Suncoast former athlete known for appearance in cult film

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SARASOTA - Every athlete dreams of getting that one shot that allows them to prove their worth. One Suncoast resident got his shot, proved his worth, but was never heard from as a player again. But that didn't stop him having a career that brought him into contact with Presidents and movie stars alike.

Dan Belisle, now a Suncoast resident, got his shot in the NHL after more than 130 minor league goals. That chance came with the New York Rangers in 1960. “I came from Vancouver of the Western Hockey League. I got 2 goals in 4 games, which you think would be credible."

A good showing, but he never got a shot at the NHL again -- at least as a player. "You got three key guys injured. They were not going to pay them and sit them out. It was just easier to send me back, so it didn't matter how many goals I scored."

He won 2 Stanley Cup rings as the Director of Pro Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings and the legendary Scotty Bowman, whom he is still in regular contact with. "Very close. I worked with him for 8 years. I talk to him on a monthly basis, sometimes a couple of times a week. We drive up to the Tampa games in the winter, we play golf. Yeah, we became good friends."

It was while he was a general manager for the minor league Syracuse franchise that Dan became part of pop culture history. Dan's real team won the championship that season, but in 1977 it was Paul Newman's fictional Syracuse Chiefs in the film "Slapshot" that made movie history.

Belisle was part of the movie when he was the punching bag for Newman in the movie's climactic scene. It was not by chance that he was in that scene either. “I though, well, the only guy cameras were going to be on is Paul Newman, so I snuck around and grabbed him when the horn blew."

The movie did not do well at the box office, but has become a cult classic since.