It's fitting how the cult classic "Slap Shot" will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release on Feb. 25.
Trying to capture the spirit of the thing, Steve Carlson, Jeff Carlson and Dave Hanson, better known as the Hanson brothers, will host the "Boys are Back in Town" celebration on the original site of the film in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Part of the celebration are original cast members, artifacts from the film, a special showing of the movie and, of course, dinner at the Aces.
In preparation for the iconic anniversary, we've damaged a few Coke machines, taken a sledgehammer to a bus and hired an ambulance driver to ride around town. Oh, and we asked Steve Carlson, who played Steve Hanson in the iconic 1977 movie, to join us for a Q&A.
ESPN.com: What does it mean to you that it's been 40 years since the release of the movie?
Steve Carlson: We've been back together for over 25 years now. I was coaching in Memphis, and I brought the boys in because we weren't drawing very well in the Central League. Dave was the general manager of the Capital District Islanders, and he wasn't drawing very well. We brought [the Hansons] into Memphis, no long hair, just mustaches, and we sold out the place. Dave did the same thing in Albany, New York. And ... it has been just an unbelievable ride. We've been all over Canada and all over the United States. We've been to Germany four times, London, England, and Dave made a trip to Australia last year. ... Everyone has their same lines, everyone has their favorite lines, everyone has their favorite scenes, and it doesn't get old. The only thing that gets old is the travel because, unfortunately, we travel during the worst months of the season. It's a whirlwind. It's fun once we get into town and once we get on the ice, we do our scenes. We do our skits on the ice. We spend more time in the penalty box than we do on the ice nowadays. We love playing between the periods [of] the pro hockey games, or the junior and college games. We love playing [against] the little mini mites, the 5- and 6-year-olds that chase the puck all over the place. The skit we do is, off the opening faceoff, we have the mascot in our net, and the little ones push the puck through my legs and he goes on a lone break, and I trip him up at the top of the circle. "You're not making it." Then we've got the little ones, and we're holding them up against the glass and banging them against the glass and all that stuff. Probably with 30 seconds left in the game between periods, the little ones all drop their gloves and sticks and chase us off the ice. It's a combination of the ankle-biters all the way up to the grandmas and grandpas that have watched it. Granted, we tell the parents they're bad parents because they let the [kids] watch "Slap Shot," but it's a whirlwind and we're just enjoying it.
ESPN.com: What will the "Boys are Back in Town" celebration involve?
Carlson: Well, we've got Yvon Barrette [who played Denis Lemieux], the goaltender, coming in. We've got our captain, Johnny Upton [played by Allan F. Nicholls], coming in. We've got Dave "Killer" Carlson [played by Jerry Houser] coming in. We've got the Hanson brothers coming in. We've got Guido Tenesi [Billy Charlebois], the pretty boy with the Sparkle Twins. Unfortunately, the Sparkle Twins can't make it, one had passed. It's going to be bringing back old-time hockey again back to Johnstown, where it all started. We filmed 40 years ago on the same ice surface, and it's going to bring back a lot of memories -- a lot of great memories. Dave, Jeff and myself all had professional careers as players, but doing "Slap Shot" was a memorable thing we've done in our lives. It's one of the classic movies in all sports movies, so it's going to be pretty emotional. It's going to be fun.
ESPN.com: How do you think the movie would resonate if it were filmed in 2017?
Carlson: Actually, the game has changed so much. When the movie came out, it was during the Broad Street Bullies era. It's kind of funny, when we go up and do a lot of shows in Canada, people will ask, "What part of Canada are you from?" Then we say, "We're all Americans. We're from Minnesota." Then [fans] will go, "Oh!" [Laughs.]
Dave and Jeff were the fighters. The movie is based on the three Carlson brothers -- my brother Jeff, my brother Jack and myself. We had long hair and black glasses, and Dave "Killer" Hanson was on our team also. The three Carlson brothers were going to be the Hanson brothers, and Dave was going to be "Killer" Carlson in the movie. That's how they played. I was more of a skilled player, I was fifth in the league in scoring and I led our team in scoring. I was more of a scorer, but when you have brother Jeff and brother Jack on your wing, I would dump it in their corner and sit in the deep slot. I felt like Phil Esposito out there. "You go get the puck for me and I'll just sit in the deep slot and score."
The game has changed so much now with skill, speed, and I still think we could play because Jeff scored a goal once [laughs]. People think we use the foil because of fighting, but no, it helps our offensive skills. Plus, we've got the foil for our baked potato on Sunday for our barbecue.
