Friday

Stephane Morin

On October 8, 1998, former NHL player Stephane Morin, died after suffering heart attack during a German league game.

Morin, who had been playing for the Berlin Capitals, collapsed and died shortly after scoring three goals in the game. He was only 29 years old. He is survived by his wife Karen and son Frederick, 2.

Morin played 90 career NHL games from 1989-94 for the Vancouver Canucks and Quebec Nordiques after a spectacular junior career in the QMJHL, highlighted by a 77 goal, 186 point performance in 70 games.

Morin's best NHL season was in 1990-91 with the Nords when he scored 13 goals and 17 assists in 48 games. However most of his NHL appearances were quick and limited call ups from the minor leagues where he excelled. A great puckhandler, Morin's skating was suspect at the NHL level, and his physical game was non-existent.

After being released by the Canucks despite two excellent seasons with their farm team, Morin signed with the Minnesota Moose where he won the International Hockey League scoring title for the 1994-95 season.Morin, a center, had 33 goals and 81 assists for a league-leading 114 points, his first season in the IHL. He was later traded to Long Beach, where he led the Ice Dogs in scoring in 1996-97 and helped then to the league finals.

"He was a very classy gentleman who was a consummate professional," said John Van Boxmeer, who coached Morin while with Long Beach of the IHL from 1996-98.

Read more...

Wednesday

Blake Wesley

Blake Wesley is the older brother of longtime NHL defenseman Glen Wesley. While Blake did not last nearly as long as Glen in the National Hockey League, he did enjoy a 9 year professional hockey career that included 298 games in the NHL, plus another 19 Stanley Cup playoff games.

Blake was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta, where he was a standout youth player until he left in 1976 to play WHL junior hockey with the Portland Winter Hawks. He would put in three seasons in Portland, becoming one of their top players ever. Upon his draft year in 1979, arguably the deepest NHL draft of all time, Wesley was ranked as the 11th best prospect by The Hockey News and was drafted 22nd overall (1st pick of the 2nd round) by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers had acquired that pick from Colorado in an earlier trade involving Don Saleski.

Wesley was a red head who tried to play with more fire than his natural temperament desired. He was told he needed to be more aggressive and more physical if he wanted to make it in the NHL. He tried the best he could, but perhaps he could have found a little more success had settled down and concentrated on his overall game a bit more.

Wesley would play 2 seasons in the Flyers system, including 50 games in 1981-82, before being traded to Hartford in the big Rick MacLeish trade that shuffled around a lot draft picks and prospects.

Wesley had a chance to play in Hartford, but it was not the best place for a young defenseman to be breaking in.  The Whalers were a pretty weak team at that time. Wesley was a combined -50 in 100 games over 2 seasons in Hartford.

A quarter of the way into the 1982-83 season Wesley was on the move north to Quebec City. He would find a home on the Nordiques blue line over the next three seasons, though by the third season he was demoted down to the minor leagues.

Wesley resurfaced for 27 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1985-86, but otherwise rounded out his career in the AHL.

Blake Wesley, a notably impressive chef, retired in 1988. In 298 NHL games he scored 18 goals, 46 assists for 64 points. He moved back to Portland after his playing days, where he had run a summer hockey school for many years. He was working for the local Pepsi bottler in the 1990s before becoming a junior hockey coach in the new century. Now he appears to be heading up elite hockey schools in British Columbia's Okanagan region.

Read more...

Friday

Jon Klemm

Klemn played his junior hockey with both Seattle and Spokane of the WHL as a forward. In his second season in Spokane and in his second season, he scored 65 points as a forward to lead his team to the WHL Championship and the Memorial Cup Championship.

Jon Klemm signed as a free agent with the Qu├ębec Nordiques on May 14, 1991 and spent most of the next four years in Quebec's farm system. When the franchise moved to Colorado, Klemn was moved from forward to defense in order to play every day in the NHL.

Klemm, who was often paired with the offensively adventurous Sandis Ozolinsh, was part of a very successful team in Colorado, as they won the Campbell Conference Bowl three times and the Stanley Cup twice. On October 17, 1998 Klemm set a club record when he scored two goals nine seconds apart.

After Colorado won the 2001 Stanley Cup, they signed Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Rob Blake to contracts totalling over 100 million dollars and decided not to resign Klemn. Klemn signed with the Blackhawks on the first day of free agency.

After 2 and 1/2 seasons in the Windy City Klemm was moved to Dallas where played close to 3 seasons with the Stars. He ended his NHL career with a brief appearance in Los Angeles in 2007-08.

In 773 NHL regular season games Jon Klemm scored 42 goals and 100 assists for 142 points.

Okay, sure, Wayne Gretzky had more points in a few different seasons than Klemm did in his lengthy career, but very quietly Klemm was a valuable member of the Colorado Avalanche teams that won two Stanley Cups. He was willing to do anything and everything the team asked of him. He didn't add much offensively, and didn't have the mean temperament to make the highlight reels with hard hits. He just quietly did his job, nicely filling minutes on the Colorado blue line or on the 4th forward line.

Read more...

Alexei Gusarov

Alexei Gusarov was 26 years old when he came to the National Hockey League. The long time member of t he Soviet Red Army and USSR national team found an immediate match on the Quebec Nordiques blue line - Adam Foote.

"I don't think there's another Goose out there," Foote said. "I think he was really undervalued. You go back to the one championship this team has, and he was a big part of it. I think even then, he didn't get enough credit.

"That's another part of Goose's character, though. He kept things quiet. He stayed out of everything and just showed up to play. I don't think Colorado fans saw him in his true prime, and I owe a lot to him."

The two seemingly could not have been more different. Foote was rough and tumble, a stalwart defender. Gusarov was an offensive dman in Russia, but in the NHL he almost instantly became a skilled shutdown rearguard. Using his strong skating skills, long reach and good instincts he became a regular penalty killer and shutdown man. This despite a non-existent physical game and a tendency to over-commit positionally.

Gusarov's game deteriorated by the end of 1990s, but he had found a soft spot in the hearts of Colorado (the Nordiques relocated to Denver mid-decade) hockey fans.

In 607 career games, Gusarov scored 39 goals, 128 assists for 167 points. He retired as one of the few members of the Triple Gold Club, having won the 1989 IIHF World Championship, the 1996 Stanley Cup, and the 1988 Olympic gold medal.

Read more...

Adam Foote


When Adam Foote announced his retirement in 2011, he became the answer to a great trivia question: Who is the last member of the Quebec Nordiques to play in the National Hockey League?

The 22nd overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Foote played four seasons in Quebec before the whole franchise relocated to Colorado. It was state side that Foote really emerged as one of the top defenders in the NHL. Best known as the Avalanche's tough as nails defensive throwback blueliner (he sort of reminded me of a poor man's Tim Horton), Foote won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. He was also part of Canada's 2002 Olympic gold medal winning team.

While the Avalanche were about flash and dash, Adam Foote was more about hard work, blood and sweat. He was a foot soldier (pun fully intended), and in doing so became a great leader.

"He was a great leader off the ice and when he played the way he did, how hard he played every single game, in practice how hard he worked, it's easy to be a great leader in the dressing room and to be demanding because he was the perfect example for all the players. Everybody wanted to work as hard as him," said Joe Sakic.

"I bet you can go around and ask any player when (Foote) was young, even now, he was one of the toughest players you'd ever have to play against. We were so lucky to have him on our team. Who was the one guy you had to watch on the other team? 'Here you go, Adam,' and he made it so difficult on him. And with his leadership in the dressing room, you can't replace guys like that."

A warrior who had legendary battles with Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, Foote was a punishing defender. But he was an underrated overall player. He had surprisingly good foot speed in his prime, thanks to great first step quickness. He would often lug the puck out of his own zone, as he was not a great breakout passer. Though he was not much of a gambler, he would make timely pinches and could handle some power play time. But he was far better known as an excellent penalty killer and shut down defenseman.

Foote, who had a most notable hockey nose, has 66 goals, 242 assists, a plus-99 rating and 1,534 penalty minutes in 1,153 NHL games. He has seven goals, 35 assists and 298 penalty minutes in 170 playoff games. He spent 3 seasons cashing in a big free agent offer with Columbus in 2005 to become captain of the Blue Jackets before returning to captain the Avalanche for his final three seasons.

Read more...

Wednesday

Jacques Richard

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has produced some of the greatest hockey talent ever produced. Gilbert Perreault, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Raymond Bourque and Pat Lafontaine are but a few.

