Slap Shot (film)

Slap Shot (film)
Slap Shot

US movie poster
Directed by George Roy Hill
Produced by Stephen J. Friedman
Robert J. Wunsch
Written by Nancy Dowd
Starring Paul Newman
Strother Martin
Michael Ontkean
Lindsay Crouse
Music by Pierre Tubbs
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Editing by Dede Allen
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) February 25, 1977 (US)
Running time 123 min.
Country US
Language English
Box office $28,000,000 (US)[1]

Slap Shot is a 1977 film comedy starring Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean directed by George Roy Hill. It depicts a minor league hockey team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity in a declining factory town.



A team called the Charlestown Chiefs plays hockey in the fictional Federal League. A perennial loser and in financial trouble due to mill closings in the town, the team is due to be folded at season's end. Reggie Dunlop, the veteran player-coach, has no idea who the owner of the team is. While not particularly talented as either a player or a coach, Dunlop is a skilled con man, and regularly manipulates the team to his own advantage.

During a hopeless season, the team picks up the Hanson Brothers, bespectacled violent goons with child-like mentalities, complete with toys in their luggage. Dunlop, appalled at being given players who seem stupidly immature and unreliable, initially chooses not to play them. But in a moment of desperation, he brings the trio of thugs into a game to see what they can do. Their fighting and overly aggressive style of play excites the fans and the Chiefs win the game.

Dunlop, seeing the potential of a dynamic goon squad, retools the team in the Hansons' image. Most players, such as Dave "Killer" Carlson (Jerry Houser), take a liking to this. Talented young top scorer Ned Braden (Ontkean), however, prefers a clean style of hockey from his college days, and clashes with Dunlop over the direction of the team. Braden's depressed wife, Lily (Lindsay Crouse), has difficulty adjusting to the life and finds a sympathizer in Dunlop's estranged wife Francine (Jennifer Warren).

To keep them motivated, Dunlop plants a story (in fact an outright lie) with sportswriter Dickie Dunn that the Chiefs are being sold to a prospective buyer in Florida, who would move the team out of bleak Charlestown to sunny climes. As the Chiefs continue winning and gaining fans, Dunlop blackmails the team's stingy General Manager Joe McGrath (Strother Martin) to tell him who the Chiefs' owner is, a running joke throughout the movie as nobody is sure who owns the Chiefs. The owner turns out to be a rich widow, Anita McCambridge, who couldn't care less about hockey. She compliments Dunlop on his clever manipulations of the team and suggests that she could easily sell the team now that Reggie has made it a success, but she can do better by folding the franchise and taking a tax write-off. Disgusted with her indifference towards the players losing their jobs, he storms out, and realizes that his lies blew up in his face. Seeing no alternative and feeling guilty, Dunlop elects to come clean to his boys.

One last playoff game remains, and Dunlop reveals to the players that there is no buyer and he made the whole story up. After apologizing to his team, he decides that this is to be his last game, so Reggie wants to go out with dignity and not like a goon. Despite being conned, the team follows Dunlop's lead and vows to play clean, going out playing "old-time hockey."

However, their opponents, the Syracuse Bulldogs, fed up with the aggressive tactics of the Chiefs, have chosen to assemble the most infamous set of enforcers ever to disgrace a hockey rink. They include legendary Federal League brawlers and a dreaded rookie goon, Ogie Ogilthorpe.

Playing it straight, the Chiefs are brutally battered in the first period. In the locker room, a furious McGrath tells the players that there are NHL scouts in the stands. Some could get contracts. Hearing this, the Chiefs turn into goons again and the game degenerates into a slugfest.

Braden, sulking on the bench after refusing to goon it up, finally snaps. He spies his wife Lily, who has undergone a complete makeover by Francine and is wearing a sexy new dress and hairdo. She's even enjoying the game. Braden skates out to center ice and strips off his uniform, prompting the arena's band to accompany him with "The Stripper". Both teams stop fighting and stare in amazement at Braden's striptease, hypocritically more offended by Braden's antics than the violence they have been engaging in.

