slap shot

Slap Shot (film)

Slap Shot is a 1977 film starring Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean and directed by George Roy Hill. The film is based on a book written by Nancy Dowd, based in part on her brother Ned Dowd's experiences playing minor league hockey in the United States in the 1970s, during which time violence, especially in the low minors, was the selling point of the game.

At the time, Dowd was living in Los Angeles, when she got a call from her brother Ned, a member of the Johnstown Jets hockey team. Her brother gave her the bad news that the team was for sale. Dowd asked her brother who owned the club, and he told her that he had no idea. Dowd would move to the area and be inspired to write Slap Shot. It was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Johnstown, Pennsylvania (Cambria County War Memorial); and upstate New York (Utica Auditorium and the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse).


The movie focuses on a fictitious "Federal League" team called the Charlestown Chiefs. The team, a perennial loser and in financial trouble due to mill closings in the town, is due to be folded at season's end.

Through the course of regular business, the team picks up the Hanson Brothers, violent goons with child-like mentalities. Reggie Dunlop, the veteran player-coach (played by Newman), perceiving them to be eccentric and unreliable, initially chooses not to play them. Finally, in a moment of desperation and passiveness, he brings the trio of thugs into the game to see what they can do. Their big open-ice hits and overly aggressive - bordering on homicidal - style of play is greatly praised by the fans in desperate need of something for which to cheer.

Dunlop, seeing the potential in this style of play, retools the team in the Hansons' image. Most of the other players - including Dave "Killer" Carlson (Jerry Houser) - take a liking to this, with the exception of Ned Braden (Ontkean), used to a clean, flashy style of play from his college days. Meanwhile, Braden's wife, Lily (Lindsay Crouse), has difficulty adjusting to the life of a hockey wife and finds a sympathizer in Reggie Dunlop's long-estranged wife Francine.

As a means of keeping his team motivated, Dunlop plants a story (which is an outright lie) that the Chiefs are being sold to a prospective buyer in Florida and thus moving the team out of Charlestown. Finally, Dunlop blackmails the team's stingy General Manager Joe McGrath (played by Strother Martin) to tell him who the Chiefs' owner is. After finally meeting the owner (a widow living in a comfy suburb), she reveals to Reggie that she could easily sell the team now that he's turned them into winners, but that she won't, because she can make out better by folding the franchise and taking a tax write-off.

The whole idea turns around in the final playoff game when Reggie reveals to the players that he had been conning them; there is no buyer in Florida, the team is indeed folding, and most are about to play their last game. Reggie tells the players that if this is to be his last hockey game, he wants to go out with dignity and not like a goon. They all vow to play the game clean, going out playing good old-time hockey. However their vicious style of play down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs has provoked their final game opponents - the Syracuse Bulldogs - to put together the most infamous set of enforcers to ever disgrace a hockey rink, made up of legendary Federal League brawlers and a dreaded rookie goon, Ogie Ogilthorpe.

The clean playing Chiefs are out-matched and brutally battered by the Syracuse Bulldogs in first period, and in the locker room a furious McGrath tells the losing Chiefs that there are NHL scouts in the stands. The game then quickly degenerates into an on-ice slugfest. Suddenly, Ned Braden, who has been benched by Reggie Dunlop for not wanting to fight, spies his estranged wife Lily in the crowd, who has undergone a complete makeover by Francine and is wearing a sexy new dress and hairdo. He skates out to center ice and strips off his uniform - with the arena band getting into the act by playing "The Stripper". Suddenly, the teams stop fighting and stare in amazement at Braden's striptease. Syracuse captain Tim "Dr Hook" McCracken demands that the referee stop Braden. When the official refuses, McCracken sucker-punches the ref, causing the referee to declare a forfeit by the Bulldogs, giving the game - and the Federal League championship - to the Chiefs. The team celebrates by parading around the ice with the championship trophy, carried by a jockstrap-only-clad Braden.