One of the greatest QMJHL phenoms was Quebec Ramparts' Jacques Richard. Blessed with an overabundance of natural talent and incredible skating ability, Richard was a junior teammate of Lafleur. At the time some scouts insisted Richard was the better player. In his final three years of junior Richard totalled 186 goals and 399 points in 168 games. He added 80 goals and and 165 points in 75 playoff games and helped the Ramparts capture the 1971 Memorial Cup

Richard was selected 2nd overall by the Atlanta Flames in the 1972 Amateur Draft. He jumped directly to the NHL but couldn't live up the enormous pressure of being hyped as "hockey's next Richard," a marketing ploy comparing him to the immortal Rocket Richard and Henri Richard.

Richard faltered badly on the ice. He was used sparingly as he was a defensive liability, and 57 goals over three years was just not enough to justify keeping him. To make matters worse, Richard was a headache off the ice, as he was a heavy drinker and gambler, and would soon experiment with cocaine.

The Buffalo Sabres hoped to salvage something out of Richard's career, but were disappointed with him. He scored just 12 goals in the 1975-76 season, and after only 2 goals in 21 games in 1976-77, he was banished to the minor leagues for the next season and a half. He would unceremoniously return with the Sabres in 1978-79, but was released soon after.

Richard returned home in 1979, joining the Quebec Nordiques. He continued to struggle until 1980-81 when he was teamed with brothers Peter and Anton Stastny and exploded for 52 goals and 51 assists.

Richard's success was short-lived. His off-ice habits continued to mess with Richard the hockey player. He quickly fell into decline and by 1983 was out of hockey.

His demons continued to curse him after hockey. In 1989 he returned from a vacation to Colombia with $1.5 million worth of cocaine hidden in a golf bag. He was sentenced to seven years in jail.

On Oct. 8, 2002, when his car struck a culvert near Issoudun, Quebec, killing him instantly. He was just 50 years old.

Read more...

Friday

Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart is mostly known as the hard-nosed NHL referee who officiated over 1000 NHL games. But before Stewart began enforcing NHL rules and regulations, he used to break them on a very regular basis.

This Boston native was every bit as tough when he was a player. In his first pro season (1975-76) with the Binghampton Dusters (NAHL) Paul picked up 273 PIMs in only 46 games. In October 1976 he signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA, but he only played two games for Edmonton and spend most of the 1976-77 season playing for Binghampton where he collected 232 Pim's in 60 games.

Paul got his first real taste of WHA action when he was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Stingers (who also later signed a 17 year old Mark Messier) in December 1977. Cincinnati's coach Jacques Demers had a tough guy on his team named Willie Trognitz who had been banned from the IHL for life after he had tried to remove the head of Archie Henderson. Demers and the Stingers gambled that "Wild Willie's" reputation after that incident would be enough to keep the opposition out of the corners,well it wasn't and Trognitz was released and in came the 23-year old Paul Stewart.

Paul was an instant hit with the Cincinnati crowd and media. He would talk to anyone, anytime. Paul was quotable, patient and colorful. He knew the importance of publicity and admitted that he would do anything to help his club fill the seats. Paul racked up 241 PIMs in only 40 games for Cincinnati during the 1977-78 season. He could play both as a left wing and as a defenseman and although he wasn't a big scorer his presence was felt all the time.

Paul played with the Stingers in the WHA sporadically for the next two years, alternating his playing time between Cincinnati and Binghampton Dusters / Philadelphia Firebirds (AHL). At one time he almost ended up playing for the Minnesota North Stars in the NHL. He actually signed a contract with Minnesota but ripped it up before sending it back to the North Stars management. Paul simply got second thoughts and didn't want to leave Cincinnati because they gave him his first real shot among the "big boys". Paul concluded that "you've gotta dance with the one who brung you" - typically Paul Stewart.

On June 9,1979 Paul was claimed by the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA dispersal draft. He made his NHL debut on November 20,1979 against his hometown team, the Boston Bruins. And what a splashy debut it was! Paul didn't waste any time and fought Terry O'Reilly, Stan Jonathan and Al Secord in that game picking up 29 Pim's in his first ever NHL game. The guys that he fought were no slouches. Paul's NHL career was brief though and he only appeared in 21 games, scoring two goals and having 74 Pim's.

He played in the AHL and then briefly in the ACHL before hanging up his skates as a player in 1983. He didn't leave the NHL scene for long though and returned as an official in 1987. He was an instant hit among the players and gained league wide respect for his hard-nosed attitude the same way as in his playing days. Tough but fair.

Paul's perspective on life took a drastic change when he in January 1998 saw a program on TV that had a segment on colon cancer. He recognized some of the symptoms given in the program and decided to arrange an appointment with his doctor. It was revealed that he had stage III colon cancer, one step away from the worst on the scale. Paul had a three hour operation and in typical Paul Stewart manner refused to be transported to his room in a wheelchair despite having tubes in his nose, genitals and arms. He walked instead. He eventually had a couple of complications and had to be operated again. Luckily Paul survived his battle with death and got back to officiating in the NHL again at the start of the 1998-99 season to the delight of all the players who gave him a warm welcome.

Paul was a fighter as a player and as a fighter as a referee and as a person.

Read more...

Sunday

Steven Finn


Steven Finn was a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman for the Quebec Nordiques most of his career. He finished his career with stints in Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, but will always be remembered as an unheralded mainstay blueliner for the Nords.

An aggressive and hardnosed defenseman, Finn was a quiet though effective leader for the Nords. Although he probably lost more fights than he won, he always showed up when the other team was taking too many liberties on one of his teammates. A relentless man in front of his own net, Finn eagerly played the body. However he never was known for crushing people, rather he effectively steered them away from trouble. He was also a good shot blocker.

Toiling with awful teams for most of his career, he was often overlooked and quickly labeled as a stay at home defenseman who would have trouble playing a regular role on the NHL's stronger teams. Not everyone felt that way though. When trade rumors swirled word had it that Oiler's GM Glen Sather always wanted Finn, possibly with a first round pick in an Andy Moog deal which obviously never materialized. Slats felt Finn could have been another Steve Smith perhaps, and that's a good comparison for Finner. Finn would have been best cast as a 4th d-man, not a 2nd like he was asked at times to play in Quebec.

Like Smith, Finn's finesse skills were overlooked because of his aggressiveness. But Finn developed into a strong positional player after constantly over committing in his earlier years. Finn was just an average skater at best, but was smart enough to realize what he could and could not do. He also possessed an accurate shot from the point which he always kept low. Most of his points came from placing the puck in the slot and letting a forward tip it or bang at the rebound. Unfortunately for Finn, his shot didn't have a lot of power.

Drafted 57th overall in 1984, Finn didn't stick with the team until the 1986-87 season when he finished the year strongly as a regular in the playoffs. However Finn brought his physical presence at the wrong time as the Nords were heading downhill into one of the league's worst teams. From 1989 through 1993, the Nords were the league's worst team. Finn however stuck through those lean days and kept battling. When the Nords improved and became a league contender again, Finn's role had been downgraded as he lost a step. The Nords traded Finner less than a year before they won the Stanley Cup as the Colorado Avalanche.

Read more...

Monday

Peter Loob

Peter's claim to hockey fame is that he is the older brother of Calgary Flames sniper Hakan Loob.

Hakan was this tiny but mega-talented right winger who is best known for being the first Swedish player to score 50 goals in the National Hockey League. Hakan played 6 strong seasons in Calgary before returning to Sweden to play several more years. In his last NHL campaign he helped the Flames capture their first Stanley Cup championship.

Peter Loob is nowhere near as celebrated. Three years older and 6 inches taller than Hakan, Peter was never considered to be a NHL prospect until his brother achieved success in his rookie NHL season of 1983-84. It was in the 1984 entry draft that the Quebec Nordiques took a chance on Peter, taking him 244th overall.

Peter joined the Nordiques the following season as a 27 year old rookie. He was a tall but slim defenseman who was considered to be a project more than a prospect. He didn't adjust well to the North American game or culture in his short stay. He spent most of his time in the minor leagues, but did see 8 games of NHL action. He even scored 1 goal and 2 assists and was a respectable +5.

Homesick and content that he gave the NHL a good shot, Peter returned to his homeland where he continued to play hockey for two more years before hanging up the blades.

Read more...

Wednesday

Jacques Mailhot

Jacques Mailhot had to fight for a professional hockey career - literally.

Mailhot never played in a high junior league when he was a teenager. He turned to senior hockey when he was old enough and quickly became noticed for his extremely rough style of play. After two seasons and 426 PIM in Senior hockey (that's a whole lot for that level of hockey, folks!) Mailhot impressed enough people to earn a contract to play at the minor league level. He split 43 games in the AHL with the Fredericton Express and Baltimore Skipjacks where he showed not only a willingness to fight, but some promise as well with 4 goals and 10 points.

