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As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the roar of the fans reached a climax on June 6, Brian Burke, general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, stood in the tunnel at the Honda Center, ready to storm the ice in celebration. Then Burke heard something that cracked him up. Standing behind him was the team's video coordinator, Joe Trotta, who chose that moment to channel Jim Carr, the toupee-sporting play-by-play announcer from Slap Shot: "The Chiefs have won the championship of the Federal League!"
In fact, the Ducks had won the championship of the National Hockey League with a 6-2 rout of the Ottawa Senators. But what better way to celebrate it than by paying homage to Slap Shot, the raucous movie about minor league life that, 30 years later, still bonds--or, more aptly, wraps in foil--hockey players, hockey fans, hockey people.
Last month Jeff Carlson, his brother Steve, and Dave Hanson--the trio who portrayed the Hanson brothers, Slap Shot's marauding, toy-car-loving hominids--made one of the three dozen appearances they make each year throughout North America. It was a Saturday night, and the celluloid goons were headlining the annual, fund-raising Sportsman Dinner at the Rec Centre in Redvers, Saskatchewan. About 250 people sat at circular tables in the reception hall, there to experience the Hanson Brothers in full regalia: hockey pants, Charlestown Chiefs blue-and-yellow jerseys, hands encased in foil (for greater punching power) and black-framed, prison-issue Coke-bottle glasses, copiously taped. (Jeff and Steve Carlson each went by his first name in the movie; Dave Hanson's character was Jack Hanson.)
Working the tables like a bride and groom at a wedding, the trio shook hands, made small talk and insulted their hosts--in a friendly way. (To a short adult man in a Bruins jersey, Steve said, "What size is that, children's small?" Later Steve added, "I saw the Bruins were in first place. Then I realized I was reading the paper upside down.") At one point Jeff and Steve had their arms around three attractive women, one of whose boyfriends was having camera problems. "Take your time," Jeff told him. "Take it apart, we don't care. Go get a new battery. In Regina."
They were asked the typical questions: Could Paul Newman, who played Reg Dunlop, the Chiefs' raffish, long-in-the-tooth player-coach, skate? ( Newman acquitted himself well, they say--though not as well as actor Michael Ontkean, the Charlestown forward who had scored more than 100 points over three seasons at New Hampshire.) What about the three actors' pro hockey backgrounds? (They played a combined 34 years.) Are they all married? (Yes.) And whose idea was the foil?
The Carlsons and Hanson did not, in real life, tape foil over their knuckles--that was a grace note added by screenwriter Nancy Dowd. What they did do while with the minor league Johnstown (Pa.) Jets, as Jeff explains, was "rough up" the knuckles on golf gloves by using a file. "[Then] we'd lay them on a radiator, get them hard as rocks, then make sure we fought on the first shift," he says, before their sweat softened the gloves' serrations.
Steve Carlson, now 51, and running a power skating school in Kenosha, Wis., was three years into a 14-year pro career when he and the others got tapped to do Slap Shot early in 1976. Two years later he played for the WHA's Edmonton Oilers and roomed with a rookie who had a big upside--guy named Gretzky. In Steve's sole NHL season, 1979-80 with the Los Angeles Kings, he scored nine goals.
Dave Hanson also toiled 10 years in the minors--ascending to the NHL to play 11 games for the Red Wings and 22 for the Minnesota North Stars--and racked up more than 2,000 penalty minutes. A month after the movie wrapped, he married Sue Kaschalk, a coal miner's daughter, from Nanty Glo, Pa. Dave, 53, manages a sports facility at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh. They have two daughters and a son, Christian, who's a promising 6' 4", 220-pound center at Notre Dame. He doesn't fight much.
When the "brothers" reveal they are all are from Minnesota, the Redvers fans seem surprised--and vaguely disappointed--that they aren't Canadian. They are, however, Slap Shot verit�: Asked how much of the movie actually happened, Jeff replies, "I never acted at all."