Here’s a little-known thing about the hockey movie “Slap Shot.”
Its iconic characters, the three Hanson Brothers, almost weren’t in the film.
Oh, they were cast and took part in filming early on, but movie-making didn’t keep their interest.
“We’re hockey players, we aren’t actors,” said Steve Carlson, who played Steve Hanson in the movie, which was released in 1977. “We were just looking to have fun doing it. Actually, halfway through it, we quit, because it was boring. It’s boring making a film. You’re sitting around for 15 hours and all of a sudden you have to shoot your scene and it takes a half-hour to shoot your scene.”
So a bunch of the hockey players left the set in Johnstown, Pa., for Washington, D.C. The studio quickly placed a threatening call to Carlson, who had stayed behind.
“They called me and I called (the players),” Carlson recalled. “I said you guys better get back in town or we’re going to get sued.”
These self-professed hockey players are still taking the ice. The fictional brothers (Steve, Jeff Carlson, who played Jeff Hanson, and David Hanson, who played Jack Hanson) will be at the Mavericks’ 7:05 p.m. game Saturday against Rapid City at the Independence Events Center.
The Hanson brothers ran roughshod over opponents in “Slap Shot,” and Steve Carlson promised more of the same Saturday.
“What’s happened here is those punks from Rapid City called us names and we’re hoping to get a tryout with the Mavericks to bring back old-time hockey and make a final push for the playoffs,” he said. “We’re going to play an exhibition game against probably the roughest, toughest Kansas City players ever assembled between the first and second periods.”
The latter part is true … to an extent. The three fictional brothers will play against the KC Stars Squirt 2 youth hockey team.
All these years later, the brothers are frequently asked about the movie (which was followed by two sequels) including whether they will be “putting on the foil.” In the movie, the boys wrapped foil on their hands under their tape, which helped when it came to slugging it out.
“Everybody thinks we wear foil because of our fighting ability,” Carlson said. “That’s not true. Jeff scored a goal once. We got one goal, so it actually helps our offensive skills.”
Carlson chuckled as he said that.
“It’s amazing that ... every place we go, we’re recognized,” he said. “Everyone had their favorite lines. It gets stronger and stronger every year.”
“Slap Shot” was ranked as the 16th-best sports movie by Movie Fone, ahead of “The Natural.” Paul Newman played the player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs, a sad-sack franchise that turns things around with a little thuggery.
What was it like to work with Newman, an Academy Award winner?
“He worked with us,” Carlson corrected. “One of things about working with Newman is no one really liked him that much. We felt bad for him. We brought him over to the house for supper. We had all the family recipes: salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, popcorn, and the guy stole all of our recipes. And he makes all these millions, but we let him go, because he had this great cause, the Hole In The Wall Gang for the (seriously ill) kids and the camps.”
That was another joke, naturally, about Newman’s line of food products that gives its profits to charity.
In his playing days, Carlson was teammates at one time with legendary NHL players Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Still, he was awed about his time with Newman, who died in 2008.
“Working with Newman was unbelievable,” Carlson said. “He was a master at his craft. Not only was he a great actor, but he also was a great athlete. We learned a lot from him. We weren’t actors, we were athletes. At that time, he was just getting into race-car driving. He would come to us for what a hockey coach would do in a situation and we’d go to him about what an actor would do in a situation. It worked out really well. He was a great man. …
“Did we think the movie was going to be big? No. Are we thankful it (was)? Yes. We’re still working it, we’re still having fun doing it.”