Earl Carlson was one of the pioneers of ice hockey in the sport’s hotbed of north-east England, captaining Durham Wasps in their formative seasons following World War Two. By the end of the 1950s, he was only the second player (after Nottingham’s Chick Zamick) to score over 500 goals in Britain.
When he came to this country at the age of 17 with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Earl was based near Darlington in County Durham. As soon as he discovered an ice rink had opened a few miles away in Durham, and the Canadian Bomber Group had formed a ten-team house league there, he put together a side from the Croft airfield. A strong league, it even boasted the occasional NHL player who was serving in the Canadian forces.
After the war he married a local girl, Catherine, and the couple left for his native Canada, but they soon returned to make their home in Darlington. Carlson, who stood five foot, nine inches and weighed around 165 lbs, was an outstanding skater and stickhandler, so when the Durham rink formed its own club, the Wasps, for season 1947-48, his skill and experience made him an obvious choice as team captain.
With his dazzling speed and solo rushes, he was clearly superior to his teammates. After scoring a hat-trick in each of his first two games, he became the idol of the crowds, who regularly numbered 4,000 in those early, heady days of the Durham club. In fact, he was something of a hat-trick specialist, once scoring three times in 26 seconds.
He and the Wasps went on to enjoy great success in the Northern Tournament, the region’s major competition in the late 1940s and 1950s. In the Ice Hockey World of 18 January 1958, he was named Player of the Week, a rare distinction for any player outside the National League.
Following his retirement after the 1962-63 season, he made a brief comeback for the Wasps at the age of 41 in the first Northern League campaign, 1966-67, when he tallied five goals and two assists for a point-a-game record in seven appearances. The Earl Carlson trophy was later awarded to the league’s highest scoring player in honour of his prowess around the net.
Earl Carlson was born in 1925 in Kenora, Ontario and died on 15 April 1970 in Darlington, England. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.