Paul D’Amato, who portrayed menacing ‘Dr. Hook’ in ‘Slap Shot,’ dead at 76


Paul D’Amato, who portrayed the menacing and despicable goon Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken in the classic hockey movie “Slap Shot,” died Monday. He was 76.

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D’Amato died at his home in East Brookfield, Massachusetts, after a four-year battle with a rare brain disease called progressive supranuclear palsy, his fiancée, actress Marina Re, told The Hollywood Reporter.

“He was the most wonderful, sweetest guy, he fought so hard against this horrendous disease,” Re said.

D’Amato also had a memorable scene in the Academy Award-winning film “The Deer Hunter,” the entertainment news website reported. But his sweet disposition in real life was in sharp contrast to his portrayal of Dr. Hook, the captain of the Syracuse Bulldogs, in “Slap Shot.” His nickname derived from his high-sticking tactics on the ice.

He got the role in the rough-and-tumble 1977 hockey movie that starred Paul Newman because of his ability in the rink. He played hockey while at Emerson College in Boston and played in a Burlington, Vermont, league in 1975, according to People.

D’Amato said he was nervous when he did his first scene with Newman, where his wild-eyed character was to insulted the star’s character of Reggie Dunlop with a vulgar phrase, according to Deadline.

“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,” D’Amato said. “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.”

John Byrne, writer and artist of Marvel Comics’ “X-Men” during the 1970s and ‘80s, was said to have based his look for his Wolverine character on D’Amato’s Dr. Hook, NBC News reported.

Steve Carlson, who played one of the equally goon-like Hanson brothers -- Steve Hanson -- posted condolences on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“RIP Paul D’Amato. Sending heart felt condolences to Family and fellow friends, actors,” Carlson wrote.

Carlson was one of three brothers who played for the Johnstown Jets of the North American Hockey League during the mid-1970s, The Athletic reported. The Hanson brothers were based on the Carlson siblings.

D’Amato said during a 2007 interview that Dr. Hook “was a cross between Dave Schultz) who holds the NHL record for single-season penalty minutes), Bobby Schmautz (called “the worst stickwork offender in the game”) and the shark in ‘Jaws,’” Deadline reported.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, D’Amato grew up in Spencer and had been proficient as an ice skater since he was a child, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He served in the U.S. Army

In addition to “Slap Shot” and “The Deer Hunter,” D’Amato’s credits included “Heaven’s Gate,” “Suspect,” “F/X” and “Six Ways to Sunday,” Deadline reported. He also had an uncredited role in the 1973 film “Magnum Force.”

On television, D’Amato played another hockey player in “The Deadliest Season” and also appeared on “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “American Playhouse” and “Law & Order.”

His most recent role was on “The Unusuals” in 2009, according to Deadline.