A few nights after one of his players was injured by a dirty blow, the Johnstown Jets planned to take revenge on Greg Neeld of Buffalo.
A total fight occurred during the warming up and in the North American Hockey League the game was postponed, much to the chagrin of property and, presumably, fans of an exhausted War Memorial Arena. It happened that director George Roy Hill was in the arena that night, the cameras rolling. The minor league fight in real life was simply another inspiration for the 1977 film Slap Shot, ranked 5th in the Associated Press sports team's vote on the top 25 sports films of all time.
Obscure, bloody and irreverent, the film is a wild ride through the final season of the fictional Charlestown Chiefs, a team loser in a blue-collar city with thousands of workers facing layoffs. The team is at its peak and things are bleak until Captain Reggie Dunlop, played perfectly by Paul Newman, discovers that the Chiefs can at least attract fans – and perhaps win over a buyer – if they abandon "old time hockey" and dizzy with the rough things in the glasses Hanson brothers and their teammates, mostly anxious.
"It's one of those iconic films that has so many places where words come in and you use it in locker rooms and stuff all the time," said Bruce Boudreau, a former NHL coach, who really played for the Jets and has no speaking role in the film. .
Away from hockey, there are the cheap and unrestrained shots practiced by the Chiefs. This does not mean that the film does not resonate today, far from it. Like all the greats in this crowd – from "Caddyshack" to "Bull Durham" and more – it is full of lines that will never be forgotten.
Players still joke about putting the foil in for a fight. Someone is always the "punk boss" of the other team. Who can forget "Denny Pratt's unfortunate tragedy" or let them know you are there? Doesn't every league have an Ogie Oglethorpe?
"Anyone who played the game can still relate to it in some way, because, as much as it has changed, a lot is still the same," he said. Christian Hanson, son of Dave Hanson and a veteran of 42 NHL games with Toronto between 2008-2011. “Many guys who play dwarf hockey, junior hockey, hockey in minor leagues have gone through a lot of bus trips and playing cards on the bus and are on the road with the guys.
So understandable that Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup goalkeeper, remade Denny Lemieux's famous opening scene on penalties. Edmonton's star Connor McDavid called it "a movie you can watch 100 times and still laugh about".
The hockey classic emerged from the script by Nancy Dowd, who visited her brother Ned in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, when he was a player during the 1974-75 season. He used his tape recorder to capture life in the locker room and she took it out.
"I had to be true to the medium (of the minor league hockey players)," Dowd told AP at the time. "That's how they talk."
It was the way they lived too. Dunlop's apartment in the movie? This was Boudreau's real block, chosen because it was the messiest of any player. The film also captures the lives of minors off the ice – long bus rides, downtime in bars and motels. The characters are just characters, in every sense, with no major plot twists to worry about.
Boudreau remembers spending 10 hours a day in uniform waiting to shoot a scene, how brutally real some of the big hits were and the night he spent with Newman, Hill and Dave Hanson in the movie theater.
"Paul turns to me at one point and says, 'It will be a great movie'," said Boudreau. "Was he right."
"It was one of those things that they couldn't find enough actors to skate on, so they figured they would give auditions to the guys the characters were based on," he said. "They took him out of the park and threw them."
Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss were among the actors who tried and fell short because they couldn't skate; Al Pacino didn't even look. Hanson's children were based on the Carlsons, but only brothers Jeff and Steve were in the film because Jack was called to the World Hockey Association.
Jack Carlson has been replaced by former teammate Dave Hanson, who still teams up with Jeff and Steve to make appearances as Hanson brothers
Christian Hanson didn't see "Slap Shot" for the first time until he was 13 – it wasn't a family ritual to watch it – but the retired striker thinks of it as part of the structure of playing hockey.
"Someone will throw out a phrase from the Slap Shot and everyone will understand," he said. "It's one of those things that transcends generations. The coach can be in the room giving a speech and, suddenly, one of the guys says something that the Hanson The brothers said that when they were sitting in the locker room before the game and everyone had a laugh. I think it's really cool that even today it is still valid in the locker rooms. "
The Associated Press is presenting one of the top 25 sports films, a suggestion of what to put on the screen while you're at home. Of course, this is what we do in AP: we classify things. Thus, 70 writers and editors around the world voted for the best in the history of sports cinema.
More information on AP's top 25 sports movie searches: https://apnews.com/Sportsmovies
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