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Before we get into today's much happier topic, I'd be remiss if I did not mention the 17th anniversary of the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 that shook the entire world and are indelibly burned into our collective conscience. We all have our own stories from that day
, which are important to pass along, lest we allow ourselves to forget or at the expense of future generations being unaware.
Moving on today's topic, I want to express a heartfelt thank you to everyone -- scores of hockey people including fellow officials and former teammates and rivals from my playing days, friends from other walks of life, media members, readers of my blogs and hockey fans in general -- who have personally reached out to me over the last month since the announcement of my impending induction in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. I am deeply touched and appreciative.
Recently, I caught up with the legendary Terry O'Reilly. Amid the grief his family is still going through in coping with the death of his son, Terry offered to write the foreword for my upcoming autobiography. I can't even begin to express how much that means to me.
Another hockey tough guy whom I fought during my playing days, Jack Carlson, recently took the time to write me a very nice email. Hopefully, I can catch up soon in person with Jack.
There is a special bond between those of us who used to play the enforcer role on the ice, because we had the shared experience not just of having to fight one another but also of having lived with the day-to-day realities of that role. Our game-day preparations, on top of the things that everyone on our team did to get ready for a game, was also to anticipate whom we'd likely have to fight that night and coming up with a plan for it.
As many of you know, Jack was the direct inspiration for the "Jack Hanson" character in Slap Shot, who was portrayed in the film by another real-life hockey tough guy whom I fought toe-to-toe, Dave "Killer" Hanson. The other Hanson brothers were Jack's real-life brothers and fellow pro players, Jeff and Steve Carlson. In real-life, Steve didn't fight very often during his playing days but Jack and Jeff fought plenty. And, yes, they wore glasses on the ice.
Jack was originally supposed to be in the movie, too, but was unavailable when the Edmonton Oilers called him up for the WHA playoffs. So Dave stepped in, and the trio of characters took on Dave's real-life last name in the movie. Meanwhile, there was a character on the team who was called Dave "Killer" Carlson (portrayed by actor Jerry Houser); a nod to Dave Hanson. I have nothing but respect for the Carlson brothers and Dave Hanson.
Quite the name game! The name-switching went even further....
The screenplay itself was based on the NAHL experiences of Ned Dowd and relayed to his sister, Nancy Dowd (who wrote the film's screenplay). Ned's character was given a similar back-story, renamed Ned Braden for the film and portrayed by actor Michael Ontkean. Ned Dowd himself made an appearance in the movie as the Ogie Oglethorpe character; who was essentially a fictionalized version of the infamous Bill "Goldie" Goldthorpe, except with a dark afro instead of a blond one. Goldthorpe was a former teammate of mine with the Binghamton Broome Dusters. We did not get along very well but eventually coexisted.
I had a cameo in the Slap Shot movie myself, as a Long Island Ducks defenseman battling for a puck behind the net as Paul Newman's character, Reggie Dunlop, taunts Long Island goalie Tommy Hanrahan (actor Christopher Murney) into charging after him; leading to an easy goal for the Charlestown Chiefs (the fictionalized version of the Johnstown Jets) and a brawl.
Actually, I appeared in two other movies after Slap Shot. It's a minor detail in my life, so it's something that I did not make mention of in my upcoming book, "Ya Wanna Go?"
I had a bit part as a Secret Service agent in "Kennedy," starring Martin Sheen, EG Marshall and Blair Brown. I was only on camera for about three to five seconds. If you watch it, though, you'll find me.
Lastly, I was in a movie called "Letters from the Dead"; a war film that never made it into wide distribution but won some film festival awards. In the film, which looks at men of different backgrounds and nationalities who fought as allies in World War II, I play an American infantryman who, on the final day of the war, gets zippered by a machine gun and falls under a half track.
The email from Jack made a lot of memories come flooding back, not the least of which was recalling what a tough guy he was on the ice and what a quality person he is in life. Thank you, my friend!
A Class of 2018 inductee to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games. Today, Stewart is the director of hockey officiating for the ECAC. Visit his official website at YaWannaGo.com