Bespectacled Hanson brothers still popular decades after ‘Slap Shot’

Steve Carlson has one of the most recognizable faces in hockey and is regularly swarmed by hockey fans. He and his “brothers” sign just as many autographs as some of the biggest names in the sport’s history.

But he only played a single season in the NHL.

Carlson, brother Jeff Carlson, and friend David Hanson’s peculiar niche in the world of hockey came when they debuted as the Hanson brothers, the bespectacled menaces that provide some of the biggest laughs in the 1977 cult comedy hit ”Slap Shot” alongside Paul Newman. Decades later they still draw crowds, most recently at a pee-wee hockey tournament in Quebec City last weekend where they were just as popular as NHL greats like Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Ray Bourque.

“We were with Marcel Dionne, we were with Guy Lafleur, we were with Ray Bourque. You can’t compare us to them,” Carlson said Wednesday. “Those are the legends of hockey, those are the Hall of Famers, but we had fun with them. We just had fun with them.

“As for who was more popular? Nah, we don’t look at popularity. We just go and have fun and make sure all the fans go home with a smile on their face.”

Although all three Hanson brothers played professional hockey throughout the 1970s and 80s, they only combined for three seasons in the NHL. They did, however, appear in two “Slap Shot” sequels and made many television appearances as goony caricatures of themselves. Carlson estimates that every year they travel to 15 or more events like the Tournoi International de Hockey Pee-Wee de Quebec where they signed autographs alongside Lafleur, Dionne and Bourque.

Carlson thinks the enduring popularity of the Hansons is because their hijinx have cross-generational appeal.

“That’s the thing that’s so amazing with the Hanson brothers, we have fans that are ankle-biters all the way up to the grandmas and grandpas,” said Carlson. “We cover a lot of generations, that’s what’s really cool about it.”

“Slap Shot” is still a staple on bus rides for amateur hockey teams that criss-cross Canada, which was sadly underscored in April when 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team died in a bus crash near Armley, Sask. A photo of a shattered “Slap Shot” DVD found at the crash site became emblematic of the tragedy.

“You’re still in shock from the tragedy that happened, you’re still in shock,” said Carlson, who met with three of the crash’s survivors. “There’s really no response to it. You’re heartbroken for the kids and coaches that tragically died. When I saw the photo I thought ‘holy crap.’ ”

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