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George Roy Hill
Madolyn Smith Osborne,
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Located in the US Rust Belt, Charlestown is home of the hapless Chiefs, a losing Federal League hockey team whose games are poorly attended. To make money, the team's unknown owner makes its manager, Joe McGrath, do cheesy publicity much to the players' chagrin. Rumors abound among the players that if the local mill closes, the team will fold. Just before the official announcement is made, the team's aging player/coach, Reggie Dunlop, does get wind that the mill is indeed closing and that this season will be the team's last. Beyond efforts to reconcile with his wife Francine, who loves Reggie but doesn't love his career, Reggie begins to focus on how to renew interest in the team for a possible sale as he knows if the team folds, his hockey career is over. Without telling anyone of his plan, he begins a rumor that the owner is negotiating a sale with a city in Florida. He also decides that "goon" hockey - most especially using the untapped talents of the recently acquired childlike ... Written by
Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore & None O' That Stinkin' Root Beer
Every hockey fan I've ever met, no matter how pedestrian, identifies with this profane, but prophetic 1977 cult classic. SLAP SHOT perfectly nailed the circus we know of as the now-defunct Johnstown Jets: a former farm team of the World Hockey Association's Minnesota Fighting Saints. Real life is truly stranger than fiction, but SLAP SHOT seems to combine the best of all worlds.
As legend goes, screenwriter Nancy Dowd got the brainstorm of doing a documentary on minor-league hockey, spending a few months in Johnstown, PA with her brother Ned Dowd. Ned, who was working his way up with the Jets from the U.S. college ranks, toward the WHA Minnesota Fighting Saints, was Nancy's inspiration for Michael Ontkean's Ned Braedon character.
Nancy, whose 1979 screenplay for "Coming Home" would cop her an Oscar, was like a fly on the wall when all of these bizarre events began to play out before her eyes. She managed to capture "the spirit of the thing" and compose what is surely one of the most spectacular sports film plays in the history of cinema.
As the storyline in SLAP SHOT was true to life, names had to be juxtaposed to protect the innocent. The Johnstown Jets became the Charlestown Chiefs. Real-life Minnesota hockey-playing siblings, the Carlsons became the Hansons. Real-life player "Killer" Hanson, inspired the "Killer" Carlson character. Brophy, the tipsy captain of the Hyannisport Presidents was so-named for juxtaposing with the Reggie Dunlop character, allegedly patterned after a career minor-league player named John Brophy, who went on to coach the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs.
Everyone who lived in the seventies reported sightings of one incarnation or another of toupee-wearing sportscaster Jim Carr. And when it comes to sports-writing, Reggie Dunlop said it best: "If Dickie Dunn wrote this, it MUST be true!" Some of the classic character names in this film must be honored also: Barclay Donaldson, Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, Andre "Poodle" Lucier, "Ogie" Oglethorpe, Ross "Mad Dog" Madison, Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown and Gilmore Tuttle.
With all the other strokes of brilliance and genius SLAP SHOT has become famous for, we cannot forget the contribution of the star Paul Newman, who is believable and sympathetic as washed-up Chiefs player-coach Reggie Dunlop.
Minnesota native, the late George Roy Hill, who also directed "The Sting" and "Slaughterhouse Five," could arguably claim SLAP SHOT as the master stroke in his illustrious career.
Miraculously, several stars of SLAP SHOT would go on to make other hockey movies: Yvon Ponton starred in the French-Canadian TV series "He Shoots He Scores" and the "Les Boys" film series; Paul D'Amato starred in "The Deadliest Season"; Jerry Hauser appeared in "Miracle On Ice."
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