By 1988 Mailhot signed a one year contract with the Quebec Nordiques. The Nords were looking for a tough guy and offered the Rimouski tough guy a shot at NHL employment. Mailhot spent most of the year with the AHL Halifax Citadels but also gave Mailhot a 5 game NHL audition. He played sparingly and when he did play he fought, earning 33 minutes in penalties. Not surprisingly Mailhot was called up in time to play in the intense rivalry against the provincial rival Montreal Canadiens.

Mailhot would become a long time minor leaguer following his one NHL contract. He bounced around terribly for the next two years, playing with 6 teams in 3 leagues before quitting pro hockey. He moved to New Brunswick where he finished the year rediscovering his love for hockey playing at the senior level.

Mailhot, a 6'2" 208lb left winger born in Shawinigan Quebec, would sign on in Colonial Hockey League in 1991 where he was not only a sure-fire tough guy but also a decent player. He would also extend his professional career in Texas in the upstart Western Professional Hockey League.

Read more...

Tuesday

Randy Moller

Randy Moller was a steady defensive defenceman over his 14 NHL seasons with the Nordiques, Rangers, Sabres and Panthers. His job was to clear the puck while playing a physical role in the defensive end and keeping the puck away from the net. He got very little fanfare for excelling in his role, but hockey people knew Moller was a definite asset.

A native of Red Deer, Alberta, he was the Nordiques first pick, 11th overall, in the 1981 Entry Draft. Moller starred with the Lethbridge Broncos of the OHL and was named a second team All-Star in 1981-82, his final year of junior. That year he scored 20 goals and 75 points in 60 games. He also picked up 249 PIMs. He was part of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, picking up 3 assists in 7 games.

Moller played his first seven NHL seasons with the Nordiques. Though he spoke no french when he arrived in Quebec City, Moller would quickly fall in love with the city, unlike some english speaking players who dreaded life in the predominantly french town.

Though he was an offensive power in junior hockey, Moller used his big 6'2" 210lb body to excel defensively at the NHL level.  He lacked speed and a hard shot but Moller was one of the better d-men when it came to making the perfect breakout pass. Many times during his career he would spring lose a Peter Stastny or Mike Gartner with a perfect outlet pass from his own zone. His unfailing accuracy in this regard made him so valuable to his team's transition offense.
Moller enjoyed his finest offensive years while in a Nordiques uniform, registering more than 23 points on four occasions. During the 1985-86 campaign, he set career-highs with seven goals, 22 assists and 29 points and in 1988-89 he matched those totals.

Prior to the 1989-90 season, Moller was traded to the Rangers in exchange for Michel Petit. After two and a half seasons in New York City he was then dealt to the Buffalo Sabres midway through the 1991-92 campaign in exchange for Jay Wells. He played two and a half years with the Sabres before signing with the Florida Panthers as a free agent prior to the 1994-95 campaign.

But after Randy signed with the Panthers, injuries limited his play and ultimately forced his retirement. Back injuries limited him to only 17 games with the Panthers. He accepted the team buyout, but felt bad that he couldn't fulfill his contractual obligations.

Moller retired from the NHL with career totals of 45 goals, 180 assists and 225 points in 815 regular season games.

Like many hockey players before him, Moller turned to the world of broadcasting after hanging up his skates. However he took the unconventional route of becoming the Florida Panthers play by play man. Most players are analysts offering their opinion. Moller, who works alone and provides his own colour commentary, has a very unconventional style.

Read more...

Sunday

Peter Stastny

Perhaps most Canadians weren't paying attention, but our first look at one of hockey's all time greats came in the 1976 Canada Cup. An extremely young Peter Stastny was the youngest skater in the tournament. Only Finnish goalie Markus Mattsson was younger.

Stastny was two weeks short of his 20th birthday when he squared off against the Soviets on September 3, 1976 in the hockey shrine known as the Montreal Forum. But he was not an awe-struck rookie. He was already a veteran of two world junior championships and one world championship.

Playing with brother Marian and left winger Jaroslav Pouzar, Stastny, a fiercely proud Slovak, scored a team high 4 assists in 7 games in that Canada Cup tournament. The awesome playmaking became a trademark over the years for this Hockey Hall of Famer.

Russia's legendary goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak remembered Stastny from 1976:

"Peter Stastny was an extremely dangerous player, with or without the puck. But I learned a very small weakness that he had. His eyes would betray his intentions. I would always look straight into his eyes. If he would return the stare, it meant he was going to shoot. If he looked away it was usually a pass. Peter Stastny was only 19 years old when he played in the Canada Cup and he was one of the best," Tretiak said.

Stastny himself was in awe of the Canadian pros. He watched them closely during one of the exhibition games prior to the tournament. Stastny first focused on Bobby Orr and was impressed by the great defenseman. However it wasn't Orr that made the biggest impression on the young Stastny.

"The player who stunned me the most and who I previously had never heard about was Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault. Never before in my life had I seen such a dynamic skater. When he took off I got the feeling that a locomotive was making its way down the ice. Perreault was so smooth that he had no trouble going coast to coast, around the defensemen like a knife through butter. He wasn't a typical Canadian player, although a big fellow, he was a fantastically technical player, far superior to any of his teammates."

Stastny tried his best to keep on top of Canadian hockey and the National Hockey League. Growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, Stastny dreamed of western life and playing hockey in the NHL. He would voraciously read smuggled old copies of The Hockey News. He would quickly learn of Stan Mikita, a Slovak born superstar in the NHL. Mikita would join older brother Marian and Vaclav Nedomansky as Peter's hockey idols.

The fact that the Stastny's grew up reading smuggled Western magazines shouldn't surprise us. The Stastny brothers grew up as very independent thinkers, and were opposed to their communist oppressors. Peter Stastny, who admired Slovak reformer Alexander Dubcek, literally hated the communists.

Stastny starred for his hometown Bratislava team in the Czech Elite League for 6 years. Stastny got his chance to play thanks to the defection of Slovak legend Vaclav Nedomansky. By 1979-80 Peter had become the best player in the country, as he was named the Czechoslovakian Player of the Year after recording 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points in just 41 games. With his hockey career in Czechoslovakia budding, he began to experience the perks of stardom that most Czechs and Slovaks could only dream of. Playing on the national team and quickly establishing himself as one of the best players allowed for higher salaries, vacations on the Baltic Sea, and travel around the world.

But for Peter it was not enough. Just days before NHL training camps opened in the late summer of 1980, Peter and brother Anton defected from their country.

"I stood up against what I felt was corruption and gross injustice," Peter recalls. "When they told me to shut up or lose my privilege of playing for the national team, I went ballistic."

The defection is a story all in itself. Peter, Anton and Peter's pregnant wife fled in the dark of the night, risking everything if they got caught, and not knowing what exactly was to be their reward. They left behind their parents and brother Marian. Marian would be punished on his brother's behalf, with many of his hockey privileges immediately revoked and authorities watching his every move.

The defection rocked the hockey world. It was huge news, knocking stories of the Major League Baseball's pennant drives and the Summer Olympics from the front page. It would have great ramifications. The Nordiques, who struggled mightily after one season removed from the WHA merger, became instantly respectable and then a eastern power, perhaps saving the franchise from its inevitable demise. And internationally the defection led to the Czechoslovakian authorities allowing veteran athletes to pursue sports for profit late in their careers without having to defect.

Stastny's first NHL season was 1980-81 when he just turned 24 and was just hitting his prime. He easily won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, setting NHL records for assist (70) and points (109) by a freshman (since surpassed). Stastny became first NHL rookie to score 100 points in a season, completely eliminating any doubts about the Slovak hockey great.

Proving his first season was no fluke, Peter would go on to score 7 more 100 point seasons, including six consecutive seasons to start his career. His best season was his sophomore year when he racked up 46 goals and 93 assists for 139 points. That was also the season his brother Marian defected to the west, along with his wife and three children. The three great Stastny brothers were all together again, and at times played on the same line, becoming the first all brothers trio since Max, Doug and Reg Bentley in the 1940s.

Though Marian had a storied international career before his defection and though he and Anton both proved to be very solid NHL players, it is Peter Stastny that goes down in history as the best. He was a very shifty skater, not necessarily blessed with great speed but more with a tremendous sense of balance. Combine that with his equally incredible vision and puck handling skills and Peter Stastny ranks as one of the great playmakers ever. He was the lead conductor of his on-ice orchestra. He shared an uncanny connection with his brothers, particularly with Anton on give and go plays. An old school hockeyist, Peter relied almost strictly on his accurate wrist shot. He was especially dangerous on the power play.

