The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

This French-Canadian hockey great grew up in Montreal, knowing not a lick of English. But Paramount’s 1978 musical phenomenon “Grease,” with John Travolta’s leather jacket and Olivia Newton John’s tight pants, spoke to Robitaille anyway.

“I just thought Travolta was the coolest dude,” says Robitaille, who retired last season from the L.A. Kings after 19 years in the NHL as the highest-scoring left-winger in league history. “It was showing in Quebec at this $1 theater that had it in English, and I went to see it six weeks in a row. I would shovel driveways to get money for the movie and popcorn.”

A year earlier Robitaille and his buddies would venture to the bigscreen often to catch “Slap Shot,” in which Paul Newman portrays an aging hockey player on a losing minor-league team. And even though the film is nearly 30 years old, it’s still considered the best hockey pic — much of that having to do with the appearance of the three Hanson brothers and the movie’s foul language.

“That movie was one of the few that they translated into French,” Robitaille says. “In Quebec, when you translate the English swear words, we would add about 30 more of them, so we got a kick out of it.”

On the current crop of films at the multiplex, Robitaille is an unabashed fan of one Oscar contender: “As a family, we all loved ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ “

And he isn’t afraid to see a pic — present-day or classic — that will make him shed a few tears. “My wife always laughs at me, because I’ll see the chick flicks, and I enjoy them as much as anyone,” he says. “I love to get some sort of emotion coming off the screen.”

See top story and other related content

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more