Reed Larson played 14 seasons in the NHL, yet one of the goals he remembers most is one that didn’t even count. In this week’s Getting To Know, Larson talks about the playoff goal that didn’t count and the time he had a ‘Godfather’-esque prank pulled on him by teammates.
Status: NHL defenseman from 1976-1990 for Detroit, Boston, New York Islanders, Edmonton, Minnesota and Buffalo.
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 195 pounds
DOB: July 30, 1956 In: Minneapolis, Minnesota
First Hockey Memory: “Started outside. When I grew up they had a big park, Sibley Park, with a football field, they would flood the field and make a hockey rink. I remember taking a break and watching the big guys playing, snow falling, standing in the snow bank, watching the guys from Roosevelt High School play. The park was in the city of Minneapolis.”
Hockey Inspirations: “Bobby Hull, for sure. The (Minnesota) North Stars came in ’67, I was born in ’56,. I always watched the (Chicago) Blackhawks – Stan Mikita, Eric Nesterenko, Whitey Stapleton, Pit Martin, Tony Esposito, Keith Magnuson, Cliff Koroll – that was a great team. Bobby Orr was also an inspiration,. I don’t want to leave him out. Classy guy, a prince of the sport, like Jean Beliveau.”
First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: “J.P. Parise, Bill Goldsworthy and Dennis Hextall, they all came down to Hiawatha Park and signed autographs. I actually lived with Dennis Hextall in my first year in the NHL. He kind of took me under his wing. Funny how it works out.”
Greatest Sports Moment(s): “I consider playing in the NHL a privilege. I had a lot of great moments. For me, one of my first games in the Olympia…my first All Star Game in ’78, 20-21 years old, Scotty Bowman was the coach, playing with all those great players. Then the other moment was standing next to Gordie Howe before the game and the standing ovation wouldn’t stop – I happened to be standing next to him. At the Joe Louis Arena, that was just amazing.”
Most Painful Moment: “Mentally or physically [laughs]? I think the most painful time in my career was when I had an auto accident with my arm, I was round 30, 31. You reach the stage, you know you can still play but some people think you’re done. The most painful time was when the career is coming to an end. In your 30s you start to wonder about if you can still play the game. I kind of took the advice of the older players – Play as long as you can and until nobody wants you. I played five or six more years in Europe after the NHL, was in the best shape of my life. I know I could have played more years in the NHL. I loved playing in the NHL.”
Most Memorable Goal: “Oh gosh, every couple of playoff games…I scored a goal in the All-Star Game when I played with Gordie Howe, at our home rink, that was a good memory. I scored a memorable goal in the Stanley Cup finals against Edmonton (Oilers), over Grant Fuhr’s shoulder, the night the lights went out, but it was called back, they said it was offsides. That was a memorable goal but it didn’t count.”
Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “Oh boy, I’d say (Wayne) Gretzky, that guy just never . . . I don’t care what point of the game it was, he always had something left in the tank. John Tonelli comes to mind, his arms and legs going like a hundred miles an hour . . . the energy and intestinal fortitude. There’s obviously some other guys like that, Steve Yzerman was like that. I know there’s tough guys but the guys who just didn’t give up. Bryan Trottier was a fierce competitor – I played with him. Dogged. The (NY) Islanders weren’t the fastest team but they grinded and they worked.”
Favorite NHL Uniforms: “I gotta be honest – two teams I got to play for – Detroit (Red Wings) and Boston (Bruins)- I loved both. The Chicago Blackhawks growing up – I just loved that, I think everyone loves that uniform. The Original Six, I don’t know what it was, they had some great uniforms.”
Favorite Rinks To Play In: “Back then – we’re talking about good ice. The Met Center had good ice when it was really cold. The best sheet of ice I ever played on was the Olympia. That cement slab never had a crack in it,. I saw it without the ice. The best. A lot were good up in Canada,. Edmonton was very good. You remember the bad ones more actually [laughs]. Madison Square Garden at times, in the spring when it was warm outside, they had so much activity in the Garden.”
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “My rookie year, up in Toronto. Embarrassing for me. I was told I was gonna be interviewed for Hockey Night In Canada, and to the hotel lobby at quarter to six in the morning, to meet Ken Hodge. I’m down there at 5:45 with a suit and tie on – it was on a game day. Of course, there was no interview – they lined me up and got me big time [smiles]. Like I said, I have a lot of fond memories playing, that’s for sure. It’s a long season. The players used to do things like that. I don’t know what they do nowadays.”
Strangest Game: “I guess the strangest was in the Stanley Cup final playoff game, when the power went off at Boston Garden, it was pitch dark. It was crazy, a crazy game and a crazy night.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “West coast trip from Detroit – we had a few days between games. Greg Smith and John Barrett were going duck hunting on our day off the next day. They were going to dinner. I didn’t want to go, I prefer fishing. So I went to go eat with the other guys. Fishing was my thing. So when I got back to the hotel room, they put a mallard in my bed, with his head on the pillow, tucked under the blanket – like, remember the horse in the bed scene in The Godfather? Like, sending a message from the guys: Next time you go duck hunting with us. Then in Vancouver, I opened up all the windows in the hotel room. John Barrett was sleeping. That hotel in Vancouver gave us a nice dish of crackers and cheeses which I spread out in the room. So when he woke up he said it was like that movie The Birds, like 20 pigeons and birds all over the place, squawking at him [laughs].”
Nicknames: “Laugher – I laugh a lot. Gabby. In college they called me Toy Cannon.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Oh my gosh, Dennis Hull of course, everybody probably knows that. Paul Woods has a dry humor, he does radio for the Red Wings now, we can’t even do an interview when we get together. Dennis Polonich was always pulling pranks, he’s a prankster.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I do really like respect and honesty. It’s just tough to beat that. There’s not a price tag you can put on your reputation. You had respect for some opponents, some you couldn’t turn your back on. Hard work, respect, unselfish. There’s a lot of value in sports – it goes back to the days of the Greeks and Romans. It’s not just about money,. you You can apply the principles of sports to life, work, family. It’s unbelievable, I don’t have any complaints. I haven’t met too many bad people who played pro hockey. Even the charity people who I’ve worked with over the years, they all say hockey players are the nicest.”
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