After rounding out his NHL career with stints in New Jersey and St. Louis, Stastny finished his Hall of Fame career in 1995 with a total of 1237 total points, which made him the highest scoring European trained player at the time of his retirement (since surpassed). He was so dominant that in the 1980s only Wayne Gretzky scored more points in the decade. In fact, in 1983 Montreal head coach Bob Berry, who saw the Stastnys up close and personal in the heated Battle of Quebec rivalry, suggested Stastny was a better player than Gretzky.

Stastny helped make the Nordiques a powerhouse in the NHL's Wales Conference. Many great regular season and playoff battles occurred with the provincial rival Montreal Canadiens in one of the greatest and unfortunately shortest rivalries the league has ever seen. Despite some great runs, Stastny and the Nords never did make an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Lack of depth and great goaltending was always the weakness of the Nords in their tough playoff battles in the old Adams Division and Wales Conference.

In addition to being a great hockey player, Peter Stastny was a very worldly person.

In the spring of 1984 Peter Stastny became a Canadian citizen, thus making him available for Team Canada in the 1984 tournament. Under normal circumstances Stastny would have been ruled ineligible to represent Canada since he already had played for another country internationally. All this according to the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) rules. But the tournament was organized by the NHL and NHLPA who had their own rules.

Stastny became the first ever European born and trained player to represent a Canadian national hockey team. He was extremely proud of his Canadian citizenship but admitted that he had a Slovakian heart in the Canadian jersey.

In 1984 Stastny didn't see much ice time as he mostly centered the third line. Wayne Gretzky, Brent Sutter and on occasions Mark Messier all saw more ice as centers. The only game where Stastny was double shifted was in the game against his old teammates from Czechoslovakia. In that game Stastny scored his only goal of the tournament. The game was televised live to Czechoslovakian homes but the announcers were forbidden from saying Stastny's name, only referring to him as number 26.

Prior to the game Stastny held a pre-game speech to boost his Canadian team mates who faced elimination in case of a loss. " I just told the guys to play very physical from the start, to break down the Czechoslovaks as soon as possible. Knowing the Czechoslovakian mentality myself, I knew this was the best way to play against them."

In July 1991, Peter Stastny. soon to be 35 years old, was approached by Jaroslav Walter, Ivan Hlinka's assistant coach on the Czechoslovakian team. The country had now been liberated from communist rule, and they were looking to make amends with past dissidents such as Stastny. Walter asked Stastny if he would like to play for Czechoslovakia in the 1991 Canada Cup tournament.

" When he approached me I said that if you want me then it would be a great honour for me to once again represent my country," Stastny said. Stastny however never played in the 1991 Canada Cup as he felt that there were not enough Slovak players on the team. Stastny who always took great pride in being a Slovak never passed on the opportunity to letting everyone know about it. His pride however deprived him of the opportunity to play in 1991.

Stastny eventually got to represent Slovakia when they became independent. He was the flag bearer for the entire Slovak athletic roster at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. As a 37-year old Stastny finished second in the Lillehammer scoring race, which he also did 14 years earlier in Lake Placid. In 1995 he helped Slovakia gain A-Pool status as he led all the scorers in the B-Pool World Championships.

Before the 1996 World Cup tournament Stastny was asked if he would like to become the head coach of the Slovak national team.

"I said ok, I'll accept the job for the World Cup. But the Slovakian hockey president didn't want such deal. He told me that I had to sign a two year contract until the Olympic games in Nagano 1998. I told him that I would have to think about it," Stastny said.

He never became the coach because of a feud between the hockey powers in Slovakia. One group wanted Stastny as a coach, and another faction didn't want him. Fed up with all this 'hooplah' Stastny finally withdrew his name from consideration.

Through the turn of the century Peter Stastny has stayed strong to his Slovakian roots. He serves as the country's elected representative in the European Parliament.

Read more...

Marian Stastny

Marian is the oldest of the three Stastny brothers who terrorized the NHL in the early 1980's when they formed one of the most feared lines. Middle brother Peter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Both Anton and Peter always insisted that Marian was the most talented of them all. A talent that he displayed briefly in the NHL.

Marian was born in Bratislava, Slovakia where he played for Slovan Bratislava between 1970-80 (and a half season for Dukla Jihlava). He scored 236 goals in 369 league games and represented Czechoslovakia 122 times, scoring 54 goals. He represented his country in the 1971 and 1972 World European Junior Championships and the World Championships between 1975-79. He also played in the 1980 Olympics and 1976 Canada Cup. During that time he was a two time World Champion (1976 & 77) as well as a league champion in 1979.

His brothers had defected to Canada in 1980 during a tournament in Austria. Marian helped arrange his brothers defections but had to remain behind when they left. Marian stayed because he had his family left in Czechoslovakia. Quite heroically, he assumed the inevitable iron-curtain indignities as punishment for his brothers escape. He was banned from all hockey, both on the national team as well as club hockey. He was also banned from working anywhere in the Soviet-bloc country. Marian attempted to lure government officials into believing that he wasn't interested in following suit and defecting to North America. He publicly denounced his brothers in ruse for their escapes and he continued to make structural improvements for his home. He later vacationed in other East Bloc countries with his wife, Eva, and three children until they finally managed to skip into Austria. From there, the family took a jet and officially defected to Canada.

Quebec Nordiques' fans anxiously anticipated Marian's arrival. This to the background that Peter's and Anton's play during their rookie seasons was a tremendous success. Peter set a rookie record with 109 points, his 70 assists is a NHL rookie record. Anton had a very impressive 85 points, a rookie record for left wings. Marian didn't disappoint, scoring 89 points, at times reunited on a line with his brothers. Peter exploded for 139 points, and Anton had 72 points. All in all the trio combined for 300 points. The Stastny's continued their terrific pace in the playoffs making it to the semifinals before finally losing to the eventual champions NY Islanders.

Marian's sophomore season in 1982-83 began at a torrid pace. After 33 games he was second in the league in points only behind Wayne Gretzky. Marian had 58 points, 26 goals and 32 assists. He cooled off significantly, and then had his season end in Quebec's 60th game of the season. Skating at home against the defending champions NY Islanders Marian's two goals gave the Nordiques to a 4-1 3rd period lead. While carrying the puck into the Islanders zone, he was crunched to the boards by Greg Gilbert. He remained on the ice, in a lot of pain. Later on, in the dressing room, he learned that he had suffered a badly dislocated shoulder that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. His dream season was over with 36 goals, 43 assists and 79 points in only 60 games.

Marian never recovered fully from the shoulder injury and slowed down considerably in 1983-84, scoring 52 points. (20 goals and 32 assists) in 68 games. The Stastny line was broken up and Marian saw less and less ice time in 1984-85. He was gradually squeezed out of the lineup.

Stastny was placed on waivers by the Nordiques in the summer of 1985. Toronto, Montreal and Pittsburgh expressed interest in the 31-year old forward. The Canadiens wanted Marian badly but couldn't guarantee him a spot on the team, so he eventually decided to join the Leafs.

Marian was a good addition to the Leafs team with his savvy and ability to play on all three forward positions. Marian formed a line with countrymen Miroslav Frycer and Peter Ihnacak. The trio got a total of 173 points. with Marian picking up 53 of them, including 23 goals, in 70 games. Marian could have played at least one more season in the NHL but opted to finish his playing career in Switzerland and HC Sierre (1986-87). He was Sierre's trainer the following season.

Marian didn't make his debut in the NHL until he was almost 29-years old and on the downhill of his career, but despite that he managed to score almost a point per game. He had 294 points (121 goals and 173 assists) in 322 regular season games and 22 points in 32 playoff games.

Marian always loved Quebec City, and continues to live in the area. He is also a very entrepreneurial person, owning the bar Dix-Huit (French for 18, his jersey number) while he played, and now owning his own hotel and golf course in St. Nicholas on the southern shores of the capital city.

Read more...

Anton Stastny

Unlike brothers Peter and Marian, Anton Stastny was not the flashiest of players. This is likely due to his skating.

While both of his brothers were exceptional skaters, Anton was average. He did not have a lot of speed or even agility on his feet.

Anton compensated for his lack of foot skills through his excellent hockey sense. He had an uncanny ability to read the play developing, both offensively and defensively, and was able to use that to give himself a head start to get into the perfect position.

