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Old Time Hockey Back in The Garden

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Friday night will mark the return of Eddie Shore hockey to Boston as Slap Shot’s Steve Carlson (a.k.a. Steve Hanson of the infamous Hanson Brothers) will be on hand to entertain the crowd. In preparation for his visit, tracked him down by phone and asked him a few questions about the three Slap Shot movies and his long hockey career, which included a stint in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings. JB

How often do you make appearances?
Steve "Hanson" Carlson (middle)
Actually, as Steve (Hanson), this is the first year that I’m going out on my own, and I’ll have about 25-30 appearances this winter. But on November 25th, we’re releasing Slap Shot 3 up in that’ll be released just before the Christmas rush, and the three of us just got back from Oshawa and Sudbury (where) we did a couple charity hockey games. So we’ll appear together sometimes, but I’ll mostly be on my own.

Is it exciting to appear in Original Six cities like Boston?

Actually, if I get a chance to drop the opening puck, I’m actually thinking of dropping the Florida Panthers (center), right on the ice. Wouldn’t that be something? I’d get my (rear end) kicked, but I don’t care. But when you think of the “Original Six” you think of the Boston Garden, you think of the Maple Leaf Gardens, you think of the Montreal Forum, Chicago Stadium, Madison Square Garden. The atmosphere. I don’t really like the big buildings because every building’s the same. Walking into the old Boston Garden, you have the fans hanging over the glass, and you look above you, and they’re actually sitting right on top of you. And they had the small rink, so the Bruins…formed their team around that small rink, where you had the Stan Jonathan’s, the Terry O’Reilly's. They built that team around that rink, where you couldn't move to slow down the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately, now all the rinks are the same, that’s the way it is.

Eddie Shore Hockey?
Like most sports (or Hollywood) stories there is a story behind the story. The Hanson brothers are no different. Click the links to find out more about hockey's favorite goons.

  Sports Illustrated Article
  ESPN Page 2 Article
  The Hanson's Website
  Steve Carlson Hockey
  Steve Carlson's Stats
So, is the new NHL unable to play Old Time Hockey?
This year it is actually changing. If you had asked me that question last year, I would have said, 'oh boy, we’re in trouble.' But the physical concept is coming back, and I’m not promoting fighting at all, but I think fighting’s a part of the hockey world. I believe fighting should be part of the game, and I believe there are more fights this year than there were last year or the year before. I believe the players, and every team has their two or three tough boys, who are going at it really well. So, talk to me this year -- Yes, there’s hope (and) there’s excitement back in the game. I’m liking it. You can’t get the fighting out of the game, and if you do that, the game’s in trouble. It was going that route, and now it’s back.

That said, have you enjoyed the play of Milan Lucic?
I have. I have. He’s the one on that hockey team that can play old-time hockey like Eddie Shore. I would love to see him foil up a few more times though. They have a nice hockey club there -- and thank God for (Tim) Thomas, too -- but they’re playing well. They’ve got that team going, and it’s pretty exciting. I’m sure it’s very exciting for the Boston Bruins fans.

You actually played in New England. How was that?
I actually did. I played for the New England Whalers (of the WHA) for two seasons, and played some great hockey players -- Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Ricky Lee, Larry Pleau, Mark Rogers, Tommy Webster -- so we had a really good hockey club there. We were at the Hartford Civic Center until the roof caved in, then we….played at the “Big E” in Springfield and at the Civic Center in Springfield for a while there. It was fun.

What was the best thing about playing pro hockey?
Playing in Boston Garden, Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, Madison Square Garden, Joe Lewis Arena -- the "Original Six." What I’d do, if we’d have a game at 7:00 p.m., I’d be at the arena at 2:00 p.m., just walking the building, just looking at the walls and looking at the great players that played in those arenas. Actually, I did score in Boston, so that was a pretty big thrill there. Just playing in the "Original Six" arenas, it was fantastic. There was nothing like it -- and playing in the National Hockey League -- at that time, we’re all Americans, and it was pretty much dominated by Canadians. So, for the few Americans, the few Europeans in the NHL, it was a huge thrill.

Do the fans of today still understand the humor in Slap Shot?
The Hanson's in all their "glory"
The movie Slap Shot is based on the real life story of the three Carlson brothers. A lot of that stuff in the movie actually happened; we just reenacted it for the movie. We did score a goal, and Jeff did get hit in the face with an ice cube, and we did go in the stands in Utica, New York, and we did get arrested. We did jump a team in warm-up -- it was the Buffalo Norsemen in the playoffs, where we were skating around and we jumped them in the warm-ups, and they refused to come back on the ice, and they forfeited the game. The humor’s there, yes, but that’s the way it used to be in the North American Hockey League or the old Eastern League -- where the puck was dropped, and the gloves came off. You learned how to play (that kind of) game very early -- I was only 19 years old when I got into that league, and it was tough. It was a (hard) brand of hockey, and you learned quickly how to protect yourself. So, granted, the humor was there, but that’s the way the game was played.

What was filming Slap Shot like?
Slap Shot -- a lot of disappointment, I thought we should have won the Academy Award -- we were good. Teaching (Paul) Newman how to act was a big thrill for me, because they brought us in, and Newman was just on the verge of becoming a superstar, and Universal brought us in to push him over the edge, and he won an Academy Award after Slap Shot. But, working with Paul Newman, working with Strother Martin, working with a great group of people, working for George Roy Hill, the director -- huge thrill. Wouldn’t recommend doing films very often; as you’ve noticed, in 31 years, I’ve done three films now. I’m a veteran of this profession and I hate being typecasted, but I’m on the verge of becoming typecasted. (These days) I pick and choose my scripts -- (but) whenever Universal comes over with a script, I’ll do it. Working with a great bunch of people, and I’m very proud of the way it turned out, very proud that it’s, I believe, the best hockey film ever made, winning the "Best Supporting Actors" for Slap Shot 2 was a big thrill for us; it was a fine film, not a great film...and Slap Shot 3 will make up for all the mistakes Slap Shot 2 made.

Be there when the Boston Bruins take on the Florida Panthers on Friday and enjoy Slap Shot Night at the Garden. The first 10,000 fans will receive free Hanson Brothers glasses, courtesy of TD Banknorth. Fans are encouraged to dress like the Hanson Brothers.

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