Hanson was born in Cumberland, Wisconsin and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he eventually starred in football, baseball and hockey at Humboldt Senior High School. Hanson continued playing hockey for the St. Paul Vulcans and briefly for the University of Minnesota.
Hanson then spent a few years playing for different teams in minor leagues before moving up to the World Hockey Association (WHA) where he played for the Minnesota Fighting Saints and New England Whalers before coming to the Bulls in the 1977-78 season. He continued playing for the Bulls the following season and even as they entered the Central Hockey League the year after that. During those years, he also spent some time playing for the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota North Stars in the NHL. He was later part of the Indianapolis Checkers team that defeated the Birmingham South Stars in the CHL championship in 1983.
In summer 1983, Hanson was announced as the head coach of the latest incarnation of the Birmingham Bulls as part of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL). He reportedly put together a good team, but due to financial problems, the team folded after only three regular season games, going 2-1. Hanson retired from hockey in 1984.
Hanson was cast as "Jack Hanson", one of the Hanson Brothers in the 1977 film Slap Shot, when Jack Carlson was unable to perform because his team was in the playoffs. Hanson later won a "DVD Premiere Award" for his part in the 2002 sequel Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice. A third sequel, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, was released direct to video in 2008. That same year saw a book published about his experience on the original film titled Slap Shot Original: The Man, the Foil, and the Legend (ISBN 1600781152), which he co-wrote.
In 1977 Hanson married Sue Kaschalk, a coal miner's daughter from Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania. He has two daughters and one son, Christian, who also became a professional hockey player. Hanson currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and manages a sports center at Robert Morris University.
- Sports Illustrated (July 2, 2007), p. 106.
- David Hanson (ice hockey). (September 29, 2011). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed January 10, 2012.