Instant Queue Diaries- Episode 13: Slap Shot
If you’ve never experienced Paul Newman in this film, you’re either not a fan of hockey or a communist because on every top sports movie list, this film always finds its way on there. Why? Because even though its silly at times, it’s the movie that so many hockey players feel accurately depicts the shenanigans that go on in the clubhouse and on the bench.
Covering professional hockey over the past four years, time and time again have I heard sayings from the film thrown out in the clubhouse and during practice and even more interestingly, I’ve seen players that are comparable to characters in the film. Every team has a wily veteran like Reg Dunlap [played hilariously by Newman] that knows how to manipulate the system and piss off the opposition with his big mouth. The same thing goes for Dave “Killer” Carlson [Jerry Houser], a guy that ends up fighting every night to stay on a team he’s not talented enough to play on, or even the enigmatic goal scorer in Ned Braden [Michael Ontkean], who would be so much better if he had a little more passion- or a few teammates with good hands.
Aside from that, the way the characters speak to each other and the way they act on the road is so close to home. Playing cards, reading dirty magazines and discussing their wild stories are some of the crazy things hockey players do to pass the time while on the road. So much more like the average person, than say, a baseball player, hockey players are blue-collar dudes out doing what they love for a living. They leave their heart and soul on their sleeves during every shift and beat the crap out of their bodies for a game that will never love them back the way they love it.
This is one of the themes that is so prevalent in the film and makes it enjoyable if you dig the sport or not. The Charlestown Chiefs, [the team Dunlap and his buddies play on] are so bad [last place, actually] and have no chance at doing anything productive with their season, until Dunlap comes up with the idea to play as dirty as they can. It’s not even out of necessity either, it’s more out of curiosity. Charlestown’s economy is in the gutter as well and the fans don’t care about hockey anymore, putting the team in serious talks of relocating. However, he sees how much the fans love the fighting and decides to go full-boar with it, for one last hurrah. With Dunlap’s idea and help from his team and a trio of spectacle-wearing brothers, the Hanson’s, who are easily the dirtiest players in the game [take that, Ric Flair], the Chiefs turn into one of the most unlikely Cinderella stories in professional sports. It’s a wild ride that never gets stale and will keep you entertained throughout.
With dozens of memorable scenes, fighting, good-looking women and great hockey action [many of the extras were pro hockey players, trying to earn some extra cash, including current Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau and former New York Islanders head coach Steve Stirling], this is one film that every hockey fan owes to themselves to watch. Everyone else will get a kick out of the wackyness and will definitely find themselves interested enough to watch a real game at some point.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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