr) and Marty (Dylan Playfair, son of former Calgary coach Jim Playfair) on the Houston Aeros. “It was probably the easiest negotiation they had. It was a dream come true,” Shanks said, pausing for a moment. “Except for filming in Winnipeg, it was a dream come true.” Shanks remembers Howe mostly as a Whaler, having limited access to hockey on television growing up in British Columbia. As in, “two channels”, said Shanks. “I didn’t know there was a team in Vancouver until around 1978 because they never showed the damn games on Hockey Night in Canada,” he said. He started as a Leafs fans – “it churns my stomach now,” he said – but is now a Vancouver Canucks fan. We spoke to Shanks about playing Gordie and the challenges that come with it; his time as a sci-fi TV icon; and of course, about his favorite NHL team. Q. So you’re a Canucks fan now? SHANKS: Yeah, I sorted that out and became a frustrated Canucks fan.


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