"Slap Shot," the greatest hockey movie ever made and the most memorable sports movie ever made, was released in theaters on Feb. 25, 1977 — otherwise known as 40 years ago exactly as of Saturday.
Sure, the parts about "greatest" and "most memorable" are the stuff of debate, but I make those declarations as someone who didn't even play hockey growing up. I encountered the movie for the first time at a neighbor's house at around age 8 (I'm the same age as the movie, plus a few months). By now, thanks to hockey-loving friends and a genuine love of the movie, counting the number of viewings would be impossible.
As the movie about the ragtag bunch of minor league players for the Charlestown Chiefs aged, though, this thought crept in: Does the younger generation — particularly hockey players — have the same reverence for the movie as those past? Could millennials relate to [redacted] machines taking quarters and brawling players putting on the foil?
I'm happy to report from a small but meaningful sample size — a Gophers men's hockey locker room filled with players half the movie's age — that "Slap Shot" is alive, well and still quoted with abundance.
Tyler Sheehy, a Gophers sophomore from Burnsville, said the movie was on a couple weekends ago when Minnesota was on a road trip.
"The team was in our hotel room, and on the team group chat, a message went out that 'Slap Shot' was on whatever channel it was, and so all the guys started watching," Sheehy said. "It's an awesome movie, and it's great that it's still part of hockey."
Teammate Justin Kloos, a senior from Lakeville, agreed. He and road roommate Eric Schierhorn immediately put the movie on after getting the group message. But it was hardly the first time he had seen it.
"A lot of the dads passed it down. It was one of the first hockey movies they showed us when we were younger," Kloos said. "We still think it's funny. We've watched it multiple times at our house with the guys and still laugh at all the great parts."
Kloos said the team will go on streaks where "Slap Shot" quotes are tossed about freely in the locker room.
"There's not one line that stands out, but there are a lot of Ogie Ogilthorpe jokes," he said, referring to one of the memorable goon characters in the movie. "I was a Hanson brother for probably four or five straight years for Halloween. We go in streaks with the quotes. If we watch it with a bunch of guys, we'll quote it for a couple of months."
Sheehy said part of the appeal is that there just aren't a lot of great hockey movies. He checked off the Big Three — "Slap Shot," "The Mighty Ducks" and "Miracle," adding that there are "definitely not enough." Kloos said players "try to incorporate "Happy Gilmore" into their movie rotation "because there aren't enough great hockey movies."
More than anything, though, "Slap Shot" is just a hilarious hockey movie that really gets to the heart of the sport and the locker room.
Said Kloos: "You rarely say nice things to each other, but that's why we love each other. We build chemistry by making fun of each other."
He paused for a moment and then added, "I'll love that movie until the day I die."
And that's how a movie lives on.