Friday, August 31, 2012

Steve Carlson

Steve Carlson is of course most well known for his role as one of the wild Hanson brothers in the cult movie "Slapshot" from 1977, starring Paul Newman.

Steve was born and raised in Virginia, Minnesota, a town approximately 60 miles northeast of Duluth. After finishing high school Steve moved to Marquette, a prison town on Lake Superior. There he played for the Marquette Rangers (USHL) in 1973-74.

The city rink was built in 1932. In 1973 it had no Plexiglas around the boards. It had a furnace below the stands to keep people warm and a balcony around the rink for spectators. It was like going 40 years back in time.

When Steve was asked about his time in Marquette years later, he had a smile on his face.

"I got to share an apartment with three other guys", recalled Steve. "There was one bedroom. I got the couch, because I was the youngest. The ceiling was so low, you had to crouch all the time."

Steve also remembered when his team played against a state prison team that was full of the worst sort of criminals.

"The convicts weren't as rough as I thought they'd be. I was only 18 at the time, but I remember the guys watching from the stands. They made a lot of noise." said Steve.

Steve earned first All-Star team honors with the Marquette Rangers (79 pts in 42 games). Shortly thereafter he signed with the Johnston Jets (out of Pennsylvania) in the tough NAHL league. There he played 1½ years before he signed a two-year contract (worth $ 12,000 per year) early in 1976 with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA.

Not long after this Steve was approached about a role in a hockey movie called "Slapshot". Steve accepted. Together with his brother Jeff and Dave Hanson they were to portray the "Hanson brothers". Little did they know that they would become the most popular characters of the movie. Steve was on the set for three months. It was about 15 hours work a day, most of it was spent sitting around though. But Steve didn't complain since he got slightly more for the movie than he got in hockey.

Steve was actually not all that thrilled over the finished product when he saw it.

"I was embarrassed by it...when I saw myself on the screen. I was shocked, that we'd done some of those things." said Steve shortly after the release of the movie.

Back in the WHA he was signed by the New England Whalers when the Fighting Saints folded. He was then traded and claimed back and forth between several teams before coming to the Edmonton Oilers (still WHA). During one pre-season game prior to the 1978-79 season, Steve thought he was back on the movie set when he in a game against Vancouver got his head banged against the ice by tough guy Randy Holt. Luckily Steve had a helmet and escaped any injuries, but it was like a scene from Slapshot.

Steve was one of the final cuts during that 1978-79 training camp and was assigned to Springfield. But before he headed to Springfield he got a call from Oilers coach Glen Sather who told him that he was on the team again. Steve was so anxious to get back to the WHA that he refused to go to bed in case he would miss the 5 AM airline wake-up call. He played in the league opener later that day and earned an assist on a Claire Alexander goal.

The lanky center went on to score a respectable 40 points that season for the Oilers and played very well. Another center on that Oilers team was a barely 18-year old sensation named Wayne Gretzky.

Steve's only NHL action came during the 1979-80 season when he played in 52 games for the Los Angeles Kings. Although he later on signed as a free agent with Minnesota as well as Pittsburgh, he never made the last cuts in training camp. Instead he played in the CHL and AHL for many years. Steve retired in 1987 after having spent the last four years playing for the Baltimore Skipjacks in the AHL (Pittsburgh's farm team).

Although Steve didn't appear in many NHL games he will always be remembered as one of the crazy "Hanson brothers". All these years after the movie had been released Steve and the other two "Hanson's" are more popular than ever.

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