It helped that he often played with his brothers, particularly Peter. Since they had played together since childhood, they knew what each other was going to do instinctually. They had a number of plays together, particularly the ol' fake a shot and pass to the brother who just got himself clear from his check.

Anton had good hands and could carry the puck and make nice passes through traffic. He possessed a good wrist shot, but rarely used from far out. Instead he liked to operate down low near the crease. He had the hands to make plays in tight, and the size and sense to use his body to gain positioning in the scrums near the goalie.

This made him an important part of the Nordiques power play. Nearly 32% of his career goals came while with the man-advantage.

Bottom line was Anton Stastny was a good, heady hockey player who was better with his brothers than he would have been without them. He had a good offensive skill set, but little interest in the physical game.

Interestingly, Anton was the first Slovakian player ever drafted by the NHL, although it was not the Nordiques who originally claimed him. In 1978 the Philadelphia Flyers 198th overall in the 1978 Amateur Draft. He was ruled ineligible due to confusion over his age. The Quebec Nordiques took advantage and drafted him 83rd overall in 1979.

Of course back then it was incredibly unlikely that any player in Communist Europe would be released to play in North America, especially a player as young as Anton and Peter. The two had to boldly defect to pursue a career in the National Hockey League, with Marian defecting later on. Had they not, they likely would not have had careers in the NHL at all.

Like his brothers, he was proud to live in Canada. He secured his Canadian citizenship on April 2nd, 1984 and later that year tried out for Team Canada at the Canada Cup. While Peter made the team, Anton was one of last cuts.

Anton Stastny played in nine NHL seasons, generally pushing the 30 goal, 75 point mark. His best season was his third campaign when he scored 32 goals, 60 assists and 92 points.

All in all Anton scored 252 goals, 384 assists and 636 points in 650 NHL games. He added 20 goals and 52 points in 66 playoff contests.

The Nordiques bought out Anton's contract after the 1988-89 season. Anton returned to Europe, signing in Switzerland. He maintained close hockey ties with the Swiss and once again with Slovakia after the fall of communism.

Read more...

Thursday

Alain Caron

Alain Caron was a small but high scoring minor leaguer for 17 years. He did finally get a chance to play in the NHL in parts of two less than successful seasons when the NHL expanded from 6 to 12 teams in 1967.

The 5'9" right winger bounced around with many teams and leagues before finally showing what he could do with the St. Louis Braves of the old CHL. He scored a record 77 goals in his first CHL season. One of the main reasons Alain had so many goals was, much like Montreal Canadiens' superstar Bernie Geoffrion, due to his very hard slap shot. Caron's slap shot also earned him Geoffrion's nickname, "Boom Boom". However Caron's production would slip to "only" 46 goals the next season.

For the next two seasons, Alain played in the AHL and the WHL before getting his big break in 1967. Originally Chicago Blackhawks property, Alain was drafted by the NHL's newest expansion team, the Oakland Seals. Apparently they caused quite the stir when at the draft they announced they were proud to select "Boom Boom . . . . Caron!"

During his time with the Oakland Seals, Alain played in 58 games recording 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points. Caron found he just did not have the time in the NHL to release his incredible shot. Goalie Gary Smith summed it up to his poor skating by NHL standards.

Before the start of the 1968/69 season, Oakland traded Alain to Montreal. Alain's stay in Montreal was short as he appeared in only 2 games (no points) before again being banished to the minor leagues where he would play for 8 more years, including 4 in the WHA.

Described as a shy kid who kept to himself, the highlight of his WHA years must have been his time with the Quebec Nordiques. Finally the Frenchman could feel at home. It showed on the ice, too. Though he was a veteran player by this stage of his career, he managed to tally 36 and 31 goals in two full seasons.

In 1976 the 37 year old led all scorers in the NAHL (a WHA minor league) with 78 goals in 73 games, plus another 21 goals in 14 playoff games! But a massive heart attack later that summer forced him off the ice for good.

Caron took a job working for a Quebec brewery, but in 1986 another heart attack killed him. He was only 48 years old.

Read more...

Sunday

Alain Lemieux

There have been a few Lemieux's to have played in the National Hockey League. Mario of course is the most famous, followed by Claude, who is not related to Mario. Claude's brother Jocelyn and the unrelated Real played a decent number of games in the league, while Richard, Jean, Jacques and Bob Lemieux had tastes of NHL action. Oh yeah, and Alain Lemieux. He's Mario's older brother!

Alain was not granted the gifts that Mario got. Alain was small at 6'0" and 185lbs (Mario was 6'4" and 210lbs). He did put up some good numbers in junior hockey and early on in his minor league career, but was inconsistent in his production. Scouting reports from the minors leagues varied from artistically dominant to completely invisible.

Alain was drafted 96h overall by the St. Louis Blues in 1980. Despite the decent numbers in the minors, Lemieux's lack of natural strength and conditioning doulbed by his poor defensive play prevented him from a true chance at NHL employment.

Things changed when Mario came along. The whole hockey world was excited about Super Mario, and as a result Alain got a little more attention too, if only because he was his older brother. But that helped Alain get one more chance to make the Blues in 1984-85, Mario's rookie season.

Alain was invited back to St. Louis training camp. Lemieux had to battle Dave Barr for the 4th line center position. Because of Barr's hard-nosed style of play, he had the inside edge. With Bernie Federko, Doug Gilmour and Doug Wickenheiser on the top 3 pivot positions, Alain would have to learn to play gritty and defensively.

But the Blues were hoping that Mario's arrival in the NHL would push Alain to the heights his talent level indicated he could achieve.

"His brother is in the league now and he wants to keep up with him or do even better," said assistant coach Bob Plager.

"I think if I had pride, which I hope he has, I'd want to show my brother I can play in the NHL, too." said head coach Jacques Demers.

Alain made the team as Barr was moved to the right side. However after 19 games the team moved him on to Quebec in exchange for Luc Dufour. The move was good for Lemieux, who would return to his home province and get a chance to play a more offensive role. He responded well with 11 goals and 22 points in 30 contests. He added 3 goals and 6 points in 14 playoff games.

While that paled in comparison to rookie Mario's stats in Pittsburgh, it appeared Alain had finally made it to the NHL. That came to a crashing halt in 1985-86 when he showed up for training camp overweight and perhaps taking his position on the team for granted.

Alain was banished to the minor leagues. He received a late season call up where he appeared in 7 regular season games, but never recorded a point. He made up for that with a strong appearance in his only post season game that year, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists.

The Nordiques cut him loose that off season, and low and behold guess who picked him up? The Pittsburgh Penguins. He played the entire year in the minor leagues, posting his best professional numbers with 97 points in 72 games. He was a AHL second all star team center.

But the highlight of the year, or so he thought, came when he got called up to Pittsburgh and played one game with his brother. Only problem was Alain Lemieux was being called up to replace his brother for the game, as Super Mario was sidelined with a viral illness.

That game proved to be Alain's last in the NHL. He bounced around with 4 minor league teams over the next season and a half before landing in Finland. He returned to the North American minor leagues in 1990-91, but retired at the conclusion of the season.

Read more...

Friday

Mikhail Tatarinov

Mikhail Tatarinov was just hitting his prime in Russia when he came over to the National Hockey League in 1991.

Tatarinov was in his 8th season in the Soviet Elite League, hi 5th season with Moscow Dynamo, when he was allowed to join the Washington Capitals, who actually drafted Tatarinov way back in 1984 with their 225th overall pick. Tatarinov had just come off of a 11 goal, 21 point campaign in 44 games in Soviet League play, a season in which he was named as a USSR First Team All Star.. More importantly he helped his team win the Soviet National title.

Also in 1990 Tatarinov represented his country at the World and European Championships. He scored 3 goals and 11 points in 10 games en route to being named the best defenseman at the Championships. He was also named to the tournament all star team.

International success was not foreign for Mikhail. He was a World Junior Championship all star in both 1985 and 1986, as well as being named the WJC's best d-man in 1986. In all he competed in 3 World Juniors and one World Championship. He also competed in Rendez Vous '87 and the 1991 Canada Cup.

Despite his solid play in International competition, Tatarinov was not well liked by the Soviet hockey authorities, especially Red Army head coach Viktor Tikhonov. Mikhail was a wild personality who marched to his own drummer. The Soviet hockey system punishes players who were deemed to be too individualistic and not fully team oriented.

Mikhail, who counted Philadelphia Flyers goon Dave "The Hammer" Schultz as his idol, also had a reputation as a bit of a dirty player in Europe.

"He is fearless. There are players eight and 10 years older who are afraid of him in the Elite League. They try to avoide him on the ice," wrote Soviet journalist Igor Kuprin.

