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The "Slap Shot" Story with Dave Hanson

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 28, 2023 3:02 am

The "Slap Shot" Story with Dave Hanson

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 28, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the choice of three then-minor league hockey players to play the Hanson Brothers in "Slap Shot" starring Paul Newman was a casting hat-trick. When Dave "Killer" Hanson (middle guy in pic)—was drafted for the movie, the Hanson brothers were born. This is his story.

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Go to I heart radio dot com slash I heartland to get started today. This is Lee Habib and this is our American stories. Since its premiere on this day in 1977, the hockey movie Slapshot still holds up as one of the true classics among feature length sports films. Much of the film's success has to do with Paul Newman's performance as an aging player coach. But the movie might never have achieved its iconic status without the bespectacled brawling characters known as the Hanson brothers played by former Johnstown Jets players Steve and Jeff Carlson and David Hanson. Dave Hanson grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota where he eventually starred in football, baseball and hockey at Humboldt High School. He played for the University of Minnesota under legendary coach Herb Brooks and of course that's hockey. Hanson then played for the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota North Stars in the National Hockey League. The following excerpts are from a video interview with Dave Hanson by Paul Guggenheimer. It was recorded in Pittsburgh and is provided courtesy of Primal Interviews with Paul Guggenheimer. Let's go to Dave Hanson.

What I tell people is the movie is based on more fact and fiction. It was based on a team that I was playing for in Johnstown, Pennsylvania called the Johnstown Jets in 1974-75 and pretty much everything that goes on in the movie happened in one form or fashion. There was three brothers playing for us. There were big tough war glass named Jeff Jack and Steve Carlson. There was a fella on a team that was called Dave Killer Hanson, i.e.

me. And then all the other characters on the team or on the other teams were either real characters of the game or a combination of characters of the game. So Nancy Dowd, who was the sister of one of the players on the team, came down and started following us around and wrote the script. Obviously they wrote in the three brothers and the killer and a few other people. And when they got around to making the film and casting for the film, they wanted to get actors like Nick Nolte, Peter Straus and a group of Hollywood actors to play these roles.

Of course, because you had Paul Newman, the number one actor at the time of Hollywood. Well, these guys could not skate. No matter how they tried, they gave them lessons and took them out in hockey practices and hired private instructors. They just could not get them to skate well enough to make it look like a professional game. So Nancy basically said, why don't we go back and let these guys be themselves and see if that would work out.

Basically that is what happened. They came back to Johnstown. They would be in Hollywood. George Ray Hill, the director, Nancy and a few others and sat the Carlson brothers down and sat myself down and we read a few lines in the script.

They shook their heads and yet they still took a shot at us and pretty well casted us. So it was going to be Jeff Jack and Steve Carlson were going to be the Hansen brothers. Dave Killer-Hanson was going to be Dave Killer-Carlson. But Jack ended up going to Edmonton Oilers to play when we got around to filming. So they just plucked me out of the Carlson role and threw me in as a Hansen brother and we were off and running or off and skating I should say.

Okay guys, show us what you got. When we got first stuck in front of the camera and were told to act and were given lines, we really were bad. We were robotic and it took a couple times and you could see where George Roy Hill was getting frustrated. It finally got to the point where George said, let's stop for a minute and take a breath and pull this aside. He said, okay boys, this doesn't seem to be working too well. He said, so let's try a different angle.

What would you do in this situation? You know, he'd set it up and we'd say, I don't know, we would just react. We would probably just do something off. So let's give that a try. Next shot we did and we pulled it off and kind of ad libbed some stuff and threw in the regular stuff and he just says, that's great.

Don't change it. That's the way we'll roll from now on. So it really boiled down to, quite frankly, that the actors were the one acting, the hockey players were ourselves. We're just being ourselves.

The Hansons. We were 20, 21, 22 years old and had ordered the three of us and when they first came to us and they said, hey, would you guys like to do a movie? We said, well, how long is it going to take?

It's going to take two, three months. Through your summer. We were used to taking the summers off, going back to Minnesota, playing softball all summer long, drinking beer and getting ready for training camp in the fall. So it's like, okay, well, why not?

