The first in a series of a 3 part interview with Hockey Icon and funny man Steve Carlson. Taken from my NYI Blog Box 7th Woman blog. But I felt it was too good to not post here. We talked about Islanders new head coach Scott Gordon, the Slap Shot trilogy and his feelings on the NHL then and now. It was a fabulously entertaining hour. I hope you enjoy this first entry.
When I told my daughter I was excited because I was going to be interviewing Steve Carlson, a Hockey Icon, she just looked at me.
“Steve Carlson. He’s one of the Hanson Brothers.” I told her smiling from ear to ear.
“The ‘mmmmmm Bop’ guys?” She looked at me cross-eyed. I looked at her the same way. “What? What did you say?”
“You know the ‘mmmmmmm Bop’ Guys??” She said it louder as if now I would understand. Click. I did. “No! Not the Hanson Brothers band. Slap Shot’s Hanson Brothers!” I told her.
“Ohhhhhhh….” and she headed up the stairs. Half of me was surprised she didn’t get it the first time. I’m a hockey blogger, why would I interview aging teen idols? She’s 14. What should I expect?
But here I was on a Sunday morning, pouring through 100s of articles on the net written about Steve Carlson, one of Hockey’s most identifiable personalities. After all, it has been over 30 years since the release of Slap Shot, hockey’s most oft-quoted film. There’s been plenty written. Even though Slap Shot II didn’t fare as well, by this November, there will be a third installment, Slap Shot III: The Junior League hitting shelves at a retailer near you. So the cult status of the Hanson Brothers doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. Which is a good thing.
I’d like to start out by saying that while the Hanson Brothers were depicted as somehow lovable, bespectacled mental midgets, Steve Carlson is one of the most knowledgeable, articulate gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. We had such an enjoyable, all encompassing interview, that I’m going to break it up into three entries so that I don’t have to edit it down to nothing. (Ah yes… the luxury of not having a managing editor.)
Steve Carlson’s resume is impressive: Hockey player, actor, humorist, coach, broadcaster, philanthropist, public speaker and entrepreneur. The only thing missing was ‘author,’ but he’s not ready for that. Besides he’s been exceptionally busy coaching a high school team in Kenosha WI, conducting hockey camps, making charity appearances and taking care of things at SteveCarlsonHockey.com and hansonbrothers.net. The only place you can get genuine autographed Hanson Brothers items, as well as have a few good laughs.
So what did Mr. Carlson had to say about his memories of the NY Islanders and our new Head Coach, Scott Gordon? A few things.
Now to prove that Steve Carlson was a no-joke hockey player, let’s look back a little. His playing career spanned from 1973 - 1987. His “cup of coffee” with the NHL came in the 1979-80 season with the LA Kings where he played 52 games and scored 9 goals. That season, he almost broke an NHL record during a playoff game against the NY Islanders with Billy Smith in Goal.
“I was one second short from breaking an NHL record for short handed goals. We had two short handed goals already and I was a penalty killer, and I came across the blue line and I took a shot and I scored but the penalty expired ONE second before. I kinda confused Billy Smith on that shot. I had a patented Louisiana shot; I call it the Blue Bayou shot. That was the year that the Islanders won the Cup. WE had them on the ropes. But that was the year that Ken Morrow came in from the Olympics. What a great year he had that won the Olympics and then won the Stanley Cup. Butch Goring had something to prove against the LA Kings and he completely dominated. He played extremely well against us. My job on the team was to shut down the Trottier, Bossy, Gillies line, which we did a pretty good job doing it. But what happened was that the Islanders had a better second, third and fourth line that pretty much shut down the Marcel Dionne, Taylor, Simmer line. And with Tonelli and Nystrom and Bobby Bourne, they had an all around great team.”
You could tell he was smiling when he mentioned how great it was that Bossy and Trottier are still around the team. It does really mean so much to the younger players to have that connection to the greats of the game.
So that was his memory of the past, I asked him about his memory of our immediate future: new head coach Scott Gordon. The Massachusetts native was signed as a free agent by the Nordiques in October of 1986 at 23. He was named to the Hockey East All-Star First Team during the 1985-86. season and to the East Coast Hockey League All-Star First Team during the 1988-89 season.
“Okay, I was assistant coach in Baltimore in the American league and he was under contract with the Quebec Nordiques and we unfortunately had all these quality guys, veterans that played for us. Then I became head coach in Johnstown (yep… the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL) and we were affiliated with Quebec and was asked if I wanted Scotty Gordon and I took him in a second.
He is one of the hardest working players I had. When we were on the ice during practice, he was out there a half hour before anyone even stepped on the ice and I would shoot the puck around the boards and he would stop it and shoot it out of the zone for one half hour before and AFTER practice. He was a very hardworking player. I followed his career as a coach, when he was an assistant coach out in Providence. I could see him making his players work as hard as he works. He develops players well. He’s walking into a situation where, if the Islanders do what they plan to do with Garth Snow and the youth movement. That’s great! Stick to the plan then! Look at the character players. Everything is character. Character players that will do anything to win a hockey game. Those character players are key elements to a hockey team. Scotty is going to bring that out.”
There’s no doubt that injuries played a large part in where the Islanders ended up last season. It was bad enough losing our scoring power, but to lose Rick between the pipes made it all the worse. So one of the issues facing Scott Gordon will be how much to rest our All-Star goalie.
“ I would like to see DiPietro not play as much. Because even though Marty Brodeur plays 70 games a year, he only faces 20 shots a game. When Rick plays 60 -75 games, he’s facing three times as many shots as Marty does. He’s getting over worked. "
My attempt at humor was just saying. “Haven’t you heard? He’s Bionic now.” (Well, he should be!)
“Well, goaltenders are a little different. They’re a different breed. They have to do the splits and unorthodox moves with their legs. If they can keep the shots down to 30 shots a game and play solid, tight defensive hockey, they’ll be okay. You have to play a 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 game constantly and you have to understand the system that Scotty wants to bring in.”
Having coached youngsters for years, he brought up a very interesting point about the game itself.
“… hockey is a game of mistakes. What you do out there immediately after a mistake is crucial. If you play the game and you make a mistake and you hang your head and pout, you’re in trouble. Get back in the play and try to get the puck back and work your ass off.”
“I believe with Scotty coaching here, they are going to try to outwork EVERY team. They‘re going to have to be in the best shape. I believe he’s going to do that. He understands the young players systems. They‘re going to make mistakes. You just got to keep teaching them, and teaching them. And it‘s very frustrating on a coach when a player keeps making the same mistakes. You have to be patient, because eventually the light‘s going to go off above his head and say OH! That‘s what I need to do. And you become a player than. See it‘s very easy to lose hockey games. It‘s very hard to WIN. What they have to instill in these young players is how to win. They have to teach these young guys pride.”
Hear that boys. Rest up while you still can. Sounds like Gordon isn’t going to accept anything less than he expects from himself, and that would be 100%.
We started to joke about having two ex-goalies running the show.
“Two goaltenders! Oh my goodness! I was a center man when I played. Let’s look at this now. As a forward, I get out of the way on purpose so that an 80 - 90 mph puck does NOT hit me. Come on. Their mentality? ‘I volunteer to step in front of it.’ They’re not sane people. They’re a whole different breed out there. But you have to also look at it that they understand the system because they’re on the ice the whole time. They see how plays develop and they see who they can trust and who they can’t on the ice. So I look at Goaltenders as possibly good, and when I look at them together; okay. We might have one full brain out there on the Island.”
There's that trademark sarcasm. He was just kidding Garth. Just kidding!
Parts 2 & 3 coming shortly. I just have too much to write about and not enough time!