The 5'10" 195lb blueliner from Angarsk signed with the Washington Capitals part way through the 1991 season. After playing in 12 games with Moscow Dynamo, "Tats" finished the year by playing in 65 games with the Caps. He scored 8 goals and 23 points.

Tatarinov was moved to the Quebec Nordiques for a draft choice in the summer of 1991. Mikhail had a good first year with Quebec. He appeared in 66 games and scored 11 goals and 38 points. However he would become the hard-luck kid in the 1992-93 season. He appeared in only 28 games, scoring 2 goals and 8 points before badly breaking his leg. Also, by this time Tatarinov had developed a bad back.

The Nords let the small but scrappy d-man go in the summer of 1993. The Boston Bruins took a chance on the injured defenseman. He would appear in only 2 games with the B's, as well as three with their farm team. In the end Tatarinov's back forced him to retire prematurely.

Tatarinov possessed a cannon-like shot with good offensive instincts. He had some trouble adjusting to the NHL game after years in Russia. It took him a while to adjust to the smaller ice surface which forced him to rush his on ice decisions. He was also a willing participant in physical battles, although wasn't big enough to dominate most NHL players. Despite his offensive upside and his feistiness, Tatarinov was an adventure in his own end. Often he was a spectator more than a participant when the puck was in his zone.

Read more...

Monday

Quebec Nordiques Greatest Legends

Joel Baillargeon
Serge Bernier

Dan Bouchard

Curt Brackenbury 
Richard Brodeur (WHA)
Real Cloutier
Gaetan Duchesne  
Bryan Fogarty

Peter Forsberg

Iain Fraser 
Paul Gillis
Mario Gosselin
Michel Goulet
Dale Hunter  
Francois Lacombe (WHA)
Curtis Leschyshyn
Tony McKegney

Ken McRae
Wilf Paiement
Walt Poddubny
Ken Quinney
Normand Rochefort 

Joe Sakic
Anton Stastny
Marian Stastny
Peter Stastny  
Marc Tardif
(WHA)
J.C. Tremblay (WHA)
Ron Tugnutt
Craig Wolanin

Read more...

Sunday

Iain Fraser

Iain Fraser played 94 games in the National Hockey League, including a full season with the Quebec Nordiques in 1993-94 when he scored 17 goals and 37 points in 60 games. He made brief appearances with the Islanders, Jets, Oilers and Sharks before disappearing to Europe.

But I will always Iain Fraser as captain of the Oshawa Generals.

Being from BC, it was not easy to watch OHL games. But that all changed late in the 1989-90 season, as suddenly the Generals were on national television. Why? Because they had just acquired the most heralded junior player in years - Eric Lindros.

While curious eyes all tuned into see Lindros, my eyes quickly took to following the overaged captain of the team, Fraser. He was the grizzled veteran of the team, at least by junior standards. While Lindros had the NHL waiting for him, in many ways this was Fraser's last chance.

For Fraser, in his last year of junior hockey, this was his last chance to win. Maybe that's why I took such a likiing to him. He was a sad story in some ways. He had only one chance left. And given his 233rd overall draft selection in 1989, the future was not exactly encourage expectations for Fraser's NHL dreams.

Lindros was brought in to help the Generals win the Memorial Cup, and win they did, in front of national television audiences. New heroes were born in front of us, including Fraser. With 32 points in 17 playoff games, including 10 in 4 Memorial Cup games, Fraser was named as the Memorial Cup's Most Valuable Player. It was a great way to end a junior hockey career.

As it turned out Fraser had a good pro career ahead of him, too. He went onto play 94 games in the NHL, including that full season with the same Nordiques team Lindros refused to play for. He even scored 23 goals and 46 points in his career. He was an all star at the AHL level before heading to Europe to star in Germany and Britain where he was treated as a hero.

All in all, a pretty good career for a hockey player for a player I originally felt a touch sorry for.

Read more...

Friday

Curt Brackenbury

The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s were known for their explosive offense. But the members of the team that weren't great scorers and skaters, were often big, bruising players with little skill. Over the years the Oilers have had quite a collection of tough guys, guys like Semenko, McSorley, McClelland, Dykstra..... but one of the first NHL Edmonton Oiler tough guys was Curt Brackenbury.

Brackenbury had played several years in the WHA, most notably with Minnesota and Quebec. "Brack" played two years in Minnesota (1974-76) under coach Harry Neale, who jokingly referred to Brackenbury as "his idol."

"I love the way he plays. He only knows how to play hockey one way - and that's by getting his hands dirty. He's the ultimate poster boy for hard work."

When the Minny franchise folded in 1976, Brackenbury signed on with the Quebec Nordiques. He stayed with the Nords through to their inaugural season in the National Hockey League.

The aggressive right winger put up 6 goals and 14 points in his first NHL season, but was left exposed in the waiver draft. The Nords had acquired the services of veteran NHL plumber John Wensink, and deemed Brackenbury expendable. That's when the Oilers picked him up.

"He doesn't have a ton of ability but he what he does have he applies to the fullest," commented Oiler coach Glen Sather.

Brackenbury wasn't the toughest fighter in the league, although he was willing to drop the gloves no doubt. His play resembled that of a linebacker than a right winger. He would rumble down his wing looking for thunderous bodychecks. He brought an infectious enthusiasm to a young Oilers team that was a dynasty in the making.

Brack's young Oiler teammates loved having Brack on the team. He was the hardest worker in practice, and brought an infectious energy to the dressing room. Though Brackenbury spent the next season and a half in Edmonton before he finished the 1981-82 season in the minors and was then moved on, he did have a small impact on the success of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers dynasty..

In 1982-83 Brack signed with the St. Louis Blues but aside from 6 NHL games, he spent the year in the minors. It proved to be his last year of professional hockey.

Brackenbury was always the first to admit he was not the most talented player in the league. "I'm not going to make it in this game as a puck handler" he joked. Part of the reason for that is as a 15 year old his family moved from his native Kapuskasing, Ontario to Kamloops, British Columbia. He never played hockey for the next two years. Age 15-17 is a pretty important time in the development life of a hockey player.

Read more...

Thursday

Ken McRae


Ken McRae's big body matured faster than many of his junior contemporaries, allowing him to dominated his 1985-86 rookie season in the WHL with the Sudbury Wolves. He not only parlayed that into an 18th overall draft selection by the Quebec Nordiques at the summer's NHL draft, but he also earned some lofty praise from his coach Wayne Maxner.

"When I was coaching Windsor, I saw Wayne Gretzky playing junior B hockey for the Seneca Nats. I predicted he'd be the first player in the NHL to score 200 points. Everyone, including a lot of NHL scouts, laughed and said I was crazy.

"Well, I'll predict right now that Ken McRae will go on to become a good National Hockey League player. There's no question in my mind. He's quality."

We'll have to take Mr. Maxner at his word about his Great One prophecies, but history tells us he was not nearly so accurate in the case of Ken McRae.

McRae did play in 137 NHL games in a professional career that spanned a decade. Most of his NHL games came during the 1988-90 and 1989-90 seasons when he played for the lowly Nordiques teams. He scrapped and clawed his way into the line-up, but he never could find much of a niche in the NHL. He was big early as a junior player but in the NHL he was average sized and he could impose no physical advantage. His slow acceleration did him no favors in retaining a NHL job.

Ken McRae scored 14 goals and 35 points while accumulating 364 penalty minutes in his career. He enjoyed notable minor league stops in Halifax, St. John's (AHL) and Phoenix (IHL).

Read more...

Saturday

Ken Quinney

When I was younger the National Hockey League seemed so far away from my remote northern British Columbia home. Even the "local" Vancouver Canucks may as well have been from a different planet.

So needless to say I took an immediate interest in any hockey player in northern BC who had a shot at the NHL. Hence my interest in the career of Ken Quinney.

Quinney's interesting name and the fact that he played some midget hockey in Quesnel really "Q'd" my interest. Quesnel is a 7 or 8 hour drive from where I live, and I never saw him play in person, but I still considered him to be "one of us." He was an undersized but heady scorer, darting in and out of traffic.

Quinney, who was born in New Westminster BC, certainly travelled the world thanks to hockey. He escaped the mill town south of Prince George to go and play junior hockey in Calgary for four seasons. Despite some gaudy offensive numbers Quinney was drafted late in the 1984 draft (10th round) by the Quebec Nordiques. Although things look great early (he had an assist in his first game and three assists in his second), he would go on to play in a total of just 59 NHL games (7 goals, 13 assists) over the course of three seasons. He spent many more seasons in the Nords farm system. That gave him ample time to explore the beautiful Canadian maritimes as he was stationed in Fredericton, NB and Halifax, NS.

