The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

February 25, 2007

Capturing the spirit of "Slap Shot" ... 30 years later

A group of police officers prepared to contend with a large crowd and perhaps a traffic jam.

The marquee, in capital letters, stated: “Filmed in Johnstown, Paul Newman, Slap Shot.”

But the anticipation and hype didn’t translate into a packed theater for the “Slap Shot” premiere in Johnstown 30 years ago.

The Westwood Plaza Theatre was a little more than half full, even though hundreds of movie goers were expected to attend – many of those hoping to catch a glimpse of their town or maybe even themselves as extras in the movie that had been filmed here a year earlier.

After a slow start, “Slap Shot” has aged well. In three decades, its following has grown, even reaching cult status in some parts.

Released by Universal Studios exactly 30 years ago today, “Slap Shot” is one of the most rented sports movies ever.

Sports fans recite lines without hesitation.

The story of the foul-mouthed but likable hockey players who went from worst to first has put Johnstown on the international map.

“It’s amazing how it took to people,” said Allan Nicholls, who played Charlestown Chiefs captain Johnny Upton. “I think it’s because it was one of those films that didn’t talk down. It talked to people. People could involve themselves and relate a lot better.

“There are so many big-budget films that are done for mass entertainment,” added Nicholls, a video producer from Burlington, Vt. “They achieve that and that’s fine. People would never think of getting in touch with the former actors in those films. Because this one was so down to earth, gritty and real, it made itself available for that.”

In the movie, Paul Newman’s character, aging Charlestown player-coach Reg Dunlop, brings the zany, bespectacled Hanson Brothers on board to reinvigorate the Chiefs and their fans with a rowdy brand of hockey and fighting.

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