The Legend of Steve Carell, College Hockey Goalie

Carell’s collegiate athletic career as remembered by his teammates and coaches
The Legend of Steve Carell, College Hockey Goalie

America may know Steve Carell best as the paper company middle manager Michael Scott, but the central Ohio liberal arts college club hockey circuit will always know him as “that funny goalie with the back hair.”

Long before Carell was a household name known to anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the sitcom genre, he was the Boston-born Big Red club hockey goalie at Denison University, a freshman stand-out whom his coach once described as “the anchor of the defense.” As it turns out, there were no camera tricks and no stunt doubles during the multiple instances when The Office took the show on ice. No, Carell is actually that good at skating, and it wasn’t his desire to one day have a family that kept him from pursuing his NHL dreams — it was improv comedy.

Earlier today, The Athletic published their deep-dive into Carrell’s college athletic career, featuring snippets and stories from his former teammates and coaches who all agreed that the chest-waxing scene from 40-Year-Old Virgin is insanely hard to watch.

“We didn’t know he was funny because we were idiots,” former Denison defenseman Bill Eaton recalled of the reserved, swarthy Carell who quickly became the team’s best goalkeeper during just his freshman year. Eaton described the atmosphere when the Big Red team played road games at their much larger rival Ohio University as “like playing in front of a fraternity party,” noting how he, Carell and the rest of team had to dodge beer can missiles tossed at them from the stands. It was in this fire that Carell was forged a winner.

After one such game at OU, Carell was awarded one of the three stars of the game by the OU campus radio station, and when asked by the on-ice reporter how he ended up on the Denison team sporting a .866 save percentage, Carell joked, “I didn’t get into Bowdoin.”

Surprisingly, most of the Denison alumni interviewed for the piece don’t recall Carell for cracks like the one he made after the OU game. Instead, they say that Carell was a quiet, quirky type, not unusual for a goalie as anyone who has ever played hockey can attest. Carell was a national champion from his youth, winning big in squirt hockey in his native Concord, Massachusetts. On the ice, Carell was a winner and a stalwart, with Denison coach Seth Patton once theorizing during his freshman season that Carell could quickly develop into the division’s best goalie. Denison won their club-league regular season title that year.

However, despite his love for the game and Carell’s continued closeness with a couple of his teammates, Denison saw less and less of the wunderkind goalie on the ice — and more and more of him on the stage. In that same freshman year, Carell joined the newly formed Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Company, an improv comedy troupe that quickly became his main focus, beating out his hockey aspirations. His teammates had no idea that a comedy calling was keeping their goalie from playing in their Midwest road trips. Recalled Eaton, “We weren’t the kind of guys who would go to something cultured.”

Although his hockey world failed to see the writing on the wall that Carell was bound for comedy success, they followed his meteoric rise to the top of American humor with eager anticipation. And after spending so much time together in the locker rooms, they understood that the dark, thick bearskin rug on their former teammate’s chest and back occasionally showcased in his comedy projects was no prosthetic. Or as Eaton exclaimed when he first saw the infamous waxing scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin, “Oh my God, that’s real!”

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