Monday, December 6, 2010

'Slap shot' book details greatest hockey movie ever made

I grew up with minor league hockey in Hershey, Pa.

The Hershey Bears, currently the top affiliate for the Washington Capitals, are the oldest and most successful team in American Hockey League history.  The Bears also ranked as one of the league's best when they were aligned with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 1980s.

That was a time when bench-clearing brawls still took place at old Hersheypark Arena where the Bears played from 1936-2002. I don't recall attending a game where punches weren't exchanged.  Yes, this is when the old saying "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" almost rang true.

The Bears players hung out at my family's former restaurant, Lucy's Cafe, on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey.

They also came over to our house.

Dad and I visited the team's locker room to deliver meatball sandwiches after the games.

I played youth hockey with the Bears' fiberglass sticks, which Dad cut down to size for me.

I also watched a notorious homemade VHS tape of brutal NHL fights compiled by the Bears' most famous goon, Steve Martinson, who still holds the record for most penalty minutes in a single season: a staggering 432. He accomplished that during the 1985-86 season. I was in second grade and attended most games with my pops.

Around this same time, my dad made sure Mom wasn't around and we watched "Slap Shot."

The 1977 movie starring Paul Newman, about a struggling minor leage hockey team, was partially filmed in nearby Johnstown, Pa. It captures everything I witnessed first-hand or had been told about the sport. To this day, it ranks of one of my all-time favorite films.

In Sunday's Herald, we ran a story about the new book "The Making of Slap Shot: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Hockey Movie Ever Made" by Jonathon Jackson.  Turns out the woman who wrote the "Slap Shot" script, Nancy Dowd (who won a best screenplay Oscar for 1978's "Coming Home"), did extensive research via her brother, Ned Dowd, who played for the Johnstown Jets of the North American Hockey League.

The author "interviewed virtually everyone involved in the movie, including the private Newman, who answered questions submitted by Jackson via fax and e-mail." 

Sounds like this book could be the perfect present for the "Slap Shot" fan in your life.

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