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Why is the Movie Slapshot Important for Hockey Culture?

This past week I had the opportunity to interview Dave Hanson, a member of the globally known Hanson brothers. The Hanson brothers were the goons of hockey in the 1977 film, Slapshot. Currently, Dave Hanson is an executive director at Robert Morris University at the Island Sports center.

Before he moved to Allegheny County, Hanson had an impressive career in the pro leagues. He competed in the NAHL, SHL, AHL, CHL, IHL and NHL. In the NHL, he played for both the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota North Stars.

To summarize, Slapshot does a fictional deep dive into a pro league team, the Charlestown Chiefs. The Chiefs were run by player-coach Reggie Dunlap. Dunlap and his team compete throughout the season to keep the team running and bought by a senior living community in Florida for the years to follow. The movie has scenes on and off the ice and showcases a locker room experience very well.

When asked about the film, Hanson said “I have a blast talking about either one. [hockey or the film] When it comes to talking about Slapshot, everybody has a favorite line, everybody knows where they were the first time they saw it, everybody has seen it a hundred times. They show their kids, they’ve shown their grandkids. You know, it’s always a fun conversation.”

“Are you guys brothers?” is a famous line said by Ned Braden. In the film they’re brothers, but outside of filming only two-thirds of the guys are related. Jeff and Steve were related, but Dave took the spot of Jack Carlson when Jack was called up to play in the WHA championship. The “Hanson” Brothers were based on the Carlson brothers.

When Ryan Whitney, former NHL defenseman, was asked about how many times he’s watched Slapshot, he said “At least 30-40 times. You see it on so many bus trips. And I watched it even more when I was younger. Now, it's at the point when it is on TV and I happen to catch it, I will watch it until the end.” Most players have a similar mindset, it’s such a classic that it would be criminal to not watch.

I believe the film is a right of passage for hockey players. There are clean versions of Slapshot that younger audiences can watch, but the explicit version is virtually what makes the movie so spot on. Some scenes are a stretch on what truly occurs, but if taken with a grain of salt and with personal experience, Slapshot is a source of entertainment for everyone.

Slapshot sped up the spread of hockey culture and the universal growth of hockey antics. Without the depiction of the movie, it would’ve taken much longer to spread the message of hockey and the way teammates act.

My sister and I with the Hanson’s. From left to right, Dave Hanson, Steve Carlson and Jeff Carlson.

This film has personally affected me in more ways than I can count. My dad and I have what seems to be monthly Slapshot nights, and it’s completely accidental. We do have a tradition of watching the movie the same week as the Winter Classic. We’ve introduced our friends and other family to the movie and introduced others to the sport that we share a passion for. My dad has been my biggest mentor in hockey, he’s my role model. To share the sport and share a laugh together is priceless.

Slapshot is currently streaming on netflix.

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