It is revealed during a championship parade in Charlestown the following day that Reggie Dunlop has accepted a job as the coach of a new team, the Minnesota Nighthawks -- and that he intends to bring all his Chief players with him to Minnesota. The film ends on this note, but given Reggie's past lies, viewers are left wondering if the Minnesota job is indeed real, or yet another Dunlop lie.



Slap Shot producer Nancy Dowd used her brother Ned and a number of his Johnstown Jets teammates in Slap Shot, with Ned Dowd portraying Syracuse goon "Ogie Ogilthorpe". He later used the role to launch a career as a Hollywood character actor and producer. The characters of the "Hanson Brothers" are in fact based on three actual brothers, Jeff, Steve and Jack Carlson, who played with Ned Dowd on the Jets. The character of "Dave 'Killer' Carlson" is based on then-Jets player Dave "Killer" Hanson. Steve and Jeff Carlson played their Hanson brother counterparts in the film. Jack Carlson was originally scripted to appear in the film as the third brother, Jack, with Dave Hanson playing his film counterpart, "Dave 'Killer' Carlson". However by the time filming began, Jack Carlson had been called up by the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA to play in the WHA play-offs, so Dave Hanson moved into the role of "Jack Hanson", and actor Jerry Houser was hired for the role of "Killer Carlson".

Paul Newman, claiming that he swore very little in real life before the making of Slap Shot, said to Time magazine in 1984, "There's a hangover from characters sometimes. There are things that stick. Since Slap Shot, my language is right out of the locker room." Newman has also stated publicly that the most fun he ever had making a movie was on Slap Shot, as he had played the sport while young and was fascinated by the real players around him. He has also stated that his role in the film is among his favorite roles of his entire career.


Film critic Gene Siskel noted that his greatest regret as a critic was giving a mediocre review to this movie when it was first released. After viewing it several more times, he grew to like it more and later listed it as one of the greatest American comedy movies of all time. The Wall Street Journal’s Joy Gould Boynum seemed at once entertained and repulsed by a movie so “foul-mouthed and unabashedly vulgar” on one hand and so “vigorous and funny” on the other. Michael Ontkean’s strip tease displeased Time magazine’s critic, Richard Schickel, who regretted that, “in the dénouement [Ontkean] is forced to go for a broader, cheaper kind of comic response.”

Critical reevaluation of the film continues to be positive. In 1998, Maxim magazine named Slap Shot the " Best Guy Movie Of All Time " above such acknowledged classics as The Godfather, Raging Bull, and Newman's own Cool Hand Luke. Ironically, for being credited as "the best guy movie," Slap Shot was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd.

In the 2007 50th Anniversary Issue, GQ named the Slap Shot one of the "30 films that changed Men's Lives. In the November 2007 issue of GQ, Author Dan Jenkins proclaimed Slap Shot "the best sports film of the past 50 years".

In June of 2008, Adam Proteau of "The Hockey News" rated "Slap Shot" as the best Hockey film ever made.


The movie has had an enduring impact on hockey culture. Key lines of script are frequently quoted, some of its terms entering the hockey lexicon outright. Its enduring popularity can be seen in the fact that replica Chiefs jerseys from the movie remain popular sellers, and that the "Hanson Brothers" (hockey players Steve Carlson, Jeff Carlson and Dave Hanson) have made permanent careers out of touring as their personas from the movie.

Todd McFarlane has released a set of figures of the Hanson brothers with connecting bases resembling the hockey rink.

Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau appears as an opposing player in one scene.

Slap Shot was translated in French as "Lancer Frappé" and is one of very few movies translated in the original Quebec dialect and not in France or using a more 'international' French. Yvan Ponton and Yvon Barette (who played the two French-Canadian players in the film, forward Jean-Guy Drouin and goaltender Denis Lemieux) did their own translations. Heavy use of Quebec dialect and foul language has made this version of the film a cult classic in French Canada.