But the game has changed so much, it's more skill, more skating, more passing, more shooting, and I like to see more physical action. ... I love watching a great fight. I really do. I just watched [on video] Clark Gillies going to town. I just watched Bob Probert going to town the other day, and it just brings back memories [of] how the game used to be played by intimidation. It's not intimidating no more.
You know, the Boston Bruins in the old Boston Garden, they didn't have the best players out there. They had Stan Jonathan, John Wensink and Terry O'Reilly. They weren't the best skaters out there, but they had a rink that accommodated their ability in a small rink, in a small atmosphere. When they got into Toronto or Montreal, where the rinks are bigger, they got spanked a little bit, but you couldn't hide in Boston Garden because it was so darn small.
Unfortunately, all the rinks are the same nowadays and there's no home-ice advantage no more. You go into Montreal Forum a long time ago, you're down 2-0 before you even get your skates on by just the history of it. The same with Maple Leaf Gardens, just the history of the arenas. Unfortunately, all rinks are the same nowadays. I've been on the ice in those big arenas, and you don't hear the crowd at all, you don't hear nothing. When you used to go into the old Chicago Stadium, [fans] were actually sitting over the ice and you would have to walk up 15 steps to get to the rink and the cockroaches are flying all over the place and the rats are running all over the place -- that's old-time hockey [laughs]. Those are the glory days.
ESPN.com: And the press boxes would hang over the ice and you could hear what the players were saying during the game.
Carlson: Right, right. Exactly. There's no character no more. It's all generic. But that's OK. They're doing a great job. I think they're doing too many outdoor classic games. It's getting old. I thought one a year would be great, but now they have four or five outdoor classic games and that's too many.
ESPN.com: No doubt the Hansons could still play themselves, but who would play Reggie Dunlop and Joe McGrath if the movie were released today?
Carlson: Oh, Reggie Dunlop. I would probably say ... hmm ... I'm not into the actors nowadays. George Clooney.
ESPN.com: He would be good playing Reggie Dunlop. McGrath?
Carlson: I don't know [laughs]. It's hard to say. I don't think you could possibly do another one because the characters that they had. Strother Martin was a master. Paul Newman was a master. George Roy Hill, the director, c'mon, you don't get any better than that.
What bothered us a lot, we were hockey players and we were in our own environment and we would help Newman. He would ask, "What would a player or coach do in this scene? What would they say in this place?" He would come to us and say, "OK, as actors, you do it this way, or say it this way." We would help each other out on our profession. What bothered us about Newman is, he would take 15 or 20 takes because he would like it one time, George Roy wouldn't. George Roy would like it one time, Newman wouldn't. We didn't give a s---. "Let's just get it over with and let's go drink [laughs]." If you like it, we're done. We're 21, 22, 23 years old, and we didn't give a s---. It was cutting into our summer fishing up in northern Minnesota. Let's just get it over with.
A lot of people don't realize, halfway through filming, we quit.
ESPN.com: Really? Why?
Carlson: A few of the players went to Washington, D.C., others went on vacation and I stayed in Johnstown and the producers called me and said, "If you guys don't get back on set tomorrow" -- we didn't realize how much money it cost them with the union and all that stuff -- and they said, "If you don't get back on set tomorrow, we're suing you." Everyone came back and we finished it up, but c'mon, you get your equipment on at 7 in the morning and your scene doesn't happen until 5 in the afternoon. It gets old after three months of filming. The technology has changed so much. It took three months to film "Slap Shot." It took six weeks to film "Slap Shot 2," and it took 28 days to do "Slap Shot 3." It's boring as s---.
After we did "Slap Shot," they wanted to sign us to a seven-year deal and at that time we're hockey players and they said they could make a film any time during the season and we said we couldn't do it during the winter because we're playing. Then they said, "Well, we can't do it then." How many bus trips going up to Fredericton I kicked myself in the ass, I could be living in Malibu instead of going up to Moncton and Nova Scotia on a bus in the middle of the winter.
OK, what's your worst line of the movie?
ESPN.com: The worst one is when "Killer" Carlson tells Barclay Donaldson, "Take that sentence back."
Carlson: Ha, ha, you got it. Jerry Houser. That is the worst line in hockey, during the faceoff [scene] with Barclay Donaldson. "Take that sentence back." Yeah, right. You're not going to say that. We give him s--- every time we see him.