The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 9, 2012

Many happy returns | Hanson Brothers get back to where it started

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — To borrow a line from the “Slap Shot” soundtrack, the Hanson Brothers are going to get right back where they started from.

Dave Hanson and real-life brothers Jeff and Steve Carlson will reprise their movie roles as the zany and infamous Hanson Brothers during an appearance at the Johnstown Tomahawks’ NAHL game against Jamestown on Friday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

“It was my first professional team and my first professional championship,” Dave Hanson said of his rookie season with the Johnstown Jets in the professional North American Hockey League. “To be playing in front of a packed house in that kind of atmosphere was something I never experienced before. We had an exceptionally close group of guys and we had Big Daddy (GM John Mitchell) keeping an eye on the guys and watching from the perch up there. We knew he cared about us. It was a memorable year, and memorable enough that I wrote a book about it.

“I don’t have all of my memories from Johnstown but most of my fondest memories are of Johnstown.”

On Thursday, Steve Carlson will offer insight and narration during a special showing of the 1977 Paul Newman motion picture “Slap Shot” at the Westwood Plaza Theatre in conjunction with the Tomahawks.

“We’re going to talk about Johnstown, and playing in Johnstown, and making the film in Johnstown. It’s going to be all about Johnstown, what the town supplied and the fans that came out,” said Carlson, who plans to introduce the film, provide behind-the-scenes gems during a stoppage midway through the showing, and then have a Q&A session after the movie.

“We had a huge number of fans while we were filming. You’d sit around eight to 12 hours while we’re filming,” Carlson said. “You’d do that for eight or nine hours and do your scene for a half hour, and then, you’re done. Your scene is 30 minutes but you still have to sit there for all that time.”

It was time well spent.

The Hanson Brothers stole much of the spotlight in “Slap Shot,” which was filmed in Johnstown in 1976 and based on the 1974-75 Johnstown Jets team which went from seventh place in December to a Lockhart Cup championship run. The Jets produced one of the city’s most memorable sports moments and inspired a screenplay written by Nancy Dowd, whose brother Ned Dowd played for the Jets.

The Carlsons and Dave Hanson each were key Jets players and had the most movie time among the large group of Johnstown players to appear in the film.

Years later, almost on a whim, Steve Carlson, then coaching in Memphis in the Central Hockey League, asked his brother Jeff and Hanson for a favor.

“That spur of the moment, ‘Hey, Jeff and Dave, why don’t you come down? We need a little help filling the building.’ That drop of the ceremonial first puck started it all in Memphis,” Dave Hanson recalled. “Then we made an appearance in Troy, N.Y., where I was working (as general manager of the AHL’s Capital District Islanders), and we packed the house. Then it just took off.”

The Hansons made appearances at Johnstown Chiefs ECHL games on New Year’s Eve in 1998 and in December 2007.

The Tomahawks hope to build on the tradition while sparking interest in  Johnstown’s Tier II Junior A North American Hockey League team.

“I hope it’s a sellout,” Steve Carlson said. “Every time we’ve gone there it’s been a sellout. I expect the people to be excited.”

Tomahawks Director of Business Operations Jean Desrochers was an all-star with the Chiefs. He believes it’s important for the Tomahawks to recognize the decades of hockey history in Johnstown.

“We want to look forward without forgetting about the past,” Desrochers said. “That’s why we’re bringing the guys back.”

The Hansons have been touring for nearly 20 years and have raised millions of dollars for charity in that time. They’ve also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and starred in a series of Bud Ice commercials in the mid-1990s. There have been two “Slap Shot” sequels for the Hansons.

The popularity of the original “Slap Shot” has grown over the decades, with new generations of hockey fans watching a movie filmed in a steel town years before they were even born. Players from the NHL to the minors and even the junior level watch the movie on road trips and recite memorable lines in the locker room or on the ice.

“What is the most common comment you guys get from the multimillions of fans?” Hanson asked, rhetorically. “The common thing everybody has is they all remember the first time they saw the movie. They know all the details of it whether they were a kid or an adult. They remember where they were and then they recite their most memorable line.

“Certainly you didn’t envision that,” he added. “How do you explain it? One thing is good humor never dies. Funny is funny forever. The other neat thing about it is someone said, ‘Do you think this movie could be made again today?’ I think the answer is no. The political correctness today wouldn’t allow it. The humor that comes through the movie, a lot of it comes from the political incorrectness.”