Normally fully bilingual French Canadians prefer to see a movie in its Quebecois translated version and Slap Shot is one of those rare films where bilingual Canadians actually prefer watching in French. Lines in the movie such as "Dave est magané" (Dave's a wreck) and "Du hockey comme dans le temps" (Old Time Hockey) are common catch phrases in French Canada.

The movie was filmed in (and loosely based around) Johnstown, Pennsylvania and utilized several players from the then-active North American Hockey League Johnstown Jets (the team for which Dowd himself played) as extras. The Carlson Brothers and Dave Hanson also played for the Jets in real life. Many scenes were filmed in the Cambria County War Memorial Arena and Clinton Arena, the Clinton Comets' home ice, the Utica Memorial Auditorium (used as "Peterboro" where the pre-game fight occurs and where the Hanson's reprimand the referee for talking during the anthem), Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, NY(used as "Hyannisport" where the Hanson Brothers charge into the stand to accost a fan and are subsequently arrested), and in other Johnstown locales. Coincidentally, the Johnstown Jets, and the NAHL, folded in 1977, the year Slap Shot was released.

Although much of the movie takes place during the Fall and Winter seasons, when hockey is in season, filming at the Utica War Memorial took place during the month of July. Similarly, in Johnstown, Paul Newman is wearing a coat as though it should be cold, but there is no snow on the ground and the trees are in full bloom.


The character of Ned Braden (described by the team's announcer as "a college graduate...and an American citizen!", two unusual traits of a minor-league hockey player in the 70s) is at least partially based on actor Michael Ontkean, a star player for the University of New Hampshire squad in the late 60s.

The Reggie Dunlop character is based, in part, on former Eastern Hockey League Long Island Ducks player/coach John Brophy, who gets homaged by his last name being used for the drunken center of the Hyannisport Presidents. Ironically, Brophy would later coach one of the Hanson brothers (Jack Hanson, real name Dave Hanson) in 1978 when he played for the Birmingham Bulls.

Syracuse Bulldogs rookie goon Ogie Ogilthorpe, who was mentioned throughout the film but never actually seen until the final playoff game, was based on longtime minor-league goon Bill "Goldie" Goldthorpe. Like Ogie Ogilthorpe, Goldie Goldthorpe is also infamous for his rookie season in professional hockey (1973) when as a member of the Syracuse Blazers he amassed 25 major fighting penalties before Christmas.

A scene in the film shows the Hanson brothers jumping the Peterboro Patriots during pre-game warm-ups. This scene is based on events in a mid-1970’s North American Hockey League playoff series between the Johnstown Jets and the Buffalo Norsemen. The Jets had a black player on their roster, and during a playoff game held in North Tonawanda, New York (a northern suburb of Buffalo where the Norsemen played their home games) a Norsemen fan held up a derogatory sign stating that blacks should be playing basketball. The next game in the series was held in Johnstown, and the Jets retaliated by attacking the Norsemen players during the warm-ups, with a huge brawl erupting. The Norsemen players and coaches then returned to the dressing room and refused to come out to start the game. The game was awarded to the Jets by forfeit, as was the playoff series since the "win" gave the Jets the needed number of victories to capture the series. In an ironic twist of fate, in 1978 the NHL's Buffalo Sabres drafted a black player, Tony McKegney, who became the first black player to make a major impact in the NHL. McKegney played his Buffalo Sabres home games in front of many of the same fans who had attended Buffalo Norsemen games.

Another scene from the movie is also based on a real life event. In the film, Jeff Hanson scores a goal and is hit in the face by a set of keys thrown by a fan. The Hansons then go into the stands after the fan and Jeff Hanson punches out the wrong fan. After the game, the Hansons are arrested for the incident. In real life, a similar incident occurred in Utica, New York in a game between the Johnstown Jets and the Mohawk Valley Comets.Jeff Carlson was hit in the face by a cup of ice thrown by a Utica fan and he went into the stands after the fan with his brothers Jack and Steve. All three were arrested and Dave Hanson gathered the money for bail for the Carlson brothers.

