Talking With Dr. Hook From 'Slap Shot'

Matt ShieldsCorrespondent IApril 25, 2007

With the Stanley Cup playoffs upon us, I thought it would be a good time to post an interview with an old friend of mine Paul D'Amato.
Hockey fans know him as Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken from the movie Slap Shot. As Dr. Hook, Paul immortalized the hockey goon on celluloid. One look at this guy and you're heading for the bench: 'Uh, can't play today coach. I've got a stomach virus...'

Paul is a working actor who has held his own on screen in scenes with Robert DeNiro (The Deer Hunter), Paul Newman (Slap Shot), and Cher (Suspect). He often plays the scary bad-guy type, and plays it well, but in real life Paul is a down-to-earth and overall good guy.
Still, I'd keep my head up if you're ever on the ice with him
Matt Shields: How did you create Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken? Was he based on any real hockey players of the time?

D'Amato: Dr. Hook was a cross between Dave Schultz, Bobby Schmautz, and the shark in Jaws.
MS: You looked comfortable on the ice. Did you play hockey yourself?

D'Amato: I've been skating since childhood. I always liked winter and skating on the pond was always a part of it. The first lake I skated on was Lashaway in East Brookfield. As we began to move around for my fathers' work, we always ended up living either near a flooded area or near a lake. When we moved to Framingham on my thirteenth birthday, I was amped to find out that there was a lake (Cochituite) at the end of my road.

MS: How about your scenes in Slap Shot with Paul Newman? Any butterflies?

D'Amato: On my first movie I got a chance to work with one of my favorite actors, Paul Newman, and the first line that I ever said in a movie was "Dunlop, you suck cock" (Newman played Dunlop). I was very nervous and excited at the same time. The scene was pretty simple and straightforward and I realized that being nervous was no excuse. So, like James Cagney would want, I planted my feet, looked him square in the eye and told him what I thought of him...It worked out pretty well, butterflies and all.
MS: Do you have a favorite team? Favorite player?

D'Amato: When I was kid growing up I was a Bruins fan and my favorite player was Bobby Orr. My second favorite player was the remaining eighteen players on the team...I would still say that the Bruins are my faves, but Buffalo has been playing real good hockey all year.
MS: Slap Shot came out in 1977, but it has obviously had a lasting impression among hockey fans. A young coworker of mine knew who you were when I mentioned Dr. Hook to him a couple years back. Are you still recognized among today s hockey fans?

D'Amato: It's not a stretch to say that almost every hockey player, high school and up, knows who I am. I was doing a charity event a few years ago and was having a beverage with Rod Gilbert and Steve Vickers, and Steve was on the phone with his son. When he got off he said, "The kid is on the bus with his team on the way to a game and they're watching Slap Shot." That's good enough for me.