Gary Pinneo: 'Slapshot' showed Newman's skills

Gary Pinneo

Legendary actor Paul Newman died recently at the age of 83. Besides his outstanding body of theatrical work that included more than 81 movies, he was a true humanitarian and philanthropist, raising more than $200 million for various charities through his food company.

After filming his 1968 movie "Winning," which had a story line about the Indianapolis 500, Newman became a true racing enthusiast. He truly loved the sport. Newman drove the car in his racing scenes in the movie. This led to owning his own race cars and company.

I personally do not like the Hollywood vision of sports. It’s generally too glitzy and over fabricated. They make the sport and participants look too contrived and caricature-like.

But in my opinion, mere are a handfull of features that deliver an accurate story and portrayal. Certainly, "Hoosiers" told the story of small town Milan, Ind., winning the Indiana state high school basketball championship in 1954 quite nicely. If you have ever been to Indiana during the high school basketball season, you can understand this statewide passion and how this film hit this nail on the head.

Ron Sheldon’s direction and screen adaptation of "Bull Durham" was fantastic. Sheldon was a former career minor league baseball player who knew what life in the minor leagues was all about. This classic movie was a home run. There are few movies that make this statement of being accurate and entertaining.

When it comes to hockey movies, the original "Slapshot" makes this list. This movie tells the story of a fictitious minor league hockey team named the Charlestown Chiefs. This team was based on a real team, the Johnstown Jets, which played in the old North American Hockey League in the late 1960s and1970s.

Newman played the aging player-coach Reggie Dunlop. His accurate portrayal of the aging, past-his-prime hockey player was the glue that made this film work. The real North American Hockey League was the bottom of the professional hockey heap. This was generally the end of the line for many pro players.

Most teams had older player coaches to guide the team. These players had decent careers in the upper hockey leagues at one time. But generally this was the end of the line for them. It was their last chance to stay in the game they had grown up with and loved. But the league was mostly known for its rough play, fighting, and raucous crowds.

Paul Newman did his homework for this role of the washed-up Reg Dunlop. He had the character down pat, including the mandatory leather leisure suit of the early 1970s. 

This movie accurately painted a picture of this team, the league and its players. Of course "Slapshot" also made instant stars of the “Hanson Brothers.” The wacky brothers, with their coke bottle, horn rimmed glasses were played by three real hockey Steve Carlson, Jeff Carlson and Dave Hanson.

This trio had actually played for the Johnstown Jets. They were career minor league hockey players making this movie even more believable and accurate. The film made them instant cult heroes om hockey rinks throughout me world. They are still touring hockey venues everywhere to this day.

Paul Newman, as usual, was the utmost professional actor. He literally became Reg Dunlop for this role. Of course this was not unusual for this gifted actor, special personality, and even more important, good person. The world is a sadder place with his passing.

The Chronicle-Express