Slap Shot is an iconic movie. It’s a film that you can see multiple times and still laugh. And it’s hard to believe that it’s 40 years old. Tonight, NHL Network will air a documentary on the making of Slap Shot and its impact on the NHL. When it came out in 1977, Slap Shot was heavily criticized for its language and violence and didn’t do well in the box office. But thanks to VHS, DVD’s and now Netflix, Slap Shot got not just a second life, but a third and fourth and it’s grown to cult status.
The documentary looks at how Slap Shot got made and its casting. We all know that Paul Newman played player/coach Reggie Dunlop, Strother Martin was General Manager Joe McGrath, Michael Ontkean was Ned Braden and there were the Hanson Brothers played by real-life hockey players Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and Dave Hanson.
Some of the interesting stories that are told in the half-hour documentary were the actors who were considered for the movie, but were rejected because they couldn’t skate like Al Pacino and Nick Nolte. In addition, Paul Newman took a risk in playing Dunlop because it was different from the other roles he had previously played. Newman was known for playing charming, likable characters whil Dunlop was grittier and not-so likable.
And before the movie was made, screenwriter Nancy Dowd spent two weeks with her brother, Ned Dowd who was a player with the minor league Johnston Jets of the old North American Hockey League to find stories that could possibly be made into a movie. And as Ned told the story in the documentary, his sister wrote the script, but Universal Pictures executives didn’t think it was believeable so she had him meet with them in Hollywood. When he was finished talking about his experiences, the execs decided to go ahead and make the mOvid. Dowd became a technical advisor on the film.
There are anecdotal stories from Dowd who has since become a Hollywood producer in his own right, Bob Costas who was an announcer for the Syracuse Blazers for one season and saw some of the characters who were woven into Slap Shot, the men who played the Hanson Brothers and parlayed their roles into regular appearances across North America as well as current NHL players who have grown up watching the movie.
For a half-hour, the documentary is reverential to the movie. NHL Network takes scenes from the movie to tell the story of the film and how it’s grown over the years. And it mentions that you don’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy the film and while there are scenes of fighting, swearing and a couple of nude scenes, the movie is beloved by fans everywhere.
Thosse who love Slap Shot will enjoy this documentary and the stories from the Hanson Brothers. And it’s good to see NHL Network producing some original programming rather than showing repeats of games and previous programming.
Slap Shot at 40 premieres on NHL Network tonight at 8 ET followed by the movie itself at 8:30 p.m.