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Hanson Takes Long Road To Leafs

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Watch the ESPN Feature: Christian Hanson: Son Of Slap Shot | Press Release

There is a piece of programming that sort of embarrasses Christian Hanson.

You should know that the newest Maple Leaf, signed Tuesday out of Notre Dame, is the son of Dave Hanson, one half of the Hanson Brothers tandem from Slap Shot.

Now Christian Hanson, who should play his first game Friday in Philadelphia by the way, is not embarrassed by Slap Shot. Far from it.

“I could talk about Slap Shot each and every day,” he said. “I love it. I’m proud of my Dad and proud of his role in it.”

No, the video that elicits the slightest cringe was made in 2005. The angle of a Slap Shot son being drafted into the NHL was a perfect publicity drum for a league coming out of a lockup. A crew was sent a crew to the Hanson house to film the big moment.

Everything worked perfectly, except that Hanson wasn’t drafted. At all.

The feature went on, though. “They would play it in pre-games and about 10 minutes was about me not drafted,” Hanson said. “I would get texts from all over the country from friends who had seen it. It was always, ‘Congratulations’ and then 10 minutes later, ‘Sorry’.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in the business about why Christian didn’t get drafted and the common answer is they didn’t know,” Dave Hanson said. “But it turned out to be a real test of character for Christian. He knew he had to get better.”

And he did. The Pennsylvania native improved through a four-year ride at the University of Notre Dame and his status as an undrafted player amounted to a bonanza. Hanson and any talented undrafted collegiate player are free to shop the league.

It’s a real crapshoot for the NHL teams, of course, but with attractive free agents such as Denver’s forward Tyler Bozak and Boston University defenceman Matt Gilroy also available, NHL teams are in hot pursuit.

Interestingly, the Leafs rebuilding problem is an attraction. With less depth and fewer bodies to climb over, the path to the NHL is faster on a weaker team.

“Good young hockey players who want to fast-track their way they can look at the team we have in Toronto and say the opportunity should be pretty good,” said Leafs senior advisor Cliff Fletcher. “That’s what we have to sell.”

The club, meanwhile, gets a polished player approaching his middle 20s who has practiced his skills extensively and now possesses a man’s body.

“Essentially it’s almost like getting a free first round draft pick,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

“There were eight teams who made an offer,” Christian said. “One of the things we really looked at was the fact that Brian Burke was in Toronto and he has a track record. He likes college players and I knew he would give me a chance.”

“I’ve known Brian for about 30 years, we would skate together in Minnesota and we played in the minors at the same time,” said Dave Hanson. “For Christian to have the chance to work for someone like him in a rebuilding project is a great opportunity.  He has been candid in saying this is where we see Christian and I think he will have an honest shot in Toronto.”

Hanson is six-foot-four and weighs 228 pounds. He scored 36 goals and recorded 64 points in 140 games with the Fighting Irish. He is a good skater for a big man but his penalty minutes, 57 minutes in his most truculent season, aren’t those of a scrapper. In fact, he won an award at Notre Dame for good sportsmanship.

“I try to be a two-way forward and I like a rough and physical game,” he said. “I like to work in the areas in front of the net and in the corners.”

 “He’s a good player,” Wilson said. “He’s a big body with skill. He goes hard to the net and he’s an excellent skater.”


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