"Violence is killing this sport, dragging it through the mud."
New York Times - 02/26/1977
"...[The actors] are impeccable....You know that it's an original..."
USA Today - 01/08/1999
"...Paul Newman's foul-mouthed hockey comedy is a classic of sorts in the rarefied sports-cinema genre..."
Total Film - 11/01/2003
"...A sports movie that manages to send sentimentality skittering while gripping tight to its appeal..."
A rougher version of George Roy Hill's pet theme of men as overaged adolescents, SLAP SHOT stars Paul Newman as Reggie Dunlop, the venerable player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs, a fifth-rate minor league hockey team. When their blue-collar town falls prey to Rust Belt ills of the 1970s, attendance drops, and the greedy owner starts looking for a buyer, anxious to cash out. Dunlop is informed that the players need to crank up the box office to keep their jobs in what will likely be their last season. To the coach's dismay, general manager Joe McGrath (Strother Martin) imports the Hanson brothers, a hockey Three Stooges who like to assault soda machines and play with toys. But once Dunlop turns them loose, they're a Panzer division on ice, and the team starts winning by adopting their bone-crushing style. Although the team is on the upswing, Dunlop's wife, Francine (Jennifer Warren), seems to be through with him, and the isolated wives of the other players aren't much happier with their fate. This sidesplitting, profanity saturated film is one of the funniest ever made about any sport. While writer Nancy Dowd intended to probe darker issues--such as the greed of ownership, the blood lust of fans, and the childishness of the players--Hill submerges them in raucous laughter. Newman is near his peak as the romantic, manipulative, womanizing, hard-drinking coach, and the high-sticking Hanson brothers achieve comic immortality in their only film appearance.
Paul Newman is the over-the-hill player-coach of a pathetic minor league hockey team in blue-collar Pennsylvania. These working-class sportsmen find their livelihoods threatened when the owner of the team decides to dissolve the unsuccessful franchise so that he can make some quick cash. But then an improbable troika, with its absurd enthusiasm and violent playing style, inspires what had previously been a collection of lethargic prima donnas to amass an impressive string of victories. But is a team worth saving if it has to bash heads and draw blood to fill the seats--and win'
Essential Cinema |
Theatrical release: February 25, 1977.
Shooting locations: Utica, Syracuse, and Hamilton, NY, and Johnstown, PA.
The film's profanity, which was controversial at the time, resulted from writer Nancy Dowd following her brother's hockey team everywhere with a tape recorder. Her brother ended up as a technical consultant on the film and makes a brief appearance.
The characters of Steve, Jeff, and Jack Hanson (the Hanson brothers) are played by real-life brothers Steve and Jeff Carlson and their cousin Dave Hanson. During the 1994-95 National Hockey League lockout, the trio reentered the entertainment world, traveling around the U.S. to perform some of their old SLAP SHOT routines as honorary members of the Federal League's Charleston Chiefs. Their stunts included pulling down the referee's pants before a game, throwing a pie in his face, and "water-skiing" behind the Zamboni (a machine used to smooth out the surface of a rink's ice). The Hanson brothers also performed at the International Hockey League's All-Star Game in Las Vegas on January 18, 1995.
In the words of Dave Hanson: "The sports industry has gotten too businesslike and forgotten the fans. We bring back the entertaining and the lighter side that makes people enjoy and feel good again."
Michael Ontkean played varsity hockey at the University of New Hampshire, where he earned the team's Most Improved Player Award in 1968.
Paul Newman and Strother Martin starred together in COOL HAND LUKE.