By Darren McChristie and Adrian Lysenko
He was a helluva hockey player, the best penalty killer I’ve ever seen. He played every shift as if his life depended on it.
– Albert Cava, hockey coach, referring to Thunder Bay brawler Goldie Goldthorpe
It should come as no surprise that Thunder Bay has a direct connection to the most celebrated hockey movie of all time, Slap Shot. This irreverent comedy starring Paul Newman is a cult classic—a raunchy, raw, and hilarious story that follows the fictional Charlestown Chiefs (based on the North American Hockey League’s Johnstown Jets) as they resort to violent play to gain popularity in their declining factory town. Hockey stereotypes abound in this classic: Northern Ontario french accents, f-bombs, drinking, and, of course, fearless, long-haired goons.
Enter the Thunder Bay connection. The most feared hockey enforcer in the movie is the
infamous bruiser Ogie Ogilthorpe—a fictional character inspired by left winger Goldie Goldthorpe. Goldthorpe, who grew up in Thunder Bay, is regarded as one of the most notorious hockey enforcers to have ever played the game. The 1970s were the golden era of bare-fisted fights and the NHL’s “Broad Street Bullies” and Goldthorpe were inspired by this style of rough play. He was influenced by locals who “played poker and played tough.” Once, during a midget hockey tournament in Manitoba, Goldthorpe came to the aid of Thunder Bay hockey legend Albert Cava, who was in an altercation with a ref. The two bonded, and later Goldthorpe would play for Cava with the Port Arthur Marrs.
Throughout his 11-year career in the minor leagues (including a stint with the Thunder Bay Twins) Goldthorpe racked up an impressive 1,132 penalty minutes in just 194 professional games. Along the way, he managed to threaten Don Cherry, bite a ref’s leg, knock out the penalty box announcer, and was known to jump into the stands to fight. Off-ice, he was shot, stabbed, and incarcerated for fighting—a teammate would sign him out to play hockey.
Many of these stories are included in the screenplay for the movie Slap Shot, which was written by Nancy Dowd and was loosely based on her brother Ned Dowd’s experiences. Goldthorpe played in the same league as Ned, and clearly had an influence on the stories he contributed to his sister’s screenplay. Ironically, it was Ned who played Ogie Oglithorpe in the movie—impressive blonde afro and all. Unlike other actors in the movie, who were also minor league hockey players, Goldthorpe wasn’t asked to play a role. “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.”