I was in Alaska last week, and my host happened to have a copy of Mystery, Alaska to hand. We watched it mostly for novelty value, but this 1999 oddity, about a matchup between the New York Rangers and a pond-hockey team from a town in relatively-rural Alaska, is actually a decent template for what sports movies ought to do differently. To put it briefly: the underdog team loses the pivotal game, no romances are consummated, no one is particularly morally redeemed and everything in town stays essentially the same.
But the absence of those sports-movie staples doesn't mean the movie is boring. The events kick off when a sportswriter who left Mystery in search of greater things does a Sports Illustrated cover story on the town's pond hockey team. To juice the piece, he talks the New York Rangers' ownership into an exhibition game in Alaska to test the Mystery team's prowess. Much hokum ensues about whether the game will actually be played, which of course it is. But in the town's efforts to field the best possible lineup, and to prepare their town for the event, the residents of Mystery risk the character of their town, whether it's going into debt to finance a new stadium, or straining their marriages with jealousy and inattention.