The NHL has adopted taxi squads this season to help with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As Sarah described in this excellent piece, the taxi squad can consist of 4-6 players that can travel and practice with team, and allows for extra bodies to be available if there are injuries or players are placed on the COVID protocol list.
While this is a new concept for most hockey fans, taxi squads have been around for decades, and today I’d like to grade some of the most famous - or infamous - in history.
Taxi Driver (film) - 1976
Members: Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd and Jodie Foster
Perhaps one of the most famous taxis in pop culture, the 1976 Martin Scorsese film is one of the best movies ever made, starring Robert DeNiro as retired Marine Travis Bickle. With a star-studded cast that includes Cybill Shepherd, this taxi squad would’ve received an A, but I’ve downgraded to a B. I don’t care if you’re trying to impress Jodie Foster, there’s just some things you shouldn’t do.
Taxi (show) - 1978-1982
Members: Judd Hirsch, Danny Devito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman
In terms of longevity, star-power and pure talent, this taxi squad was together from 1978 to 1982, and won 18 Emmys during its run. Director and producer James L. Brooks assembled an all-star lineup that is most likely the best ever in the history of taxi squads.
Taxi (film) - 2004
Members: Jimmy Fallon, Queen Latifah, and Gisele Bündchen
From maybe the best taxi squad of all time to the worst, this movie is actually a remake of a French series that debuted in 1998, and is most inferior in every way. The only thing saving this from a grade of F is Queen Latifah desperately trying to keep the film afloat. Please stop putting Jimmy Fallon in movies.
Collateral - 2004
Members: Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise and Jada Pinkett Smith
An extremely underrated movie, Foxx’s Max is a taxi driver who is forced to assist hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) as he tries to take out several high-profile targets, including Jada Pinkett Smith. I have a weak spot for Michael Mann movies, and this movie stands out as we rarely get to see Cruise in the role of “bad guy”. I included Pinkett Smith, but she’s only in the taxi at the very beginning, so this squad gets a B for a lack of depth.
The Fifth Element - 1997
Members: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker and Gary Oldman
Look, I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t seen this movie yet - (if you haven’t, well, how dare you), but The Fifth Element has been a cult hit since its release. Willis stars as Corbin Dallas, a former major in the Federated Army working as a taxi driver that encounters Leeloo (Jovavich) when she crashes onto the roof of his flying cab. Sure, Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod and Oldman’s Zorg weren’t actually in the taxi, but I cannot in good conscience exclude them.
Ottawa Senators - 2018
Members: Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, Chris Tierney, Chris Wideman, Dylan Demelo and Alex Formenton
Grade: A (F if you are a Senators fan)
We’re talking about taxi squads and this is an NHL website, so of course I’m going to include the most infamous taxi squad of all. The Ottawa Senators were reeling from one negative incident after another, from the acquisition of Matt Duchene for Kyle Turris, losing 12 of 13 in November and December of 2017, the arrest of assistant general manager Randy Lee, legal issues surrounding the fiancée of Mike Hoffman and the eventual trade of star and captain Erik Karlsson.
When the footage of the Uber ride came to light, it only served to fan the flames under the organization and owner Eugene Melnyk. The players, including current Nashville Predator Matt Duchene had very few positive comments about the team, instead focusing their ire on the coaching staff.
Matt Duchene was one of the most vocal: “Marty Raymond, the only coach in NHL history to have the worst power-play and the worst PK within a calendar year,” referring to Senators assistant coach Martin Raymond. The players later released a joint statement apologizing to Raymond and the team, but the damage was done.
The announcement by the league this season that the NHL would be utilizing taxi squads this season resulted in a tweet that absolutely slayed me: