As the counter-culture hit movie Slap Shot approaches its 40th anniversary this month, NHL Network looks back at the making of the film and explores its status today as a cult classic in NHL Network Originals: Slap Shot at 40 on Wednesday, February 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET, followed by Slap Shot at 8:30 p.m. ET.
When Slap Shot premiered in 1977, it painted a gritty and humorous picture of a minor league hockey team in a blue-collar town, featuring performances by Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman and real-life minor league hockey players. Slap Shot at 40 centers around an interview with the former professional hockey players Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and Dave Hanson, who combined to star in the film as the now-iconic Hanson Brothers. They describe playing for the team that inspired the film, Johnstown Jets in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in the 1970's, and reveal that they were only cast in the film once producers couldn't find actors who could realistically portray hockey players. The documentary also features archival interview footage with Paul Newman about his persistence that the movie be made, plus interviews with fellow former NAHL player Ned Dowd, whose sister, screenwriter Nancy Dowd, took inspiration from his stint with the Johnstown Jets to write the original screenplay for Slap Shot, as well as Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau, who played for the Johnstown Jets in 1975-76, and preeminent sports broadcaster Bob Costas, who served as an announcer for the Eastern Hockey League's Syracuse Blazers from 1973-1974.
The film's popularity is described in comments from current NHL players Victor Hedman, Connor McDavid, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber as well as Hockey Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Phil Esposito, Mike Gartner, Al MacInnis, Adam Oates, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier.
Slap Shot at 40 is the second installment of the documentary series NHL Network Originals, following the debut episode Orchestrating An Upset: The 1996 World Cup of Hockey, which premiered in September 2016.