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The outrageous fight scenes in Slap Shot were not exactly a reach for the men who played the Hanson brothers. Early in the movie the Hansons jump the Peterboro Patriots in warmups. (During the national anthem, the hyperventilating referee warns Steve, "I got my eye on the three of you guys. I run a clean game here"; Steve responds, "I'm listenin' to the f------ song!") That's based on events in a mid-1970s playoff series between the Johnstown Jets--on which Steve, Dave and Jeff all played, as teammates of Dowd's brother--and the Buffalo Norsemen. The Jets had a black player; in one game of the series, a Norsemen fan held a sign saying that blacks should be playing basketball.
"That pissed us off," Steve recalls. In Johnstown for the next game the Jets started a pregame brawl from which, according to Jets lore, a Buffalo player tried to escape by clambering into the stands, only to be cast back onto the ice by the fans. The Norsemen then refused to come out to start the game and forfeited.
In another scene from the movie Jeff scores, then is hit in the face by a set of keys. Into the stands go the Hansons. Jeff loses his glasses and punches out the wrong fan. After the game the Hansons are arrested and jailed.
That tracks with the Jets' evening in Utica, N.Y., against the Mohawk Valley Comets, when Jeff took a cup of ice to the face. Into the stands went he, Steve and their brother Jack Carlson, who was to have played Jack Hanson in the movie but was called up to the WHA shortly before shooting began. All three were arrested. Dave Hanson, who also went over the glass but escaped arrest, helped gather the Jets' meal money for the Carlsons' bail.
In the 25th-anniversary edition of the Slap Shot DVD, Jeff recalled a Jets' game in which a giant goon named Gilles (Bad News) Bilodeau tossed him around like a rag doll. Seizing the rinkside announcer's microphone, Jeff commenced clubbing Bilodeau on the head with it. "Over the P.A. system," recalls Steve, "all you could hear was this Poom! Poom! Poom!" "I invented rap music," says Jeff, who was sent an invoice for the ruined microphone.
In redvers the vibe was all fun. While the glasses and the foil are props, Jeff and Steve and Dave seem authentic. "At the end of these things, people always come up to us and say thank you," says Jeff, "and I say, 'No, thank you.' "
Echoing that appreciation is Dowd, who won an Oscar for cowriting the 1978 movie Coming Home. After buying a loft in Montreal two years ago, she learned about the nearby Laval Chiefs, who modeled themselves, in both uniform and brawling style, after Charlestown. In that online letter she wrote to Slap Shot Nation, "You wore the Halloween costumes, hosted the Slap Shot parties, memorized the lines, and laughed and laughed. That is the real measure of a motion picture, not the opening weekend grosses. When an object is embraced by a popular culture, it takes on a life of its own."