The lasting power of the gritty hockey movie "Slapshot" never ceases to amaze. Thirty-three years after it was made, the Hanson brothers are still well-known and popular and clips from the movie are shown over and over at hockey rinks around the world.
There's a terrific new book on the subject, "The Making of Slapshot," by author Jonathan Jackson that's about to hit the bookstores. It includes a foreward by actor Michael Ontkean (Ned Braden in the movie) and lots of minutae about the film. Heck, the guys I play organized shinny with every Monday night use the Chiefs motif as a template, from uniforms to gloves to goalie masks to the fact the main organizer goes by the handle of "Reg."
What is also amazing is how one line from the movie about "old-time hockey" continues to be misunderstood and used as a motto for fighting and goon hockey. On Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs ran an entire video segment splicing fight scenes from Slapshot with fight scenes involving Leafs over the years, again with the "old-time hockey" phrase as the central concept.
What people fail to understand, of course, is that when the character played by Paul Newman (Reg Dunlop) utters the phrase "old-time hockey," he's actually urging his teammates NOT to fight, NOT to goon it up, but rather to get back to the basics of the game, shooting and passing and skating.
The scene comes after Dunlop has met with the mysterious owner of the team who has told him of her intent just to fold the franchise, rather than sell it.
He comes back to his team, sees that the goon hockey that has put the Chiefs back on the map has been an exercise in futility, and urges his teammates to get back to "old-time hockey. None of the wrestling shit." He tells them to "Play it straight."
So every time an organization like the Leafs or some other teams uses the "old-time hockey" motto as an excuse to show fight videos, all they're doing, really, is showing their ignorance and lack of understanding of what the original movie actually said. It's like when Ronald Reagan mistakenly chose Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." as the theme song for his 1984 re-election campaign, not understanding Springsteen's song actually lamented the loss of national pride.
Then again, as H.L. Mencken wrote and said, people will believe what they want to believe.