This man once bit a referee in front of 5,000 raucous fans and a gaggle of cops. He threw a water bottle at an announcer. Fought a teammate on an airport tarmac. Chucked a Coke bottle at a movie star. One night after getting kicked out of the game, he came back on to the ice in his street clothes and fought with the other team, the officials and eventually the police. His life on the ice was stranger than fiction. And eventually, it simply became fiction.
You see, one of the most iconic characters from the 1977 cult comedy, Slap Shot, wasn’t a fabrication at all. Ogie Ogilthorpe, the outrageous goon from the movie, was based on real-life hellion Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe who playe d in the minor leagues and WHA against the likes of fellow Slap Shot alumni Dave Hanson and the Carlson brothers.
The strange thing was Hanson and two of the Carlson’s got to play characters similar to themselves in Slap Shot. They became the height of horn-rimmed hilarity. Twenty-five years later, they’re still working their shtick in countless public appearances and an albeit bad Slap Shot 2 movie. In fact, most everyone associated with the movie, including the star, Paul Newman, has benefitted from its enduring popularity and can look back fondly — but not Goldthorpe.
Instead, the movie that not just glorified hockey violence but made us laugh at it left Goldthorpe bitter. They took his game, his name, his blonde Afro, then asked someone else to play the part of Ogilthorpe. Why?
They couldn’t find him … or so they said.
“They’re full of shit,” Goldthorpe snorts. “You want to know why I wasn’t in the movie? They thought I was too wild and I might beat up Paul Newman.”
“No, but here’s what happened: Newman’s brother came and saw us play. I was with Binghamton. That night, there had been a fight in the stands in Johnstown and I got charged with assault. In the dressing room, I had a coke bottle and I was so angry I threw it at Paul Stewart [a teammate turned NHL referee] because he wouldn’t shut up. The bottle hit the wall, and at that moment Newman’s brother walked into the room and got Coke all over him. That was it. They thought I was unstable.”
That, of course, was just the tip of the rap sheet. As rough as he was on the ice, off the ice Goldthorpe was totally out of control. He wouldn’t back down from a challenge because that’s not how you do it if you’re from the land of the tough guys, T-bag Bay.
“I think Goldie’s proud of the role he played. He took care of his teammates and he was fiercely loyal,” said George Gwozdecky, now the University of Denver hockey coach and a former teammate. “But there’s no question he’s not proud of some of the things he did off the ice. He’ll admit he screwed up.”
Eighteen of those screwups landed Goldthorpe in jail and many others put him in the hospital. In 1980 in San Diego, he was shot in the stomach while trying to rescue an ex-girlfriend. The paramedics who treated Goldthorpe said if he hadn’t had such strong abdominal muscles he would have died. In another incident he was stabbed and required 300 stitches.
“Do I regret any of those off-ice incidents? All of them. I’m not going to lie. I did it because I didn’t have discipline. I should never have drank. I wasn’t a drunk but I drank and that didn’t help. I didn’t start every fight. I’d be in a town and someone would say, ‘You’re not that tough.’ I was only 173 pounds and people couldn’t believe I was Ogie Ogilthorpe. That’s how a lot of things got started.”
“The Slap Shot business bothers him,” Gwozdecky insisted. “The Carlson brothers have lived off that movie ever since they made it. On the other hand, Goldie, who had more of a reputation, more of a legacy, more toughness and was depicted in the movie that way, never received a thing — not even an acknowledgment.”
“I’ve never hidden from what I did. All that stuff, it’s just the way it worked out. It’s not like I woke up in the morning and said, ‘I’m going to jail tonight.’ Everything that happened in that movie, it happened to me. All those guys, they made millions of dollars. I didn’t get a dime. But when I meet guys who played the game, they all call me Ogie Ogilthorpe. They all say that. They know.”
Check out this trailer of a documentary about Goldie …