Slap Shot: Who Were Those Guys? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Slap Shot: Who Were Those Guys?

Having cut my hockey teeth during the heyday of goon-squad hockey back in the 1970s, I’ve always had an affinity for the movie Slap Shot. With nothing in particular to do (a mind is a terrible thing to waste), I decided to delve into the true identities of some of the movie’s more colorful characters.

Of course, everyone knows about the Hanson Brothers, the beloved bespectacled goons from the “Iron League” who restored the sagging fortunes of the Charlestown Chiefs. But you might not know that Jeff Carlson (the Jeff Hanson character) and Steve Carlson (Steve Hanson) were real hockey players who actually wore black-rimmed, Coke-bottle glasses … just like in the movie. Or that Steve was a member of the Penguins’ organization in the mid-1980s.

I was especially intrigued by the rogue’s gallery of thugs imported by Syracuse player/coach Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken (played by actor Paul D’Amato) for the Federal League championship game with the Chiefs—Ross “Mad Dog” Madison, Andre “Poodle” Lussier, Clarence “Screaming Buffalo” Swamptown, Gilmore Tuttle and, of course, Ogie Ogilthorpe.

As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. It turns out each of these guys was the genuine article. Madison, who greeted the Charlestown faithful by flipping them the bird, was portrayed by Connie “Mad Dog” Madigan, a notorious minor-league tough guy during the 1960s and ‘70s. Unlike his cohorts, Madigan actually made it to the NHL, appearing in 20 games with St. Louis in 1972-73.

Mark Bousquet played Lussier, who was “living in semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec since the unfortunate Denny Pratt tragedy.” He spent five years in the low minor leagues and piled up 190 penalty minutes with Toledo in 1979-80. The Swamptown role was filled (in full Indian regalia) by 48-year-old Joe Nolan, who in fact was a full-blooded Obijwa Indian. As a member of the Clinton Comets in 1955-56, Nolan became the first player in the history of pro hockey to rack up over 300 penalty minutes (352 to be exact) in a season.

The menacing, mustachioed Tuttle (from Mile 40, Saskatchewan) was portrayed by Blake Ball, a hulking defenseman who also played defensive end in the Canadian Football League. Nicknamed “Badman,” Ball served no less than 290 minutes in the slammer for four consecutive seasons, including a career-high of 362 in 1968-69.

Last but certainly not least, ominous Ogie Ogilthorpe was played to the hilt by Ned Dowd, the brother of Nancy Dowd, whose screenplay for the movie was based on Ned’s minor-league experiences. Although truly an imposing figure at 6’3” and 210 pounds, the afro-topped Dowd more closely resembled the Michael Ontkean character (Ned Braden) in real life, netting 32 goals for the Johnstown Jets in 1973-74.

However, the player Ogilthorpe was said to be based on—Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe—was indeed a holy terror. Sporting a huge blonde afro that eclipsed his celluloid counterpart’s, the 173-pound left wing out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, drew 25 fighting majors during his rookie season—by Christmas. Over the course of an eight-year pro career that included 33 games in the old WHA, Goldthorpe amassed a staggering 1132 penalty minutes in only 194 games!

“You want to know why I wasn’t in the movie?” Goldthorpe recalled in an interview with Allan Maki of The Globe and Mail. “They thought I was too wild and I’d beat up Paul Newman.”

Like Steve Carlson and Guido Tenesi (a Penguins draft pick who played Billy Charlebois), Goldie had a Pittsburgh connection. In 1977, Pens GM Baz Bastien invited the ultra-tough winger to training camp for a brief tryout. Goldthorpe is reported to have skated in at least one exhibition game for the locals before being released. 

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  1. Chris VanDusen's Gravatar Chris VanDusen
    September 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Great article for the Slap Shot fans!

  2. Patricia's Gravatar Patricia
    September 11, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I bought this movie ages ago and love it. The Goon Squad Hudson’s went about in the funniest way. I am glad you enjoy it too.

  3. September 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    LOL, I was still in high school and got caught on camera during the final parade scene as I was marching by. No speaking parts or anything like that. Don’t know how much access you folks have to the Penguins but there was a book called “Slap Shots and Snapshots: 50 Seasons of Pro Hockey in Johnstown”. Dana Heinze was a contributor to the project. Might be tough to find to buy but if you know him, he may be able to hook you up and sell you a copy. Lots of facts about Slap Shot and some good general stories regarding minor league hockey in general and some of the players who passed through here during the first 50 years. You’d be surpised with some of the names that’ll pop up.

  4. September 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff but since I somehow got my ugly mug into this movie (not by design) here’s a couple of more tidbits you may be interested in. The movie was based on the 1974-75 Johnstown Jets and they used players from the 75-76 roster to make the movie. The Jets were affiliated with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the NAHL snd won the league championship. How they intertwined these players into the movie was interesting. There were actually 3 Carlson Brothers that played on the team, Steve and Jeff were in the movie but Jack Carlson was called up to the parent club so he couldn’t participate in the movie so in stepped Dave Hanson. Hanson was a brawler who was called “Killer” by the locals. This worked it’s way into the movie with Dave “Killer” Carlson (Dave’s a Killer!!, Dave’s a mess). One of the turning points of the Jet’s Championship year didn’t turn up in the movie thought. One night in Binghampton, the home team all came out for the warmups wearing funny nose and glasses. This led to a big brawl and the Jet’s responded by taking off and winning the championship. The Player Ned Brophy (the guy who peed his pants) was played by longtime Jet John Gofton and the ref who tossed Paul Newman out the game was Dick Roberge, a Jet who scored the most points in team (and minor league) history. And no, there was never a striptease in real life but we’re still not sure about Hanrahan’s wife…..

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      September 2, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Great post, JLpens! The more I delve into “Slap Shot,” the more surprised I am to learn that a lot of the storyline is loosely based on actual events. It wasn’t all that much of a departure from what hockey was really like back in the “outlaw” days of the 1970s.

      Okay, you’ve peaked my curiosity. Did you play a small role in the movie? Or did they feature you as an extra? Did you live in Johnstown at the time?

    • FG's Gravatar FG
      March 16, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      I grew up in Endicott, NY and watched the Broome Dusters in the NAHL. Bill Goldthorpe played for the Syracuse Blazers and he was a terror to the in-state rivals Dusters. Ironically, he eventually played for the Dusters too. Also, Rod Bloomfield, star center on the Dusters played the stunt double of Paul Newman on the ice. What a great movie, like caddie shack for golf. LOL

      JLpens: I was at that game in Binghamton…Do you remember Paul Stewart?


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