Paul Newman stars as the coach of a minor-league hockey team in the Universal film "Slap Shot," directed by George Roy Hill.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

No shame even if you want to put on the foils: 'Slap Shot' turns 40

It is not "Citizen Kane" but it is a classic nonetheless.

"Slap Shot," the Paul Newman comedy about a down-on-its-luck hockey team, can be called one of the defining sports movies of the 20th century. The vulgar, often violent film by Academy Award-winning director George Roy Hill follows the Charlestown Chiefs, a minor league team that resorts to brawling on ice to gain popularity and avoid being shut down.

The movie, released on Feb. 25, 1977, turns a glorious 40 and resonates for coaches and players in college hockey today.

Reg Dunlop, the Hanson brothers, Denis Lemieux all still have devotees today. When it was released critics were split — they were entertained but repulsed by the language and violent depiction of on-ice fighting prevalent in minor-league hockey at the time. But the reality of the locker room, hard-scrabble depictions of small-town sports as well as the brilliant comedic performance by Newman has earned the film a spot on both the GQ and Maxim magazine lists for best "guy movies" of all time along with "The Godfather," "Raging Bull" and Newman's own classic "Cool Hand Luke."

While the movie, based loosely on the former North American Hockey League was strictly entertainment, there were plenty of moments of truth as well. "I know guys that played in that league and told me stories," said Red Gendron, Maine's coach. "I didn't see it, I didn't play, but some of that stuff was recounted to me and then the way it played in the movie seemed pretty similar."

For Vermont's Kevin Sneddon, the movie hit closer to home. "The funny part of 'Slap Shot' is my dad played in that era and in that league," he said. "When I was a little kid I got to see some of those games and it's not far off from what was displayed in the movie."

Putting on the foils, one of the classic lines in the movie, happened often. Players would tape tin foil on their hands under their gloves so when they were fighting they could do some damage. "I didn't put on the foils so much but we did tape our hands," said Omaha head coach Dean Blais. "You don't see fighting in the game anymore like that.

"We saw a little with the St. Paul Saints," Blais said. " There was a cast of guys over there like (Philadelphia Flyers president and former player) Paul Holmgren and he loved to throw the gloves down at any time or any moment."

Earlier this season, ASN's Dave Dondoneau and Brendan Jones asked players and coaches about the movie. While coaches to a man named "Slap Shot" the top hockey movie, players tended to favor "Miracle" or "Mystery, Alaska." But not all of them.

Take a look.

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