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March 07, 2016

Carl Wetzel

Carl Wetzel was born in Detroit but played most of his youth and junior hockey in Ontario.

"(Detroit) was a really great city back then, but there was almost no place for me to play hockey as a 12-year-old, he explained to the New Ulm (Minnesota) Journal newspaper. "I'd have to hitch-hike across town to play goalie without pads on. I didn't even wear goalie pads until I was a high school sophomore."

By playing junior hockey in Hamilton, Ontario, he cost himself any chance of an athletic scholarship to a big US college.

"The University of Michigan hockey coach wanted me to play hockey for them but warned me not to take any meal money, or I'd lose my amateur status," Wetzel said. "The Hamilton General Manager insisted I take meal money, the Michigan coach found out, called me and said I couldn't play college hockey."

He would go on to a well travelled professional career, playing for sixteen teams in fifteen years, plus time with the United States National Team.

Wetzel served his country not only on the ice, but off of it.

Wetzel lost two seasons - from 1962 through 1964 - as he was drafted into military duty. For a significant amount of his compulsory service he was stationed in California and he would practice and serve as an emergency goalie for the WHL champion San Francisco Seals, though he never played.

He returned to the ice during the 1964-65 season, appearing in only six games total. But two of those games featured his debut in the National Hockey League.

The Detroit born goalie played in two games for the home town Red Wings. He started his first game, playing the Montreal Canadiens on Boxing Day, 1964. Unfortunately he never finished the game after allowing four goals. A week later, on January 2nd, Wetzel relieved starter Roger Crozier late in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wetzel would return to the NHL in February 1968. The expansions Minnesota North Stars had made him one of the first players ever signed in franchise history back in the summer of 1967, though he was always targeted to play out the season in the minor leagues. Yet the North Stars found themselves forced to call him up to replace the injured Gary Bauman. He participated in five games, picking up his only career NHL win.

That season was as memorable for Wetzel for his play in the minor leagues. Loaned out to the Rochester Americans, Wetzel helped the Amerks win the Calder Cup championship with a long and successful playoff run. It was Wetzel's first championship of his career.

After spending 1968-69 season in the minor leagues, perhaps Wetzel knew his chances of ever returning to the NHL were slim to none. He spent two seasons with the US National team program and then a year in Austria.

He all but retired after his year in Austria, but was signed as with the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints under an emergency situation. He would lose his only appearance.

Carl and his wife settled in Gaylord, Minnesota after his playing career was over.

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