Hey, Hanrahan! Slap Shot was released 40 years ago on this day!
To celebrate the release of a film that’s often regarded as “THE” hockey movie, here are 10 facts you didn’t know about the stars, the settings, the swearing!
#1-Paul Newman Wasn’t Always The Star
When you think Slap Shot, you definitely think of the late, great Paul Newman, who constantly called his role of Reg Dunlop one of his most cherished roles. However, Newman was not always planned to be the star of the film. The role was first offered to Al Pacino, fresh off the success of the first two (perhaps only two, depending on your view) films of The Godfather series, but Pacino had a falling out with the crew when asked if he could ice skate. Pacino later admitted he regretted missing out on the role. Nick Nolte also auditioned for a role, but his lack of ice skating ability caused him to bow out.
#2-A Current NHL Coach Had A Big Role
Bruce Boudreau is currently the head coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Before his stops in Minnesota, as well as his treks to Washington and Anaheim, Boudreau played for the minor league Johnstown Jets in Johnstown, PA, the team on which the Chiefs are based and where the movie was filmed. Several Jets players were used as extras in the movie, including Boudreau, who portrays #7 on the Hyannisport Presidents, the Chiefs’ opponent in the first hockey action of the film.
#3-The Movie’s Villain Inspired The Look of a Marvel Hero
The film’s de facto antagonist is perhaps Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken, the captain of the Chiefs’ biggest rivals, the Syracuse Bulldogs, portrayed by Paul D’Amato. But McCracken inspired comic book artist John Byrne, who was illustrating The Uncanny X-Men series in the early 80’s. Byrne based the look for his portrayal Wolverine, perhaps the most renowned of the X-Men, on McCracken, citing the “crazy eyes” of the Bulldogs’ enforcer. You can catch Tim McCracken…um, I mean Wolverine…in what is slated to be his final silver screen appearance in Logan, in theaters this Friday.
#4-There Are Two (Very Bad) Sequels
In today’s age of endless reboots and remakes, it’s an absolute miracle that some Hollywood bigwig hasn’t seen Slap Shot and commissioned an update. Unbeknownst to many fans, though, there have been two direct-to-video sequels. 2002 saw the release of Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, with Newman’s spot being filled in by Baldwin…Stephen Baldwin. Things probably couldn’t have gotten worse, but six years later came Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, which, as its title implies, focuses on youngsters, and turns Slap Shot, which, keep in mind, was rated R for strong language, nudity and violence, into a kids’ movie. Part three features cameos by Leslie Nielsen and NHL stars Mark Messier and Doug Gilmour, all of whom must’ve been in desperate need of money.
#5-The Movie Was Disliked Upon Release
Many respected and beloved films are originally disliked before gaining glory with age, and Slap Shot was no exception. Time magazine ripped apart the film’s ending, criticizing Ned Braden’s striptease, while The Wall Street Journal was critical of the vulgar humor and foul language. However, over time, the movie achieved cult status, so much so to the point that noted film critic Gene Siskel, who gave the movie an unfavorable review upon release, stated his greatest regret as a film critic was giving Slap Shot an unfriendly mark, later calling it one of the greatest American-made comedies of all time.
#6-The Language Was F&*@ing Groundbreaking
It’s safe to say that Slap Shot earns its R rating, as it features 67 uses of the “F’ word alone, plus one use each of a pair of “C” words and a “P” word to boot. The film’s poster even featured an additional advisory by the R rating, warning that the language would be unsuitable for anyone silly enough to have their children tag along. Newman himself commented on the language in a 1984 Time Magazine interview, saying how he would never swear in his personal live, but said that after the movie, his language was “right out of the locker room”, a quote that surely would make a certain President proud, though not in a good way.
#7-The Script Was Written By A Future Oscar Winner
Writer Nancy Dowd had no feature film writing credits to her name,but penned Slap Shot after her brother Ned told her of the wild times he had playing minor league hockey. One year after Slap Shot came out, Dowd was part of a group effort for Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, earning it for Coming Home. In addition to writing for two of the earliest years of Saturday Night Live, Dowd would later contribute to the screenplays for notable films like North Dallas Forty, Ordinary People and Cloak and Dagger. Ned Dowd went on to become a film producer himself, but he first appeared in Slap Shot as notorious brawler Ogie Oglethorpe.
#8-The Open Scene Is Inaccurate
From the opening scene of Slap Shot, you know you’re in for one heck of an experience. After the studio logo, we’re treated to an interview between Chiefs goalie Denis Lemieux (Yvon Barrette) and Charlestown sports anchor/Chiefs play-by-play man Jim Carr (Andrew Duncan), a meet-up that reeks of awkwardness, especially with Lemieux’s somewhat broken English and willingness to demonstrate various penalties on Carr. However, Lemieux’s labels on certain penalties are wrong. For example, he inaccurately labels slashing for hooking. I can only imagine Barrette felt shame after doing this scene.
#9-Dunlop and McGrath Teamed Up Before
Newman’s Dunlop has several interactions with Chiefs general manager Joe McGrath, portrayed by character actor Strother Martin. Martin sadly passed away three years after Slap Shot was released, but he and Newman made several films together before the hockey flick. Among them were Pocket Money, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harper, The Sliver Chalice, and Cool Hand Luke, where Martin’s character famously coined the line “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”.
#10-The NHL Wasn’t A Fan Of It (At First)
It seems absurd that anyone involved in hockey could dislike the movie, but the most prestigious league in hockey, which gets a few brief shoutouts in the film, was not a fan of the movie upon its release.