Slap Shot: How The Hanson Brothers Hijacked Paul Newman's Hockey Classic

By | February 23, 2021

test article image
The most dangerous trio on the ice. Source: IMDB

When Paul Newman made the hockey comedy Slap Shot, he might not have expected to lose the spotlight to the Hanson Brothers. It's a funny script, Newman plays a good character, and the movie is entertaining from start to finish -- but the thing about it that sticks with audiences is the outrageous trio of Jeff, Steve and Jack Hanson.

There are sports movies and then there's Slap Shot. This 1977 comedy about the Charlestown Chiefs, a flailing minor league hockey team that eschews good sportsmanship in favor of a roughneck, blood-and-guts style of playing that turns them into local legends. On one hand, Slap Shot is an underdog story about a group of never-weres and also-rans who come together to spit in the face of success, but it's also about the Hanson brothers.

There is no Slap Shot without the Hanson brothers, a trio based (and played by two of the three) on the real life Carlson brothers. Sure, Paul Newman stars in the film but it's the Hanson brothers that fans are still talking about. With their coke bottle glasses, toy car sets, and knuckle dragging brand of on-ice enforcement, this trio of gangly goons are the heart and soul of Slap Shot.

The Hanson brothers were the real deal

test article image
source: Universal Pictures

The Carlson brothers are a trio of real deal tough-as-nails brothers hailing from Virginia, Minnesota, who were played hockey all their lives -- long before they were in front of the camera. The brothers were playing for the Johnstown Jets during the 1975-1976 season, right before the Slap Shot production came to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to begin filming.

Initially all three Carlson brothers -- Jeff, Jack, and Steve -- were set to portray fictional versions of themselves, but when Jack was offered a spot on the Edmonton Oilers for their run in the 1976 WHA playoffs, his role was filled by Dave Hanson, another player from the Jets. When the guys hit the ice for the film they weren't tasked with doing anything that was all that different from their work in the WHA. They were nasty, they talked trash, and they hit people. Steve Carlson, who plays Steve Hanson in Slap Shot, explained:

You talk about real life hockey, well, Slap Shot is real life hockey. We did get arrested by going into the stands. We did jump a team in warm-ups in real life. We did fight often. My brothers (Jeff and Jack) and Dave Hanson, they were the ones who were the enforcers. When the puck was dropped and the gloves came off, that how’s the game was played back in the Broad Street Bully days.