Syracuse captain Tim "Dr Hook" McCracken demands that the referee stop Braden. When the official refuses, McCracken sucker-punches him, causing the referee to declare a forfeit. This gives the game -- and the Federal League championship -- to the Chiefs. The team celebrates by parading around the ice with the championship trophy, carried by Braden, wearing nothing but skates and a jockstrap.

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 Chiefs players with him. It is never made clear on whether or not this was another of Dunlop's lies.



The screenplay, by Nancy Dowd, is 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.[2] Dowd would move to the area and be inspired to write Slap Shot. It was filmed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and upstate New York (Utica Auditorium and the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse).

Nancy Dowd (who also produced the film) 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, then of the WHA to play in the WHA playoffs, 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 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 also said that playing Reggie Dunlop was one of his favorite roles.

Production notes

Yvan Ponton and Yvon Barette (who played forward Jean-Guy Drouin and goaltender Denis Lemieux, the two French-Canadian players in the film) dubbed their own voices for the film's translated French version. The film is one of few mainstream American films that was translated in Quebecois French and not Parisian French[citation needed]. Heavy use of French-Canadian dialect and foul language has made this version of the film a cult classic in French Canada, where lines from the movie such as "Dave est magané" (Dave's a mess) and "Du hockey comme dans le temps" (Old Time Hockey) are common catch phrases.[citation needed]

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[3] and Starr Arena in Hamilton, New York, the Utica Memorial Auditorium (used as "Peterborough" where the pre-game fight occurs and where a Hanson reprimands the referee for talking during the anthem), Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, NY (used as "Hyannisport" where the Hanson Brothers charge into the stands 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 Memorial Auditorium 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 Reggie Dunlop character is based, in part, on former Eastern Hockey League Long Island Ducks player/coach John Brophy, who receives homage 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 coached the Birmingham Bulls.[4]

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.[5]

The Blades in the film were based on the Broome County Dusters. One scene in the film was specifically drawn from events that occurred in Binghamton. In the movie, the Hanson brothers wear black-rimmed, Coke-bottle eyeglasses, and in one game, get into a fight immediately after the opening faceoff. In reality what happened was that both Jeff and Steve Carlson wore those type of glasses, and did get into a long fight right after an opening faceoff. Coach Dick Roberge told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, "We got into Binghamton about two or three weeks before the playoffs. In the team warmup, we're out there and all the Binghamton players came out with the plastic glasses and big noses, every one of them, poking fun at the Carlson brothers. We went back in the dressing room and the boys said, 'Coach, as soon as that puck is dropped, we're pairing up.' We had one heckuva fight. They went about 30 minutes until everyone got tired. We met them again in the finals (1974–75) and beat them four straight."

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-1970s North American Hockey League playoff series between the Johnstown Jets and the Buffalo Norsemen.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6]


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.[2] 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."[2] Despite the mixed reviews, the film won the Hochi Film Award for "Best International Film".

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,[7] and Newman's own Cool Hand Luke (which received a backhanded tribute when Newman's character, while the Hansons were being bailed out of jail, stated to the booking officer that "most folk heroes started out as criminals"). Entertainment Weekly ranked the film #31 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films".[8]

In the 2007 50th Anniversary Issue, GQ named Slap Shot one of the "30 films that changed Men's Lives."[9] In the November 2007 issue of GQ, Author Dan Jenkins proclaimed Slap Shot "the best sports film of the past 50 years".[10]

In June 2008, Adam Proteau of The Hockey News rated Slap Shot as the best hockey film ever made.[11]


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.[12] 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. McFarlane Toys released a set of figures of the Hanson brothers with connecting bases resembling the hockey rink. McFarlane Toys first set that they released received complaints because of the blood painted on the toys' characters. McFarlane then re-released the Hanson Brothers figures without the blood.