In another tribute to the movie's popularity, two real-life teams are called the Chiefs and, at one time or another, wore the fictional squad's sweaters. The ECHL's Johnstown Chiefs are also based in Johnstown and whose name came after the Charlestown team after the original owners of the Jets would not allow the new team to resurrect the Jets' name in 1988. The team's phone number is also 1-800-SLAP-SHOT, paying homage to the film. The other is the Saint-Jean Chiefs of the Ligue nord-américaine de hockey (LNAH).

A much-derided direct-to-video sequel, Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, was filmed in 2002.

The appearance and mannerisms of the Hanson Brothers inspired a professional wrestling stable known as the Dudley Boyz, who had great success in several major wrestling promotions, including World Wrestling Entertainment. Similarly, the movie inspired The Hanson Brothers, a side project of the Canadian rock band NoMeansNo.

The Maxine Nightingale tune "Right Back Where We Started From" and a Sonny James country tune entitled "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon" are featured in the original release. Recently, the Nightingale tune has been replaced in TV showing of the film with a generic sound-alike tune (possibly due to rights issues). However, the DVD release keeps the original. The VHS version of the film, released in the early 1980s, contains none of the music by the name acts as heard in the theaters; all that music is substituted with songs in the same general style of the originals, but not the actual original songs nor artists.

Note: The Sonny James tune was not in the original release, it was a song called "Funny Side of Town". Little Bit South of Saskatoon appeared on the DVD release of the movie.

In the 25th anniversary edition of the Slap Shot DVD, Jeff Carlson recalls a Jets’ game in which he fights a goon named Gilles "Bad News" Bilodeau. He seized the rink-side announcer’s microphone and hit Bilodeau on the head with it.

The EA Sports video games "NHL 98, NHL 99, NHL 2000, NHL 2001, NHL 2002 and NHL 2003" features a mode in which you can create two custom teams, one of which, called the EA Blades, have very similar jerseys to the Chiefs.

The Charlestown Chief's bus driver Walt Comisky (Cliff Thompson) takes a sledge hammer to the bus to make it look mean. He also wears a Nazi helmet with swastika, most visible when loading frenzied fans onto the bus.

Although uncredited, the opening scene in which Sportscaster Jim Carr is interviewing Chief's goalie Denis Lemieux, the "Indian Spring Water" commercial that they are paused for (which prompts Denis to get up to urinate) is narrated by longtime character actor Richard Stahl, better known for his recurring role on the 80s series "It's a Living" with Ann Jillian.

In a scene just after the Hanson Brothers are acquired by the Charlestown Chiefs, they are seen in the locker room mixing aluminum foil with hockey tape on their hands before putting on their gloves, which would aid in cutting their opponents during a hockey fight. Dick Roberge, the Carlson brothers coach on the Johnstown Jets, claims that the Carlson brothers did this in real life too, stating that, "They used to come into the dressing room and wrap their hands with aluminum foil under the gloves. They came up with a ruling (a month into the season) that you could not wear anything under your hockey gloves except a golf glove." However in commentary on the Slapshot 25th Anniversary DVD the Carlson brothers and Dave Hanson deny using aluminum foil. They do however state that they used to wear water-treated leather golf gloves that had been dried to a rock-hard state.

During a charity auction by the Quad City Flames Eric Nystrom stripped off his jersey in imitation of a Slap Shot scene.

During the third period of every Syracuse Crunch game, if an opposing teams player goes in the box, one of three men dressed as the Hanson brothers runs from behind the bench to the the box and slams into the glass. This is because when the Charlestown Chiefs played the Hyannisport Presidents on the road in the movie, they filmed it in the Onondaga County War Memorial, as mentioned earlier on this page.


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