By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Thirty years ago, the Hanson Brothers helped Johnstown celebrate a professional hockey championship.
Actually, the Hansons’ alter-egos – Steve and Jeff Carlson and Dave Hanson – were members of the Johnstown Jets that won the North American Hockey League playoff crown.
Those 1974-75 Jets inspired Nancy Dowd’s screenplay for the movie “Slap Shot” filmed in Johnstown and released in 1977. The Hansons stole scenes and became cult legends for their roles on the fictional Federal League champion Charlestown Chiefs.
This weekend, the Hansons come full circle, with an appearance at the Johnstown Chiefs game against the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
On Friday, 3,000 Hanson Brothers T-shirts will be given away prior to a home game against Atlantic City. The Chiefs also play Toledo on Sunday at the War Memorial.
“It’s always good to come back to where we started,” said Steve Carlson, a former Jets star and ex-NHL player who portrayed Steve Hanson in the movie. “The Jets gave us a shot to play. We get to come back and meet all the fans we had and even the people that hated us. It was a great place to play. It brings back a lot of memories.”
The Hansons were based on the Jets’ real-life Carlson brothers, Steve, Jeff and Jack. But when the movie was filmed Jack was on recall to the WHA Minnesota Fighting Saints.
Dave Hanson replaced Jack in the movie.
“I’ve got nothing but fond memories of Johnstown,” said Dave Hanson, who manages Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center near Pittsburgh. “The most enjoyable years of my hockey career were in Johnstown, not only because we won a championship, but we used to have packed arenas. The memorable characters that were put in Slap Shot, from Johnny Mitchell to the Carlson Brothers to Killer Hanson. I still have friends there. The waitresses at Johnnies Restaurant have been there for 30 years.
“It’s fun to come back there. The place still smells the same as 30 years ago, even though they’ve upgraded it. You walk in and smell the place, and the memories come back. It’s a good smell.”
Carlson said the Hansons plan to be on the ice for the start of Saturday’s game. After that, they’ll sign autographs. When the Hansons last appeared here on New Year’s Eve 1998, the Chiefs had a sellout crowd.
“We’re starting,” said Steve Carlson, who resides in Kenosha, Wis. “We’re going to get the power play on track.”
Chiefs General Manager Jim Brazill said the timing of the Hansons’ return was coincidental.
“It was something that just happened to work out as far as the 30th anniversary,” Brazill said. “(Sponsor) Somerset Trust wanted to do something that would be a big splash and have a big impact for an entire weekend. What better way than to bring in the Hanson Brothers?”