Slap Shot is a 1977 sports comedy film starring Paul Newman, which has earned a sort of cult status among Ice Hockey fans; it has been named as the best hockey movie of all time by no less an authority than The Hockey News.
The Charlestown Chiefs are a minor league hockey team in the Federal League. With a losing record, a lack of popularity, and the fact that the town's steel mill — a main local job provider — is closing, the team seems doomed to be folded after the season. But then the team picks up the Hanson Brothers, three childlike young men who play the roughest hockey the team has ever seen (played by three real-life minor league hockey players). Reggie Dunlop (Newman), a veteran player and the Chiefs' coach, decides to retool the team around the brothers after their aggressive and violent play excites the fans. This decision splits the team between players who enjoy some good rough-housing on the ice, and those who prefer a "clean" style of playing. In a side plot, one of the "clean" players, Ned Braden, is on the verge of losing his wife due to her displeasure with their lifestyle.
Despite their slow rise in popularity, the team is still meant to be folded, and in order to keep his players' spirits up, Dunlop starts a rumor that the Chiefs have found a buyer somewhere in Florida. As the Chiefs continue winning and gaining fans, Dunlop blackmails the team's stingy GM, Joe McGrath (Strother Martin) to tell him who the team's mysteriously unknown owner is, in order to convince them not to fold the team.
The film was shot on location in and around Pittsburgh and Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The screenplay was written by Nancy Dowd, whose brother Ned played for the Johnstown Jets (of the now-defunct North American Hockey League), a team that included the guys who would play the Hanson Brothers in the movie. Ned himself appeared in the film, playing the notorious Ogie Oglethorpe. The director, George Roy Hill, also directed Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Since there hasnt been one for about 35 years many younger viewers are likely unaware that Player-Coaches used to be quite common, especially for a low level minor league team like the Chiefs.
- Artistic License Sports: Pretty much every instance of body contact shown would be an obvious interference penalty.
- Berserk Button: Hanrahan with regards to his wife's sexuality, used to great effect by Dunlop.
- Big Game: For the league championship. Subverted by the very unusual ending to the Big Game.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The F word itself is mentioned at least 60 times throughout the movie, among other swears. Hey, it's the language of the locker room. Paul Newman has said in interviews that he swore very little before making Slap Shot, but retained Reg's penchant for profanity after filming.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory: After a Syracuse player punches the head referee in the final game, the referee disqualifies Syracuse and gives the Chiefs the victory.
- Drives Like Crazy: Lily Braden, much to Reggie's concern when he has to hitch a ride with her.
- Fanservice: A topless scene with Melinda Dillon for no particular reason.
- Hockey Fight: The climactic final game pretty quickly devolves into this. The defusing of it (by one of the players deciding to strip-tease) Makes As Much Sense In Context.
- And, of course, there are plenty of fights beforehand, such as the Hansons cold-cocking their opponents during the pre-game skate leading to an all-out brawl before the game, and another fight that spills into the stands when an opposing fan tosses his keys at one of the Hansons. And then there's Dunlop goading the goalie Hanrahan into a fight.
- Manchild: The Hanson Brothers. (Reggie to the General Manager: "You cheap bastard, those guys are retards!")
- Memetic Mutation: "Old time hockey!" referred in universe to clean play. In popular culture, however... Though there's a bit of Values Dissonance at play here. At the time of the film, the idea of gooning it up as strategy was still a relatively new concept, having just been codified a few years earlier by the Philadelphia Flyers (who gooned their way to a pair of Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975). But by the end of the 80s, the NHL and most professional, college, and junior leagues had began to crack down on fighting. Then as the Cold War ended and Eastern European players began to make their way to North America... bringing their quicker, finesse-based style with them... the term "old time hockey" began to refer to the goonery that saw its heyday in the 1970s.
- Modesty Bedsheet: inverted; Reg and Suzanne have a post-coital chat and she sits up, exposing her naked breasts; while Reg remains bundled up to the neck
- Mooning: The entire team plus their followers do this out the windows of their vehicles when they get to one town that objects to their presence, and manage to stun the crowd to silence.
- Music at Sporting Events: "Don't ever play 'Lady of Spain' again!"
- Noodle Incident: One of the notorious players returning to hockey for the final "has been living in semi-seclusion running a donut shop in Moosejaw, Saskachewan ever since the famed Denny Pratt Tragedy."
- Opposing Sports Team: Inverted in that the protagonists are a down-and-out hockey team who suddenly hit the big time when they recruit three brothers who teach them the value of violent tactics deliberately designed to hurt the other team. This ends with them facing a team that's a conglomeration of all the most violent players their opponents can find, with no one making any attempt to play the game as they just try to kick each others' asses instead.
- Outdated Outfit:
- The outfits in this film are very, very 1970s, to an embarrassing extent.
- This even extends to the teams' uniforms; many of the designs would be considered conservative or even classic today, but the Long Island Ducks◊' unis, based on the real-life Broome Dusters◊, are definitively seventies. Also, helmets didn't become mandatory in professional hockey until the late 70s and nowadays, any league worth its salt will not let a player play without one.
- Potty Failure: Nick Brophy on the Hyannisport team is drunk during a game, and tells Dunlop that he's going to piss himself if he takes a hit on the boards. When Braden checks him on his next shift, Brophy has to gingerly skate off the ice in shame.
- Precision F-Strike: Though the Hanson Brothers are brutal, they at least know when to shut up and when others should too. One referee thought that the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was the perfect opportunity to berate them for the brawl that had happened during the warmups.Referee:I got my eye on the three of you. You pull one thing, you're out of this game. I run a clean game here. I have any trouble here, I'll suspend ya.
Steve Hanson: I'm listening to the FUCKING SONG!!!!
- Re-Release Soundtrack: "Right Back Where We Started From" and the rest of the songs featured in the film (including tracks by Elton John and Fleetwood Mac) were removed from its VHS releases and replaced with generic instrumentals. The songs were restored on the subsequent DVD and BD releases.
- '70s Hair: Several players feature long, shaggy hair, many with big, bushy 70s mustaches or beards... and then there is the glory of Ogie Oglethorpe's afro.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Lily Braden.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: General Manager Joe McGrath's "Reason You Suck" Speech, who had been a colossal prick, though a quiet one up to this point. He is visibly upset because NHL Scouts are in the stands watching the team get pummeled, risking any future job prospects he has after the Chiefs team dissolves. He screams at the team to forget "Old time hockey" and stop acting like pussies, which inspires the team to stop playing clean.Reggie: Scouts?
- Trickster Archetype: Reggie Dunlop.
- A Truce While We Gawk: The strip-tease during the climactic Hockey Fight eventually has both teams stop brawling and just stand there gawking at Braden stripping in befuddlement. Ogie Oglethorpe, the baddest brawler of them all, even does a facepalm in embarrassment.
- Unnecessary Roughness:
- The Hanson Brothers practically embody this.
- And then with the team of goons for the final game.