Newman gave lasting legacy to hockey

Monday, 09.29.2008 / 3:05 PM CT / Feature
By John Tranchina
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Newman gave lasting legacy to hockey

With the recent passing of Paul Newman at age 83, there have been plenty of eulogies and career retrospectives in various news media celebrating the luminary actor’s incredible body of work over his 40-plus years in Hollywood.

But one of his most important roles getting little notice in those obituaries was his 1977 portrayal of Charlestown Chiefs player/coach Reg Dunlop in the classic hockey film, Slap Shot. 

Yes, most non-hockey fans will undoubtedly remember him for a multitude of more substantial film roles (The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Verdict, etc.), but his contribution to Slap Shot not only commercially legitimized what might otherwise have been an overlooked ‘B’ movie, it created its own enduring hockey culture. 

Even ESPN, in its own remembrance of Newman the other night, cited his other sports involvements such as his race-car driving and ownership of an Indy racing team, but never mentioned Slap Shot.  And for an actor who was nominated nine times for a best actor Oscar (eight for a leading role) - winning once, for 1986’s Color of Money, the Martin Scorsese-directed sequel to The Hustler - it says something that Newman himself stated on several occasions that he enjoyed making Slap Shot more than any other film.  Clearly, he recognized its cult-like appeal to the hockey community.

The fact that virtually every person who’s ever played hockey or loved the sport has watched that film multiple times - and can quote many of its hysterical one-liners on command - demonstrates the impact it has had on the hockey community.

As evidenced by the nightly clips on the ProStar scoreboard at American Airlines Center (“Come on guys, show us what you got!”), and the fact that the Hanson Brothers are still revered celebrities over 30 years after the film’s release (remember the loud ovation they received during their appearance at their appearance at a Stars game last season?), Slap Shot is still considered the greatest hockey movie ever.

The ironic thing about that is that, from a filmmaking perspective, it’s really not a very good film. It’s nowhere near Miracle in its character complexity, cinematography, attention to detail or authenticity of the hockey sequences, yet it remains far more impactful. 

The plotline itself, while touching on timeless topics like the difficulty of the wives dealing with being alone and moving around and how a downturn in the local economy will affect the team at the box office, it still has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.  (For example, how can no one, not even the press, know who ‘own’ the Chiefs?  Wouldn’t that info be in the team’s media guide?)

And despite the fact that many of the hockey aspects of the movie are quite outdated, from the extensive bench-clearing brawls and players not wearing helmets to Dunlop’s role as player/coach, not to mention the presence of an actual organ player in the arena, it continues to introduce new generations of hockey fans every year to Eddie Shore, Old Time hockey and puttin’ on the foil. 

Besides the movie’s timeless humor, which admittedly borders on juvenile at times but still works in any locker room in North America, part of its appeal comes from Newman himself. Having such a recognizable star, the only real ‘name’ actor in the film, helps give the film staying power while his nuanced character stabilizes the story.

With Reggie Dunlop in charge, you just knew the Chiefs would come out on top, even if it took brawling to do it .

Rest in peace, Reg.  You will be missed.




1 x - ANA 78 49 22 7 227 216 105
2 x - NSH 77 47 22 8 220 188 102
3 STL 75 46 22 7 228 186 99
4 CHI 75 45 24 6 213 175 96
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 75 43 27 5 215 203 91
7 WPG 76 39 25 12 215 201 90
8 CGY 76 41 28 7 224 201 89
9 LAK 75 37 24 14 200 188 88
10 DAL 76 37 29 10 236 243 84
11 SJS 76 37 30 9 212 215 83
12 COL 75 35 28 12 205 209 82
13 EDM 75 22 40 13 181 254 57
14 ARI 76 23 45 8 160 252 54


J. Benn 76 28 44 -4 72
T. Seguin 66 34 35 -1 69
J. Spezza 76 16 41 -3 57
J. Klingberg 59 11 27 6 38
C. Eakin 72 17 19 -2 36
T. Daley 62 16 19 -9 35
A. Goligoski 76 4 31 0 35
A. Hemsky 70 11 21 -6 32
S. Horcoff 72 11 17 8 28
V. Fiddler 74 12 14 -6 26
K. Lehtonen 34 15 10 .907 2.84
J. Enroth 14 26 2 .900 3.28

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