The Complete World Hockey Association

Keith Christiansen Keith Raymond Christiansen "Huffer"

Height: 5-6
Weight: 155
Shoot: R
Born: 14 Jul 1944, Fort Frances ON (d. 2018)


Regular Season & Playoff Scoring Record (key)

year team
1972-73 Minnesota
1973-74 Minnesota

• Member, United States Olympic Team, 1972.


Along Came Huffer • by Charley Hallman • The Hockey Spectator • December 8, 1972

"That's got to be the smallest player I've ever seen in a hockey uniform," said a Philadelphia fan while watching his Blazers play the Minnesota Fighting Saints.

The guy sitting next to him replied, "Yes, but he's damned good. That's Huffer."

Huffer? Keith Christiansen, born Fort Frances, Ont., captain of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team, answers to that name.

As a boy, his playmates hung the handle on him, so he says.

But others say the nickname came later when the Huffer played for the International Falls Broncos, masters of high school hockey in the State of Minnesota. The Falls has had some of Minnesota's all-time athletic heroes from Bronko Nagurski to Oscar Mahle to Lefty Curran to Timmy Sheehy.

Christiansen is one of the community's legends. Many say his nickname came from his smoking and snorting habits in high school.

Whatever, at 5-5 and 153 pounds, Keith Christiansen is one of the smallest players ever to be in major league hockey although there are others, like Bobby LaLonde and Marcel Dionne.

In a stretch of three straight 4-3 victories, Huffer scored nine points in the World Hockey Association and to tie for the Fighting Saints' scoring lead with teammates Ted Hampson and Fred Speck.

If the WHA hadn't have come along, Huffer might have retired from hockey at the age of 27. "I'd probably be back in Duluth working for the government. I was a director of an orientation program in a special federal welfare concentrated employment plan."

That was a job Christiansen held the past three years while playing with the U.S. Nationals and the Olympic team. A hero in collegiate hockey in Duluth where he made All-America and was leading scorer in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 1966-67, Christiansen was rated too small for the NHL.

"I did go to camp with Philadelphia the year after I graduated," the Huffer said, "but I had hopes of playing in the Olympics and when I was asked to report to Seattle of the Western League, I went home. As it turned out, I ended up with Waterloo in the United States League when my citizenship papers didn't come through in time,"

Asked why, as a Canadian, he went to high school in the United States rather than play Junior B hockey in Fort Frances, Christiansen said, "My cousin and brother had both gone to the Falls and, I guess, I just figured I should, too. I was a sophomore in high school at the time and very much influenced by others."

Last season, next to Henry Boucha and Sheehy, Christiansen was the leading scorer on the Olympic team and calls the silver medal he won "one of the most satisfying moments of my life."

"We had a tough year, worked hard and had hopes of winning a bronze medal going into the games, But we played better than expected and made our work much more gratifying."

Christiansen joined the Saints as a player in early August "because I just wanted to play pro hockey. I'd never really had a chance and when the Saints gave me the opportunity, I had to try."

At first, things didn't go well. He had a mediocre training camp after reporting in 10 pounds overweight. Some didn't think be would make it.

"I was discouraged," Christiansen admitted. "I guess whenever you're not playing you get a little down. But we had five good centermen and Coach (Glen) Sonmor wanted to give everyone a chance to see what they could do."

Huffer's chance finally came when the season was eight games old. At the time, he had three assists and the Saints were 2-5-1.

Then, with Christiansen's arrival on a regular line and his use on the power play, the team won 10 of their next 12.

"No question about it," says Sonmor, "Huffer makes our power play go. He handles the puck ds well as anyone I've ever seen and has some special little tricks that are hard to handle for any defénseman."

"1 don't know," Christiansen said, "I suppose I do some things a bit differently than most people on a power play. I usually end up in a corner or behind the net and when I get the puck, I try to make the defenseman come at me, opening a guy up in the slot. If he doesn't come at me, I'll take the puck out in front and shoot. Really, I'm not supposed to be one of the shooters, I'm just a passer. Mostly, we let Fred (Speck) or George (Morrison) or Wayne (Connelly) shoot."

Christiansen also takes a regular shift between Ted Hampson, a center through most of his long NHL career, and Billy Klatt.

"I'm happy to help the team anywhere," said Hampson. "Christiansen is a talented center. I can't believe some of the things he can do with the puck, but I know the passes are there and he really helps our team."

Christiansen says, "Our line's been working now that we've played together. But Billy and Ted have been putting out and that helps. I think the guys are starting to realize our game is skating and by working a little harder and shooting as often as we can, we'll be able to score and win our share of games."



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