One of the Hanson Brothers is right back where he started – in Johnstown. But this summer, Steve Carlson plans to spend more time at youth baseball fields or visiting the Inclined Plane with the grandkids than “puttin’ on the foil.”
The former Johnstown Jets star who went on to play in the National Hockey League and eventually coach the early Johnstown Chiefs teams recently moved back to the area from California.
Carlson has more time to spend with family now that there is a break in the Hanson Brothers’ usually full schedule.
While the Hansons’ act has been a smashing success for 25 years and counting – and Steve, Dave Hanson and real-life brother Jeff Carlson physically appear as if they’d be comfortable in today’s pro game – the act is in a self-imposed lull, Steve said.
“It hasn’t slowed down, but we’re slowing down a little bit,” said Carlson, who will turn 63 next month and is the youngest of the trio. “Dave had a hip replacement. Jeff had throat cancer. We’re going to have the summer off but we’re going to start up in August again, and September. The calls are starting to come in.”
Dave Hanson is 64, and Jeff Carlson will turn 65 later this month. As time marches on, fans wonder if a final curtain call is coming for the Hansons.
“It’s winding down. It’s getting to the point where we’re thinking about ending it in the next year or two,” Steve Carlson said. “This year it’s going to go full schedule. We’re going strong again.”
For now, this Hanson is happy to be back in his adopted hometown.
On the move
“We’ve been talking about moving to Johnstown the last two or three years,” Steve Carlson said earlier this week during a telephone interview from his Westmont home. “We finally said, ‘OK, let’s put the house up for sale and see what happens.’ The house sold in two days. We moved here without even seeing the house we have.”
On the West Coast, Steve and his wife, Vicki, operated the very successful Hanson Brothers franchise. The fictional Hanson Brothers stole scenes and became cult heroes in the 1977 movie “Slap Shot,” which was filmed in Johnstown and based on the three Carlson Brothers and Dave “Killer” Hanson of the Johnstown Jets.
Since 1993, the Hansons have done charity and promotional events throughout the world. The trio played a significant role in Johnstown’s successful campaign to win the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA title in 2015 and were prominently featured during NBC Sports Network coverage of the preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning at the refurbished Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
This summer, Steve has enjoyed one of the perks that comes with being a more seasoned veteran.
“Vicki and I can’t express the pleasure it is to be here. It’s fun,” Steve Carlson said of being near his four grandchildren in Johnstown as well as his son Kris, the former Bishop McCort High School state champion skater, and daughter Melissa.
Steve and Vicki had to overcome a few obstacles as well as a hectic Hanson Brothers schedule throughout their cross-country trip earlier this year.
“It was a lot of work. We had seven shows straight in that period,” Steve Carlson said. “The move, we loaded up a 26-footer (trailer) and a 15-footer, and we stopped in Colorado to do a show on the way here.
“We hit three snowstorms. One at Donner Pass in Northern California. One in Salt Lake City. One in Denver,” he said. “It was a tough trip but we made it here. We can’t express enough how joyful it is. We’re six blocks away from the grandkids. We can see them any time we want instead of using FaceTime all the time. We can play baseball with them. We can start playing hockey with them. Hey, I might get back on the ice.”
Playing the role as a proud Hanson Brother grandfather, Steve told stories of following the grandkids throughout baseball season and taking them to the Heritage Discovery Center in Cambria City, where they saw photos of grandpap on the bench as coach of the Chiefs at the War Memorial.
Melissa has a 10-year-old daughter, Jillian. Kris has three sons, Colby, 10; Cullen, 8; and Dylan, 4.
Over the past few weeks, the Hanson Brothers Twitter account has featured photos of the boys in their baseball uniforms, the kids with Steve at the Heritage Discovery Center, and Steve and Vicki atop the Inclined Plane platform.
This Hanson Brother appears to be enjoying his homecoming.
“The 4-year-old is a treat. The 8-year-old, Cullen, they all have different personalities,” Steve Carlson said. “Cullen made the all-star team in baseball in the pitching machine league. They won the Somerset Tournament.”
Steve is accustomed to recapping games when speaking to this reporter, and we flowed into a familiar routine as he described the all-star baseball tournament.
“It’s 100-some degrees outside and these boys had to play three games on Sunday,” Steve said with the enthusiasm of a grandparent. “They pulled it off. That was an experience. Now it’s Pap and Nan on the side. It’s a whole different ballgame. I have no control over the ballgame. As a coach you have control.
“Sometimes I have to say to myself, ‘Just settle down. Let the boys and the coaches and umpires do the game.’ ”
Johnstowners at heart
Steve Carlson is a native of Virginia, Minnesota, but Johnstown hockey fans consider him, Jeff Carlson and Dave Hanson as their own.
Steve spent two seasons with the Jets, including the NAHL championship season in 1974-75. That is the team “Slap Shot” is based on through Nancy Dowd’s classic script.
After his playing days ended, Steve returned to Johnstown to coach the Chiefs in 1988 and stayed through the 1991-92 season, winning 123 regular-season games.
After coaching in the Central League with Memphis for one season, Carlson came back to Johnstown and served as a co-coach of the Bishop McCort state championship hockey team with John Bradley in 1999.
Stops followed in Wisconsin, New York and Jackson, California, where he spent nearly two decades.
In between, the Hansons made several Johnstown appearances as part of promotions with the Chiefs and Johnstown Tomahawks.
Steve plans to stay this time.
“We came back into town, we go to the grocery store, we go to The Galleria, everybody says, ‘Hey, Steve, great to have you back,’” Carlson said. “They recognize you.
“It’s good. The people here have always treated me well. I have a good relationship with the people in town.
“We get to see the people I knew when I played here and when I coached here. I have nothing bad to say about Johnstown.
“The people here have always been good to me. It’s good to be back. We won’t be moving anymore.”
Hockeyville is home for this Hanson once again, and he’s surrounded by family and friends.