The Detroit Red Wings signed him as a free agent in 1991, though he would be restricted to their farm team in the Adirondacks. Two years later he would break free and be an independant player in the reasonably strong IHL. He would star for five seassons in - of all places - Las Vegas. You can't much more different than Quesnel than Las Vegas, I can assure you.

In 1998 Quinney extended his career by accepting a contract with Frankfurt of the German League. He would play there until 2001 when he hung up the blades for good.

Quinney returned to Vegas and at last mention he was coaching kids hockey in the desert for several years.

Read more...

Sunday

Joel Baillargeon

Quebec City's Joel Baillargeon is the son of legendary Canadian wrestler and strongman Paul Baillargeon, one of six Baillargeon brothers known for their strength. Paul's specialty act was lifting horses. Once source I found suggest he once climbed a telephone pole with a horse on his back!

I do not know that Papa Baillargeon ever help son Joel in his training for his own pro-sports career, but he could be proud of his son for making it to the National Hockey League for 20 games, the last five of which were with his hometown Nordiques.

The left winger was noted as a zealous bodycheck but not a goon. He was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets 113th overall in 1983, and would play 15 games with the team split between the 1986-87 season and the 1987-88 season. He picked up two assists.

He was later shipped to Quebec where he mostly played with their farm team in Halifax. As mentioned Joel did crack the Nordiques line up for five games during the 1988-89 season. The Nords were a very weak team at this point in their existence. I don't think the strength of the entire Baillergeon family could have lifted the Nordiques out of the NHL basement.

In addition to being a strongman and wrestler, Paul Baillargeon was a very successful hotelier in Quebe City, and president of the Quebec City Hotel and Restaurant Association. It is unclear if the family is still in the business today.

Read more...

Thursday

Marc Tardif

This Granby, Que. native was in the Montreal Canadiens system already as a junior where he played for the Thetford Mines Canadiens (QJHL) and Montreal Jr. Canadiens (OHA). Marc collected 138 points (63 goals, 75 assists) in 105 regular season games for the junior Canadiens and 43 points (22 goals and 21 assists) in 25 playoff games. During his last junior season for the Jr. Canadiens (1968-69) he led them to a Memorial Cup title.

Marc was drafted 2nd overall by Montreal in the 1969 draft. He started the 1969-70 season playing for Montreal's farm team club Montreal Voyageurs (AHL) where he racked up 58 points (27 goals and 31 assists) in only 45 games before getting the call up to the big club in February 1970. He only played sparingly in the 18 games that he played with the Habs, scoring 3 goals and 5 points but the management was impressed by what they saw. He went on to play regular shifts with the Canadiens for the following three seasons, scoring 19, 25 and 31 goals. Considering the fact that he played on a checking line the season he scored 31 goals it was a good result. He also won the Stanley Cup on two occasions (1971 and 1973).

In February 1972 Marc was drafted by Los Angeles Sharks of the newly formed WHA. He was offered a substantial sum of money, reportedly more than twice what Montreal was offering, and decided to make the jump to the WHA. He never was happy in Los Angeles though. The climate was good but he had a real problem with the language. He didn't speak much English and was surrounded by English speaking players. He still drifted through the 1973-74 season scoring a respectable 70 points, including 40 goals.

In April 1974 LA moved its team to Michigan and was named the Michigan Stags. Their financial situation was really bad and before folding they sold Marc, who to that point had played 23 games, scoring 12 goals and 17 points.

Marc was traded to his native Quebec and was reborn as a hockey superstar. His 1975-76 season was superb as he led the Quebec Nordiques and the WHA in goals (71), assists (77) and points (148). Unfortunately his season got an abrupt end during the playoffs when he was horrifically jumped from behind by Rick Jodzio, a "policeman" with the Calgary Cowboys. The Nordiques players came to Marc's rescue as both benches emptied and a 45-minute brawl ensued. Marc was carried off on a stretcher, with blood oozing from his mouth while the players slugged it out toe-to-toe. Marc received a serious brain concussion that endangered his hockey career. Marc eventually recovered but suffered from severe headaches for over a year. This incident almost resulted in Quebec withdrawing from the playoffs and it resulted in Bud Poile, the director of on ice operations in the WHA to resign. It also forced certain anti-violence legislation. Rick Jodzio was suspended for the rest of the year and was eventually tried in Quebec for assault. The most disappointing fact was that Marc was invited to the 1976 Canada Cup training camp, but had to decline the invitation due to the effects that he was feeling after the injury.

Marc came back in 1976-77 and led Quebec to a WHA title. The next season Marc once again led the league in goals (65), assists (89) and points (154). He played another season in the WHA before Quebec merged with the NHL. A splendid skater who excelled at stickhandling in close traffic, the deadly scorer tallied a whopping 666 points (316 goals and 350 assists) in only 446 regular season WHA games. The two time WHA MVP and four time All Star forever ranks as the WHA's all time goal scoring king.

Marc made his NHL comeback in 1979, six years after having left for the WHA. Marc was on his way to a splendid season in 1979-80 until he got injured. He had 68 points (including 33 goals) in the 58 games that he played.

When the 1980-81 season started it was clear that Marc would play the second fiddle behind the Stastny brothers and Michel Goulet. Marc wasn't too happy about the situation but contributed well. He even scored 39 goals during the 1981-82 season for his best NHL performance. His 70 points was also a NHL career high. His fine play even earned him a trip to the 1982 All-Star game.

Marc played his last season in 1982-83, by this time he was a 3rd line left wing behind Michel Goulet and Anton Stastny.

Marc's timing in the NHL was a little bit off. He broke in with a powerful Montreal team and never got the chance to play on the top line, and in Quebec he got stuck behind a budding superstar in Goulet as well as the talented Anton Stastny. But he won two Stanley Cup titles, and he got to play a lot on the top line in the WHA. Marc finished his NHL career with a respectable 401 pts (194 goals and 207 points) in 517 regular season games and 28 points (13 goals and 15 assists) in 62 playoff games.

In retirement Tardif worked as a car salesman, eventually owning his own Toyota and Kia dealerships. He also raised three children, daughters Melanie and Catherine and son Marc-Andre who at one point was a nationally ranked tennis player in Canada.

Read more...

Sunday

Craig Wolanin

When scouts were preparing for the 1985 Entry Draft, they were all drooling over big defenseman Craig Wolanin.

"This kid is a blue chip prospect. He may need a bit more time than a (Craig) Simpson or a (Wendel) Clark but he'll be worth the wait," preached one NHL scout.

And patient we were with Wolanin. He became a solid but never elite defender.

The New Jersey Devils selected the Michigan born defenseman 3rd overall that year (behind Clark and Simpson). Wolanin's biggest asset was his size. He towered above many at 6'3" and often played between 205 and 215 pounds. However Wolanin's biggest problem was also his size. He was simply too big for the kind of game he was willing to play. He simply seemed to have lacked the desire to play a physical game and often played as though he were 4 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter.

Craig wasn't a great skater by any means, but it was definitely adequate. He lacked the offensive savvy and point shot to contribute much in the offensive zone. He carved out an average NHL career as a positional defenseman. but he could have been dominant.

"He doesn't have the desire to smash people, and doesn't even use his physical gifts to their fullest extents without bashing people" said reporter Jiggs McDonald. "While tremendously strong and with the ability to be a punishing hitter, Craig does not apply his size consistently in front of the net or along the boards. He consistently fails to complete his checks, pushing and shoving instead of taking the body."

After 5 seasons with the Devils, New Jersey traded him and veteran Randy Velischek to Quebec in exchange for aging superstar Peter Stastny. Craig played steady but unspectacular hockey with the Nordiques organization for the next 7 years. In that time he saw the Nordiques go from annual NHL doormats to relocation in Denver Colorado.

Craig only played for one season in Denver. It was a bittersweet season for Craig as it was the year that the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. Despite playing in 75 regular season games and recording a career high 7 goals and a respectable +25, Craig played in only 7 games in the playoffs.

According to the a Toronto Sun story, Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy argued with coach Marc Crawford about using the veteran defenseman in the playoffs. The story said Crawford and Roy exchanged words after Game 3 of the Avalanche's second-round series with Chicago, a 4-3 Colorado loss that was decided in overtime after Wolanin lost the puck.

While Crawford denied this ever happened, the Avalanche played 13 more games before winning the Stanley Cup, but Wolanin didn't play in any of them.