The character of Ned Braden (described by the team's announcer as "a Princeton graduate...and an American citizen!", two unusual traits of a minor-league hockey player in the 1970s) is at least partially based on the actor Michael Ontkean, who played the part of Braden, a star player for the University of New Hampshire squad in the late 1960s.[13]

In another tribute to the movie's popularity, several real-life teams are called the Chiefs and, at one time or another, wore the fictional squad's sweaters. The ECHL's Johnstown Chiefs were 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. Other notables are the Saint-Jean Chiefs of the Ligue nord-américaine de hockey (LNAH) and the Garges Chiefs, a suburban Paris team playing in France's Division 1 (the country's second level).

IHC Leuven of the Belgian Championship are also nicknamed the Chiefs, however they use an original jersey design bearing no resemblance with that of the Charlestown Chiefs.

Two direct-to-video sequels have been made. Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, was filmed in 2002 and Slap Shot 3: The Junior League in 2008. Both movies featured the Hanson brothers in supporting roles.

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 as was Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word". These songs were in the film when first shown on Showtime in the 1970s. The Nightingale song had been replaced in later TV showings of the film with a generic sound-alike tune (possibly due to copyrights issues) or other music. However, the DVD release keeps all the original music. 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. Recent showings of the movie on the Versus cable channel has a lot of the original music back (with the Nightingale song being played in some scenes it was not in originally); however, one scene with the wives awaiting the return of the team, which has Elton John's song, seems to have been cut.

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.

Darude's music video "My Game" was based around this film and one the characters in the video was named the Chief.

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 get a cup of water) is narrated by longtime character actor Richard Stahl, better known for his recurring role on the 1980s 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. "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 Slap Shot 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.[5]

During a charity auction by the Quad City Flames, Eric Nystrom stripped off his jersey in imitation of a Slap Shot scene.[14]

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 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. The Crunch also reserved the #7 worn by Newman's character for the 2008-09 season, weeks after Newman's death. The number is not retired, however, and could be used by a future Crunch player after the 2008-09 season.

The Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League have The Mullet Brothers, a trio of long-haired, horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing guys who do "ice maintenance" during the official time-outs at home games, who are patterned after the Hanson Brothers.

Northern Michigan University, located in Marquette, Michigan, where Steve and Jeff Carlson started their hockey careers has a tradition based on the film. Toward the end of the 3rd period, the marching band plays The Stripper while a fan takes off his shirt and pounds the glass behind the visiting goaltender.

The film holds a cult status in the province of Québec because of the fact that the French version released there was dubbed in joual, the province's working-class slang. Also, the fact that local actors Yvan Ponton and Yvon Barrette co-star alongside world-famous movie stars like Paul Newman has contributed to its special status in the province.

In 2010, Wiley Publishing released The Making of Slap Shot: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Hockey Movie Ever Made by Jonathon Jackson.[15]

Old-Time Hockey

Old-Time Hockey in the movie Slap Shot refers to the team's turn away from the brawling style for the last game of the championship. Instead, the team wants to play the style of hockey that still had respect and dignity. Ironically, when used in modern terms, "Old Time Hockey" is often used in reference to the violent, fist-happy style for which the film is famous.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Sports Illustrated, July 2, 2007, p. 106
  3. ^ War Memorial Ice 2005 Picture 8 of 10
  4. ^ Bill Boyd, all roads lead to hockey, 2004, Key Porter Books, 1–55263–618–6
  5. ^ a b - Page2 - Old-time hockey indeed
  6. ^ a b c d Sports Illustrated, July 2, 2007, p. 107
  7. ^ The Best Guy Movies of All Time, Maxim magazine, March 1998
  8. ^ "The Top 50 Cult Films". Entertainment Weekly. May 23, 2003. 
  9. ^ GQ October, 2007
  10. ^ GQ, 11/07
  11. ^ ESPN - Saluting the best, and worst, hockey movies of all-time.
  12. ^ Slap Shot (1977) - Memorable quotes
  13. ^ Michael Ontkean's profile at
  14. ^ Nystrom striptease scores for charity
  15. ^

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