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Paul D’Amato, Tim ‘Dr. Hook’ McCracken in ‘Slap Shot’ and Wolverine inspiration, dies at 76

D’Amato’s other notable credits include best picture winner “The Deer Hunter,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “Suspect” with Cher and Dennis Quaid, “F/X” and “Six Ways to Sunday.”
Paul D'Amato in a scene from Deer Hunter.
Paul D'Amato in "The Deer Hunter."Universal Pictures
/ Source: Variety

Paul D’Amato, best known for playing Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken in hockey comedy “Slap Shot,” died following a diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disease, on Monday in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. He was 76.

“Slap Shot” co-star Steve Carlson confirmed the news in a post on X. “RIP Paul D’Amato,” he wrote. “Sending heart felt condolences to Family and fellow friends, actors.”

D’Amato’s other notable credits include best picture winner “The Deer Hunter," “Heaven’s Gate,” “Suspect” with Cher and Dennis Quaid, “F/X” and “Six Ways to Sunday.”

Additionally, John Byrne, writer and artist of Marvel Comics’s “X-Men” in the '70s and '80s, was said to have based his look for Wolverine on D’Amato in “Slap Shot.”

D’Amato was born in Worcester and later raised in Spencer, Massachusetts. He began working as a stagehand when he was about 14, inspiring him to become an actor. Both an athlete and actor, he appeared in theater productions and on the ice hockey team while attending Emerson College.

His acting and athletic abilities paid off: in 1976, he landed the role of Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken in the Paul Newman-led hockey classic. The film was released in February 1977 and soon gained a cult following. D’Amato played the lead antagonist, the captain of the Syracuse Bulldogs of the fictional Federal Hockey League. He faces off against the Charlestown Chiefs, led by Newman’s Reggie Dunlop.

D’Amato followed up his “Slap Shot” fame with another hockey role, starring in the TV movie “The Deadliest” starring Michael Moriarty and Meryl Streep.

D’Amato also appeared in several benefit golf tournaments and sports gatherings, including the Enfield tournament, which he played in for about 10 years and raised funds for scholarships. He was a supporter of the Springfield Hockey Heritage Society and made regular appearances at Hartford Whalers Alumni Weekend at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

At these benefit events, he would bring a Syracuse Bulldogs hockey jersey with the number 9 and the name McCracken on the back. The jersey, which D’Amato would autograph and inscribe for the winning bidder, was usually placed into an auction, raising thousands of dollars for charities over the years.

He is survived by his sister Andrea and girlfriend Marina Re.