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NHL players, coaches share thoughts on 'Slap Shot'

One-liners, classic scenes live on, 40 years after iconic movie opened in theaters

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"Slap Shot," a feature film about a minor league hockey team starring Hollywood icon Paul Newman, opened in theaters on Feb. 25, 1977.

The film got a strong review in The New York Times from Vincent Camby, who said the film, "which has been R-rated as much for its language as for the violence on the rink, has a kind of vitality to it that overwhelms most of the questions relating to consistency of character and point of view. Much in the manner of 'Network,' you know that it's an original and that it's alive, whether you like it or not." 

But "Slap Shot" was not originally a commercial success. However, thanks to the emergence of home video in the 1980s and the growth of cable TV, the movie has become a cult classic that, 40 years on, is still a hit among hockey players and sports fans.

Some former and NHL players shared their thoughts on "Slap Shot" with NHL.com:

 

FAVORITE MEMORY OF THE MOVIE

Ryan Whitney, former NHL defenseman

"Whenever it is on TV, you can't not watch it. There are so many good parts, but I love the locker room speech where Dave [Carlson] had been fighting and somebody says 'Dave's a killer, Dave's an animal,' and then it just goes to the guy with long mustache and he just says, 'Dave's a mess.' It's so funny because you think of these guys that are just laying it down on the line in the lower minor leagues."

Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils forward

"Probably the first time that I watched it was on a bus trip, like a lot of junior teams. That's a pretty standard movie to put on. It's a legendary movie with so many one-liners that still, to this day, me and my friends say. Even when there's an awkward silence in the room and we're playing a road game, one of the guys will speak up and go, 'We're on the road,' just that one-liner from the movie. So still to this day, they're being said.

"It's funny. I'd say that the new generation, the guys that are coming up now probably haven't seen it, but back in my day that was a movie that you had to see, for sure."

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames forward

"I don't want my mom to know this, but I was probably 12, 13, 14, when I first saw 'Slap Shot.' First time I saw it was with my dad, and he laughs at everything, so when he was laughing I'd just laugh at him laughing because his laugh is contagious. So he was laughing the whole movie and I'm laughing the whole movie, too. So it was good. I like the scene where the goalie is explaining all the penalties at the news station. That's probably one of my favorite scenes."

Video: Slap Shot at 40: NHL Players

Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals coach

"It was funny because there's so many things in that movie that remind you of the minors and stuff like that. You can quote so many things from it. The scene I always think of is the coach looks into the room and he goes, 'They brought their [expletive] toys.' Or 'What are you guys doing?' 'Putting on the foil.' "

Justin Williams, Washington Capitals forward

"I was a little older when I first saw it. I was on a bus in junior, so maybe 16 [years old]. A lot of older guys had seen it, but I had never seen it so I kind of paid attention to it. Everyone loves the old sports movies. I think for every sport, there's maybe one or two [movies] that stand out. That's the one that stands out in hockey."

John MacLean, former NHL forward and current New Jersey Devils analyst

"Paul Newman was great in the movie. I mean, we talk about the Hanson Brothers, but the 'Killer Carlson is a mess' line is one of my favorites. Paul Newman did a nice job rounding the troops up to get it done."

Ken Daneyko, former New Jersey Devils defenseman and current Devils analyst

"There are so many classic parts. Some people think at times, well, it didn't really show what hockey is all about. But in retrospect, it was an intimidating game, more so in my era, in the 1970s and 1980s. The physicality was all part of it. I tell many people that when I played in the Saskatchewan junior league, it wasn't that far-fetched from 'Slap Shot.' If I survived the Saskatchewan junior league, I felt I would be able to get through this until I reached the National Hockey League.

"Yes, the movie was a little exaggerated, but some of the antics and stuff that went on, I can relate to."

Nicklas Lidstrom, former Detroit Red Wings defenseman

"There are great moments in the movie. Which one should I pick? Probably when the French goalie is being interviewed with his gear on and he's showing different penalties and slashing and what not. So it does have some great moments in that movie."

Mike Gartner, former NHL forward

"I think it's still the No. 1 movie for most of the junior team guys that are coming up, and I think everybody that's played the game has probably watched 'Slap Shot.'"

Video: Slap Shot at 40: Paul Newman

 

ON THE HANSON BROTHERS

Daneyko

"Those guys were great. They're such nice guys now if you ever get a chance to say hello to them. They've been doing things for that movie, so it just shows how great the movie was and how popular it was. They're still, to this day, going to arenas, rinks and making appearances, so it was a classic. They did a heck of a job for not being actors; it was outstanding.

"I played in a rookie game against Dave Hanson when he was with the New York Islanders and I think he was 27 or 28 years old. I think it was my first year, at the Totowa Ice World. He was actually in the lineup for the rookie game and those games were absolute bloodbaths in those days when the Devils [first] came to New Jersey. He was a tough guy. Teams dressed tough guys, and Hanson was a tough guy. I think I might have clashed with him, I can't really remember. I was a kid and trying to make a name for myself. There were a lot of tough guys in that game. I think I may have had a bump in with him; don't know if it was a scrap, but there was a melee on the ice."

Gartner

"They are still doing their thing. Good for them."

MacLean

"I like the movie so much because of those Hanson brothers of course, that stereotypical French goalie [Denis Lemieux], doing the interview in his own way; so funny. They hit every little tidbit of our game. Was it overdone? Yes, in certain ways it was as far as that goes. But the little subtleties of it, they all happen to be half-truths; but they did it in such a funny way with how they handled it all and brought it to the screen."

Video: Slap Shot at 40: Making of

 

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN IT?

Trotz

"Over my lifetime, I've probably seen it 50 times. When you're young, everybody saw it three times a year. I saw it in theater [when it first came out]. I think I was either in junior or just got into coaching. I might have been scouting for the Capitals when it first came out and the reason I know that is when Al MacIsaac was playing with Hampton Roads [in the ECHL], he's now with the Chicago Blackhawks [as senior vice president of hockey operations], he said that [coach] John Brophy would never let the players watch 'Slap Shot' on the bus. One time, somebody tried to put in the VHS to watch and he stopped the bus, pulled it out and threw it outside."

Brophy, who died in 2016, was a defenseman who played for 18 seasons in the Eastern Hockey League and later coached in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was believed to be the inspiration for the lead character, Reg Dunlop, played by Newman.

Daneyko

"I watched it as a kid, but I think I enjoy it more now being an adult and having gone through junior hockey and the Saskatchewan junior league, the Western League. It's a classic. It's hilarious. The Ogie Ogilthorpe part might be my favorite when they're in the room and they say 'Look, Ogie Ogilthorpe's back' and the young kid comes and they say, 'No he's suspended' and everybody goes 'Shhh.'"

Whitney

At least 30-40 times. You see it on so many bus trips. And I watched it even more when I was younger. Now, it's at the point when it is on TV and I happen to catch it, I will watch it until the end.

Video: Slap Shot at 40: Hanson Brothers

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