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Polkafest 2024 Starts In:

Slap Shot Hockey Movie

The Iconic movie Slap Shot is a 1977 comedy film directed by George Roy Hill, written by Nancy Dowd and starring Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean. It depicts a minor league hockey team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity in a declining factory town. (Source: The town chosen as the real-world backdrop for this film was Johnstown, PA!

How the story developed: Nancy Dowd, who wrote the screenplay, based it on her brother Ned Dowd’s experiences playing minor league hockey in the US in the 1970’s when violence, especially in the minor leagues, was a selling point of the game. Nancy used Ned and a number of his Johnstown Jets teammates in Slap Shot, with Ned actually portraying Syracuse goon “Ogie Ogilthorpe.” The characters of the “Hanson Brothers” are based on three actual brothers: Jeff, Steve and Jack Carlson, who played on the Johnstown Jets. The three brothers were originally scripted to play themselves, using the “Hanson Brothers” name.

However by the time filming began, Jack was called up by the Edmonton Oilers, then of the WHA, to play in the playoffs. Dave Hanson, also an actual Jets player known as “Killer” Hanson, was originally scripted to play himself in the film; however, when Jack was unable to play his role, Dave was moved into the role of the third “Hanson” brother and actor Jerry Houser was hired to play “Killer Carlson.”

Paul Newman, claiming that he swore very little in real life before the making of Slap Shot, said to Time magazine in 1984, “There’s a hangover from characters sometimes. There are things that stick. Since Slap Shot, my language is right out of the locker room!”

Newman also stated publicly that the most fun he ever had making a movie was on Slap Shot, as he had played the sport while young and was fascinated by the real players around him. He also said that playing Reggie Dunlop was one of his favorite roles.

The city of Johnstown was chosen to portray “Charlestown” for the movie. Most of the filming was done here and several players from the then-active North American Hockey League Johnstown Jets were used as extras. Others sites and arenas used were Starr Arena in Hamilton, New York, the Utica Auditorium (used as “Peterborough” where the pre-game fight occurs and where Hanson reprimands the referee for talking during the National Anthem), Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York (used as “Hyannisport” where the Hanson Brothers charge into the stands to accost a fan and are subsequently arrested) and the other Johnstown locales.

Take the Slapshot Movie Tour!

This tour is a self-guided trip to some of the most recognizeable downtown locations in the movie Slap Shot! This tour will include text and audio about each location, to give a rich background of the film’s roots in Johnstown, PA.

Key Movie Locations

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