Let's give this a try. So we had no idea. For us, it was just an opportunity to drink a lot of beer, have free food, get paid for doing something and, you know, meet Paul Newman and hopefully meet some chicks and hopefully have some fun doing it. So we had no clue, even to the point where before the film came out, Universal Studios came back to us and offered us a seven-year, seven-movie contract deal. And we said, nah, we want to be hockey players.

We don't want to be actors. So there's an indication of how smart we were. I was having a pregame nap in my apartment and there's knocking going on in the door. And it wakes me up and there's knocking still going on. I go, what the, you know, so I open the door and I'm in my underwear and my dirty sweat socks and I just open the door and I go, what? And he looks up and he says, you Dave Hanson? I says, yeah. And he says, I'm Paul Newman. And I says, yeah, well, you are Paul. He says, yeah. He says, geez, did we wake you? And I says, well, yeah, kind of. And he says, well, you know, and then he apologized. And I said, you know, I'm going, oh, no problem. I says, what's up? He says, well, I got some, you know, art director with me and a couple movie guys, set guys, and they want to come in and take a look at a hockey player's apartment.

We want to see what it looks like. Do you mind if we come in? And I says, Paul, I got no problem. As long as you let me go back to bed, you know, and just stay out of my bedroom, you can do whatever you want. So, and he said, before I went, he says, no, we'll be quiet.

We just want to look around and take some pictures and some Polaroids. And then he says, but, hey, Dave, he says, yeah, you got any beer in the fridge? I says, yeah, what's up? He says, well, the race is on. He says, you know, I'd like to maybe crack a beer and sit down and watch the race with these guys. He says, no, no problem. Drink as much as you want. TV's in there. Go for it.

So that was the first meeting of Paul, which was the start of a very good, long friendship. Everybody is just on their feet screaming, Gil, Gil, Gil, this is hockey. Really what we were hearing more than anything was the reviews in the hockey community. You would hear the, you know, the, the GMs of the teams or, you know, the commissioner of the league would say, you know, that movie's a disgrace. You know, it doesn't portray hockey. And then of course you'd hear the players saying, that's absolutely right on.

You know, it's, it's the way it is, you know, obviously a little satirical about it, but that's, that's the way it is. And I'm telling you, Broome County is just visibly upset by this display. Come on down and get places for the home games. Bring the kids. We got entertainment for the whole family.

It was short-lived. It didn't bother us. In fact, we ended up, we would have more fun than anything because now we would go into, we'd go into arenas to play a hockey game and I'll use Dallas as an example. I went into Dallas where they hated me and I always got booed, you know, in warmups and this and that. So typically I'm skating around in warmups one time and I'm hearing the bone and I finally look up and there's an entire section of fans up there with the glasses and the fake nose and holding the Charlestown Chiefs Booster Club and it was just hilarious. So everybody started having a good time with it.

I'd face off against, you know, against an opponent that we'd fight all the time and he'd look at me and I'd look at him and he'd say, buy a soda after the game. So it was good stuff. The one that I think of mostly is Siskel and Ebert on David Letterman's show and I think the question was something like David to Siskel and Ebert. Is there ever a movie that you watched, critiqued, and then later on you kind of went back and realized you made a mistake on and they said, absolutely, Slapshot. He says, when we first saw Slapshot, you know, we gave it a thumbs down. Later on, looked at it closely and realized, you know, what a great film that was. And now it's historically always in the top 10 of the best sports movies of all time. And thanks to Greg Hengler as always for finding this and doing the work he always does for us on the producing and editing front. And by the way, again, if you have not seen Slapshot, watch it with a family. I mean, it is just great family entertainment and you will laugh and then you'll just keep laughing. You don't have to know hockey to love Slapshot.

Dave Hanson's story, the story of one of America's great sports movies, which premiered on this day in 1977 here on Our American Stories. Excuse me. Did you know that when you use the Roto app to buy a car, Roto actually finds all the secret available rebates and discounts specific to you. So the price I see is my unique price. That's right.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-28 04:31:53 / 2023-02-28 04:37:39 / 6

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