Old time hockey is coming to West Kelowna.
The Hanson brothers, arguably the most famous hockey playing brothers in the history of the sport, will take over Royal LePage Place on Saturday night with a unique brand of hockey entertainment that generations of hockey fans have loved for nearly 40 years.
“The puck is dropped, the gloves come off,” said Steve Carlson, one of the three original Hanson brothers, made famous in the 1977 movie Slapshot. Carlson was a real hockey player, a skilled, play-making centre as a matter of fact, and was playing on a line with his two brothers when their rough and tumble ways found their way to film.
“I wasn’t a fighter, I was a centreman that invented turtling (to avoid a scrap),” said Carlson, who had nine goals in 52 games with the NHL’s LA Kings in 1979-80 and played five seasons in the WHA including in New England with Gordie and Mark Howe. “I was more of a scorer. My two brothers were the fighters.”
And in the ’70s, they fought. It was the toughest era of the sport. The Broad Street Bullies ruled. The movie may seem off the wall with its bench-clearing brawls and crazy antics now, but it was torn from the pages of the weekly paper.
“In real life we did go in the stands and get arrested,” said Carlson. “In real life we jumped a guy in the playoffs and he refused to come out on the ice. In real life there were bench clearing brawls.
“That’s the way the game used to be played. Someone had the puck, they had to be hit and if a fight broke out, so be it. We had our roles. We had the long hair and the safety glasses and we played as a line,” he said.
When the movies came calling, Carlson’s brother Jack had been called up to the NHL and wasn’t able to join his brothers in movie history. But big, tough defenceman David Hanson (yes, real name) was ready. Along with Jeff Carlson (who was arriving after this interview) the trio of Minnesota hockey players would become the fictitious Hanson brothers, starring alongside none other than Paul Newman.
The movie was written by Nancy Dowd, whose brother Ned (Ogie Oglethorpe in the movie) played with the Carlson’s.
“We’d be in the stands fighting one night and he’d phone his sister and say ‘you have to see these guys,'” recalled Carlson. “So she wrote a story about minor league hockey.”
And the rest is history. Except not quite. The movie lives on, in hockey buses around the world, in the appearances the brothers make and in the millions of dollars they have raised working with charities in the cities they visit.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hanson. “We were surprised in the beginning but not really anymore after all these years. What’s really neat to see is it’s become a generational thing. It gets handed down to the next generation. We’ll go out and have Grandma and Grandpa bring the grand-kids and they will all know all the lines. It’s pretty cool.”
There are many tales to this story. Like the time the trio, tired of spending 14 hours in hockey gear without filming a scene, went AWOL, only to be threatened with a lawsuit if they didn’t return. Or the time they were given best supporting actor awards at the 2002 DVD Awards for Slapshot 2, the sequel (there were three). Or the time John Goodman chased one of them down the hall, or Doctor J asked for an autograph.
The fact is three hard-nosed, old school hockey players from Minnesota are known by virtually anyone who’s played the game. They are the most popular, well-recognized hockey players in the world.
“When you have three of the greatest looking guys with all the talent in the world, how could it not be successful,” deadpanned Carlson.
“We bring a lot of laughter to the game. We still laugh when we watch the film. We know exactly what’s happening and we still laugh. It’s the greatest hockey film ever made, bar none. And not only that, it’s in the top five of all sports movies. It’s pretty cool that we were involved in it.”
“What we find surprising,” added Hanson, “is we walk into a room of players that we consider to be superstars, like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky…and they want to get their picture taken with us.”
On Saturday night the Hanson Brothers will be at Royal LePage Place, meeting fans and hitting the ice in the 1st intermission with Tim Bit-aged minor hockey players.
Whatever could go wrong?
“They’re vicious,” said Carlson. “It’s going to be a blood-bath.”