Today! Because they brought their fucking toys with them!
Slap Shot (1977)
Directed by George Roy Hill
Starring Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin, Allan F. Nicholls (x2), M. Emmet Walsh (x3), Melinda Dillon (x3), Swoosie Kurtz (x2), Paul Dooley (x3), Jennifer Warren, Jerry Houser, Ned Dowd, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Yvon Barrette, Andrew Duncan
It’s not much of a controversial stretch to declare Slap Shot as the best hockey movie ever made. That’s not a terribly deep well to draw from. But how about one of the best team sports films of all time? Oh ho, now we’re getting somewhere! Team sports are tough to pull off in a dramatic film – so many characters, hard to focus on individual achievements. But sure, there’s some – Hoosiers, Miracle, The Natural. Sport comedies, however, are way better in a team setting. And coming on the heels of 1976’s Bad News Bears, they rolled out this hard R rated, violent, vulgar hockey flick that became the blueprint for everything from Major League to North Dallas Forty to Dodgeball to Kathy Ireland kicking field goals in Necessary Roughness.
Written by Ogie Ogilthorpe’s real life sister, Oscar winner Nancy Dowd (Coming Home), Slap Shot centers on the hapless Charlestown Chiefs, and their last gasp as a franchise with the town in economic distress. In hopes of making the team attractive to other cities, they launch a gimmicky crowd-pleasing brand of smash mouth hockey, led by their newly acquired enforcers, the Hanson brothers – the film’s legendary contribution to hockey lore. And there are great, funny performances left and right in this movie, from Yvon Barrette’s French-Canadian goalie Denis to M. Emmet Walsh’s reporter Dickie Dunn to Strother Martin’s team manager Joe McGrath.
Paul Newman seems a pretty unconventional choice for the lead here, but he’s clearly having such a great time as this over-the-hill, rough-and-tumble character that it totally works. Really, what other hockey movies even are there? There must be a bunch from Canada, right? Goon was great for what it was, and then…The Mighty Ducks? Mystery, Alaska? That one scene from Strange Brew? The Cutting Edge? Hockey is clearly underrepresented on film!
Allan Nicholls (#365 Popeye) and Swoozie Kurtz (#351 Liar, Liar) join the Two-Timers, while Paul Dooley (Popeye, #219 The Player), Melinda Dillon (#233 A Christmas Story, #217 Magnolia), and M. Emmet Walsh (#230 Blade Runner, #266 The Jerk) all advance to the Threes! First Paul Newman movie! Kinda surprising! And I don’t realistically know how many are still to come, either. I guess I admire Paul Newman more than watch his films?