ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Cloquet Area Hockey Association pays homage to one of its finest

An extraordinary part of Cloquet youth hockey for over 25 years, coach Art Carlson passed away Christmas Day while visiting family in the Twin Cities area.

An extraordinary part of Cloquet youth hockey for over 25 years, coach Art Carlson passed away Christmas Day while visiting family in the Twin Cities area.

He began his career as a squirt hockey coach in 1973 as an assistant to Cliff Svedahl, and later became a head coach at that level, continuing to coach until the late 1990s.

Known to his players as "Mr. Carlson," he tutored hundreds of novice players in the fundamentals of the game, teaching them how to skate, stick handle, pass, shoot, score and conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner.

Art's teams learned it was not enough to play the game, though they might play 40 or more games in a season, but that they would also have to practice a like number of days or evenings to hone their skills as well.

Both dedicated and resourceful, Carlson, like the other youth coaches of his era, spent hours making and grooming the ice surface the majority of years he coached, since most practices took place outdoors. Additionally, because he had been a figure skater but never a varsity hockey player, he relied on his assistant coaches, including his son, Blake, to model correct skating strides and techniques for his young protégés.

ADVERTISEMENT

Carlson instilled the essential Cloquet hockey work ethic into each of his players, and also recognized there was a time for play. One night each season during Christmas vacation he designated a very special team get-together known as the Winter Olympics. At an outdoor rink, Carlson orchestrated a number of events for his players, complete with awards for feats such as fastest skater, longest jumper, and even an event for fastest crawler from blue line to blue line. He treated the overall winner to a La La Palooza sundae at Bridgeman's at a later date, but that wasn't the greatest prize. Two memorable events of the evening included a song sung to the players by Carlson, who, incidentally, belonged to a barbershop quartet prior to coaching, and a chance for each player to entertain teammates and coaches by telling a "clean" joke. It was also the one and only opportunity during the season that players could address Mr. Carlson as "Art."

As much as he enjoyed the coaching and camaraderie at the youth level, Carlson was an avid fan and supporter of Cloquet hockey at all levels. He followed the progress of his former players through their varsity and collegiate careers, and, until recently, was often seen at the arena, usually visiting with one or another of them, some who had long since hung up their skates.

Current and former coaches, parents and, especially, Carlson's players, will remember him as the quintessential coach and spirit of Cloquet squirt hockey.

Contributed by Jackie Hebert on behalf of the Cloquet Area Hockey Association.

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.