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'Slap Shot' documentary celebrates iconic film

'NHL Network Originals' highlights classic hockey movie released 40 years ago

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

"This has all the earmarks of a hockey classic."

Those words were spoken by Jim Carr, the unforgettable radio announcer of the Charlestown Chiefs, while he hyped a game during the legendary movie "Slap Shot," which was released 40 years ago this month.

Those words also describe "NHL Network Originals: Slap Shot at 40," a 30-minute documentary on the making of "Slap Shot" airing Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN).

A screening of "Slap Shot" follows at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The documentary sets out to explain why "Slap Shot," an irreverent, counterculture movie widely panned upon its theatrical release, found its way into the hearts of several generations of hockey fans and film buffs to become one of the most beloved sports movies of all time.

"People still talk about it, because it was as entertaining as all hell," said Phil Esposito, an NHL forward from 1963-81 and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian. "That's what 'Slap Shot' did, it captured people."

Video: Steve Carlson talk about "Slapshot" and more

The documentary, the second installment of the series "NHL Network Originals," tries to explain the film's popularity through interviews with many who made it, as well as those shaped by it.

Extensive interviews with Steve Carlson, Jeff Carson and Dave Hanson -- the iconic Hanson Brothers who serve as a central arc of the movie -- are a focus of the documentary.

"We were three guys you loved to hate," Jeff Carlson says in describing their unwavering popularity.

The voices of the Hanson Brothers are supported by Ned Dowd, the former NAHL player whose sister, Nancy, wrote the screenplay for the movie, which was directed by George Roy Hill.

In one scene, Dowd tells a story about actor Nick Nolte, not yet a leading man, showing up for a bit part as one of the Chiefs players but being derailed by a laughable inability to skate.

There is also amazing archival footage of the late Paul Newman discussing his desire to see the movie made and his unforgettable role as player/coach of the Chiefs.

Video: Slap Shot at 40: Paul Newman

NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas, the play-by-play man for the Eastern League's Syracuse Chiefs in 1973-74, also weighs in on the film.

"I am here to tell you that while 'Slap Shot' may have exaggerated a little for dramatic effect, it is essentially true," he says early in the documentary.

These true-life tales are bolstered by the reactions of NHL players from yesterday and today.

Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who had a small part in "Slap Shot," and retired stars Mike Bossy, Mike Gartner, Al MacInnis, Adam Oates, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier share memories and anecdotes, as do current NHL players.

In the end, the documentary delivers on its promise to show why, as the announcer dramatically intones, "'Slap Shot' is more than just a time capsule of minor league hockey in the '70s and how its irreverent script, colorful characters and distinctly unsentimental story set itself apart from films of its genre."

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