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Paul D’Amato, Tim ‘Dr. Hook’ McCracken in ‘Slap Shot,’ Dies at 76

Paul D’Amato, best known for playing Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken in hockey comedy “Slap Shot,” died after a four-year battle with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disease, on Monday in East Brookfield, Mass. 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,” (pictured, in which he plays a Green Beret), “Heaven’s Gate,” “Suspect” with Cher and Dennis Quaid, “F/X” and “Six Ways to Sunday.” Additionally, John Lindley Byrne, writer and artist of Marvel Comics’s “X-Men,” was said to have based the look of Wolverine on D’Amato in “Slap Shot.”

D’Amato was born in Worcester and later raised in Spencer, Mass. He began working as a stage hand 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.

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