I first saw Slap Shot when I was 17 and playing junior hockey for the Pembroke ( Ont.) Lumber Kings. It was as if they had made a movie about my life. The Charlestown Chiefs spend half their time on endless bus trips. So did we. One of the towns we rode to was Smiths Falls. The rink there had a section called Whiskey Row. You never knew what those fans might send flying at you. That scene in the movie where one of the Hanson brothers gets hit in the face with a key chain? That doesn't seem like a joke to me.
In the dressing room Slap Shot is the common language. We like to joke about who on our team matches the characters in the movie. There's always a French Canadian or a European guy, like the movie's Denis Lemieux, who struggles with the language barrier. There's always someone, like Ned Braden, who refuses to fight. We've got a guy on the Bruins, Sean O'Donnell, who travels with his toys on every road trip like the Hanson brothers do.
If we read something in the newspaper that's funny or wrong, we invoke the Chiefs' beat writer: "Dickie Dunn wrote this; it's got to be true." And whenever the other team has a big thug who can barely skate, you can bet we'll be calling him Ogilthorpe from the bench.
The film is set in the minors, so the action is supposed to be sloppy. But Paul Newman [above, as player-coach Reggie Dunlop pummeling a foe] looks like he knows what he's doing on the ice. The old man can move.
If you play hockey, it's a given that you own a copy of Slap Shot. I upgraded to the DVD last year. As Dickie Dunn would say, Slap Shot really captures the spirit of the thing.