Harpo, Chico and Groucho. Moe, Larry and Curly. Alvin, Simon and
Theodore. On the evolutionary ladder of comic threesomes, the
bottom rung has long been occupied by Jeff, Steve and Dave, the
hard-checking, high-sticking Hanson brothers of the 1977 hockey
film Slap Shot. Eyes obscured by taped-up glasses, fists swathed
in knuckle-dusting tinfoil, these geeky goons had a motto:
In the two decades since the release of Slap Shot, the Hanson
brothers have become cult heroes to several generations of
hockey fans. When video clips of them are shown on pro
scoreboards, Slap-happy spectators chant the characters' lines
by heart. The object of this adulation is a trio of career bush
leaguers who together played all of 85 games in the NHL. Today
the Hansons--brothers Jeff and Steve Carlson and buddy Dave
Hanson--work as an electrician, a truck driver and a manager of
a sports complex, respectively. But they're still creating
mayhem at rinks around the country.
The Hanson road show began back in the mid-1970s when Jeff,
Steve and their older brother, Jack, played for the Johnstown
(Pa.) Jets, then a farm team of the World Hockey Association's
Minnesota Fighting Saints. A teammate's sister, Nancy Dowd,
wrote a screenplay about what went on. Universal bought the
script. When it came time to cast the film, the Carlsons got the
parts, but by then Jack had signed with Edmonton, and the Oilers
wouldn't free him. So he was replaced by Jets teammate Dave
Hanson, who lent his last name to the brother act.
Slap Shot, which starred Paul Newman, was about a deadbeat minor
league hockey team (the Charlestown Chiefs) in a dying mill
town. The losers turned into winners by changing from skaters
into brawlers. The film did fairly well, and the "Hansons" went
their separate ways.
In 1993, when Steve was coaching the Memphis RiverKings in the
Central Hockey League, Jeff and Dave joined him for a ceremonial
puck drop. They sold out the 9,500-seat arena. Dave, then the
general manager of the New York Islanders' farm team in Troy,
N.Y., figured the trio could make an appearance with his team,
too. The Hansons showed up in their Chiefs uniforms and packed
the house. "We wondered if anyone would remember us," says
Steve. "Once we saw the response, it was like, Wow!"
Before long, Bud Ice put the Hansons in a TV commercial and sent
them on an 80-city tour. Three years later they're still at it.
Recently they performed between periods of an IHL game in
Milwaukee. Their bits involved scuffling, throwing a
whipped-cream pie and "skiing" off the back of a Zamboni.
Watching was a fourth-grader, CD in hand. "I didn't want the
hockey Hanson!" he whined to his mom. "I wanted the Hanson that
In the dressing room Jeff unwrapped the foil from his knuckles.
"We've been mistaken for teenage pop stars," he grumbled. "Our
time may be passing."
It wouldn't be the first time.