The bespectacled Hanson Brothers are an example of art imitating life, and then life imitating art.
The formula has created magic on and off the ice for four decades and counting.
The Hansons appeared in the 1977 Paul Newman motion picture "Slap Shot," which was based on the real-life Johnstown Jets' North American Hockey League championship season in 1974-75. The movie was filmed in the Flood City a year after the title run.
The Johnstown Jets relied on a forward line of three brothers from Virginia, Minnesota. Jack, Jeff and Steve Carlson produced points and penalty minutes in great numbers during the 1974-75 season. The trio, with long hair and dark, horn-rimmed glasses, won over fans and made life tough for opponents skating at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Also on that Jets team was a rugged defenseman, Dave "Killer" Hanson, one of the most intimidating enforcers on the ice.
When "Slap Shot" was being filmed in Johnstown during the spring of 1976, plans originally called for actors to play the roles of the Charlestown Chiefs. Eventually, a decision to use the pro players in the movie was made, and 40 years later, the Hansons still are a hit.
“Did we think the movie was going to be big? No. Are we thankful it was? Yes," Steve Carlson once said. "We’re still working it. We’re still having fun doing it.”
At the time of the filming, Jack Carlson had been promoted to the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the World Hockey Association and was unavailable. So, Dave Hanson filled Jack's role on the Hansons' line in the movie.
Actor Jerry Houser played the role of Dave "Killer" Carlson in "Slap Shot," as the movie simply reversed the last names of the Johnstown Jets' brothers and the "Killer."
When the movie was released in February 1977, the likable Hanson Brothers stole scenes from established actors such as Newman, Michael Ontkean and Strother Martin.
"Slap Shot" became a cult favorite and is considered among the top sports movies. In 2015, USA Today Sports ranked "Slap Shot" 16th on its list of the 25 Greatest Sports Movies of all-time and called it "the best hockey movie ever."
In 1992-93, when Steve Carlson was coaching in Memphis, Tennessee, the Hansons reunited for a meet-and-greet with fans of the Central Hockey League team. The event was so popular that Steve, Jeff and Dave decided to "put on the foil" and bring back "Old Time Hockey."
In nearly 25 years since, the Hanson Brothers have appeared at hockey arenas throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. From the NHL to the minor leagues and youth leagues, the Hansons put on a show. In the mid-1990s, the Hanson Brothers even were featured in Bud Ice beer commercials.
They've raised money for charities. The Hanson Brothers also played a big part in Johnstown and the War Memorial being voted as the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA contest winner in 2015.
The Hanson Brothers participated in the NHL preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning on Sept. 29, 2015, appearing on the NBC Sports broadcast. They provided a pregame talk to the Penguins. Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin skated onto the ice wearing Hanson-style eyeglasses.
“What is the most common comment you guys get from the multimillions of fans?” Dave Hanson asked, rhetorically, during a Johnstown appearance. “The common thing everybody has is they all remember the first time they saw the movie. They know all the details of it whether they were a kid or an adult. They remember where they were and then they recite their most memorable line.
“Certainly you didn’t envision that,” he said. “How do you explain it? One thing is good humor never dies. Funny is funny forever. The other neat thing about it is someone said, ‘Do you think this movie could be made again today?’ I think the answer is no. The political correctness today wouldn’t allow it. The humor that comes through the movie, a lot of it comes from the political incorrectness.”