"If it's true ... if Patrick did say that ... we're all men and we want to be treated with respect," Wolanin said with emotion "You would hope someone would come up to me and tell me to my face if Patrick doesn't feel comfortable playing with me.

"I wasn't on the ice when we won the Cup, but I still enjoyed it," said Wolanin. "We had some lean years and my name's going to be on the Cup forever. No one can ever take that away from me."

In the summer of 1996 he was traded to Tampa Bay for a draft pick. His stay in Tampa was short (15 games) as he was traded to Toronto in January, 1997. Wolanin suffered through a terrible time with injuries in Toronto before eventually have to call it quits.

Wolanin would find a new career in the construction business near Detroit, with a specialty in geothermal contracting.

Read more...

Monday

Curtis Leschyshyn

I watched Curtis Leschyshyn's career with a special curiosity.

The Quebec Nordiques drafted Leschysyhn third overall in 1988. That was a special draft for me, as I eagerly anticipated the first overall battle between Mike Modano and Trevor Linden. I had so immersed my young mind into the debate, hoping against hope that somehow my Vancouver Canucks would get Linden (which they did!), and completely disregarding any other top candidate that when Quebec stepped up to the podium with third pick and announced Curtis Leschyshyn's name with the third pick I anti-climatically asked, "Who?"

It turns out to have been a silly question. He would go on to a NHL career spanning well over 1000 games. Though he never achieved much of an offensive game that may have been expected of him, he was a very competent NHL defender.

Leschyshyn was a jack of all hockey trades, yet a master of none. Without that one specialty detractors increased their argument that he was a draft bust. True, third overall turned out to be a bit lofty, but how do you play in 1000 games and be considered a draft disappointment?

Leschyshyn was a solid defenseman, confidently taking care of business in his own end. He was strong with the puck, making good passing decisions, especially out of the zone, while somehow failing to accumulate a lot of assists. He rarely jumped into the play, and did not take a lot of shots. He possessed very good physical strength, yet did not crash his weight around the rink in any noticeable fashion. He preferred to adequately do his job, keeping the action to the outside of slot. He had a quiet intensity, seemingly playing calm even under the most stormy of attacks. That was Curtis Leschyshyn. Good.

Good enough to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. It was a great reward for Leschyshyn, who had endured both some really weak teams in Quebec and the franchise's transfer to Colorado.

"We had a very young team and we had guys who had a lot of fun,” said Leschyshyn. “I think it was all a part of learning how to play in the NHL and what it took. We played teams some nights and we would get blasted 8-1 and other nights when we competed we were right in it right to the last minute of the game. As I look back at it now I would not change anything. It allowed us to become the team we were in Colorado .”

Born in Thompson, Manitoba, Leschyshyn grew up in the farming town of Langham, Saskatchewan where he was lucky enough to skate for free at the local arena.

"After school, my brother (Kevin) and I would go home, get our equipment and walk half a city block to the arena," remembers Leschyshyn in an interview with Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen in 2002.. "We could play whenever we wanted. It was always free ice. We would even referee games for money. When I was 12, I would referee the seven- and eight-year-old games. I pretty much lived at the rink.

The arena was aged and cold, but the boys loved it.

"It was an indoor rink, but it was natural ice inside a big wooden barn. Man, was it cold. There was no Zamboni, of course. Our Zamboni was having parents with shovels. They shovelled the snow into augers. We had a water tank on wheels. That's how we flooded the ice."

He grew into a top prospect in the hockey crazed province, interestingly as a scoring center. The WHL Saskatoon Blades placed the 17 year old on their protection list and he impressed in his first training camp.

Then an interesting thing happened - two veteran Blades defensemen broke their ankles. Leschyshyn was asked to try skating on defense. The rookie was not about to say no, and gave it his best try. He made the team, and two years later was the highest picked defenseman in the NHL draft

Leschyshyn kept his game simple. When asked, he described his own game as quiet.

“I have not put up huge numbers or created a stir with my play, that's for sure. But I would like to think that consistency has kept me around and I think every night you know what you will get from me. I try to work as hard as possible and lead in that regard. 'Quiet' might be a good description. "

When asked if he ever thought he would last so long in the NHL, Leschyshyn answered:

"I would be the first one to tell you I thought I would never play this many games, that is for sure. I do not think, when I first started, I put a ‘time' down for a goal. You just want to compete and obviously when you are young you want to be around for a long time but you never say 15, 20 years is what you are shooting for. You just want to play each and every game as hard as you can and be around for awhile. I think that was the attitude I had; play as hard as you can and just don't let anything slip through your fingers by being lazy or a lack of effort.”

Read more...

Thursday

Bryan Fogarty


No one has ever been called "the next Bobby Orr." But Bryan Fogarty, who smashed Bobby Orr's junior scoring records, was definitely compared to Paul Coffey, Bobby Orr's closest offensive comparison.

Bryan's incredible junior career started with the Kingston Canadians. He was drafted 9th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987, two years before his record setting season of 1988-89. For three seasons in Kingston Bryan showed he had all the tools to be a offensive defenseman in the NHL. But following a trade to the Niagara Falls Thunder in 1988, Bryan exploded into super-prospect status as he launched an all-out assault of Orr's legendary stats.

Bryan scored 47 goals, 108 assists for 155 points to become the first defenseman in major junior hockey history to win a scoring title. In the process, Bryan's 47 goals shattered the mark for goals in a season by a defenceman (38), set by Bobby Orr in 1965-66 and equaled by Al MacInnis in 1982-83. His 108 assists broke the record for assists in a season by a defenceman (96) set by Doug Crossman of the Ottawa 67's in 1979-80. His 155 points bettered Denis Potvins record of 123, set in 1972-73. Bryan also broke the Canadian Hockey League record for points by a defenceman (140), set by Cam Plante in 1983-84.

"I don't think you ever go in expecting a year like that," Bryan said. "I was just hoping to maybe get 20 goals and 70 assists and stay out of trouble."

That sounds simple enough, but that leads us to the other side of the Bryan Fogarty story. The story that eventually won out and ruined his career and more importantly his life.

Bryan's junior career was tainted years before his incredible season. Bryan has been battling alcohol dependency since the age of 14. Off ice suspensions and curfew violations were frequent for the 6'2" 200lb Brantford Ontario native. He was kicked off the Canadian National junior team in 1987 for heavy drinking (and never invited back). He was also convicted of impaired driving causing a vehicle accident.

Despite his off ice trouble, the Nords didn't want to pass up on perhaps the best hockey talent to come out in years. They selected Bryan ahead of names like Eric Desjardins, Joe Sakic, John Leclair and Stephane Quintal.

Bryan's off ice problems continued to haunt him in the professional ranks. He checked into a drug and alcohol rehab clinic in just his second year in the league, but that proved to be a temporary fix for Bryan. His alcoholism caused numerous headaches for every team he played for, and those teams would just shuffle the problem onto another team or minor league team. You'd hope that the team would just sit the guy down and give him the help he needs. Then again, no one can help someone who doesn't first want the help.

The Nords gave up on Bryan in 1992 after three years of showing next to nothing on the ice. The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired the defenseman in exchange for Scott Young late in the 1991-92 season but soon released him. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres signed him as a free agent in 1993, 1994 and 1995 respectively, but he spent most of his time bouncing around various minor league teams. Bryan jumped to Europe and lowly North American minor leagues after NHL opportunities ran out, but never really showed any signs at any professional level of being anywhere close to the player he was in junior.

Bryan scored 22 goals, 54 assists and 74 points in 156 NHL games.

In 1999 Bryan's troubles continued when he was arrested for breaking and entering into a Brantford Ontario college. He was allegedly found standing naked in a kitchen with cooking oil spilled all over the floor. He also possessed cocaine, police said.

Bryan Fogarty had it all. He likely wouldn't have been the next Bobby Orr or even Paul Coffey, but he could have been a good offensive defenseman in the NHL. He had the size, skating ability, hands and vision to be a legitimate power play quarterback. Alcoholism ruined his chances at succeeding, not just at hockey, but at life.

That life came to a tragic end on March 6th, 2002, at the age of just 32. He was found dead in a motel room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where he was vacationing. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest thanks to an enlarged heart.

ESPN Magazine had an excellent feature of Fogarty's life and death called Wasted.

Read more...

Serge Bernier


It may be hard to believe, but there was a time that the Philadelphia Flyers were a team full of Smurfs. As an expansion team from 1967, the Flyers loaded up on skilled by tiny forwards such as Simon Nolet, Andre Lacroix, Jimmy Johnson, and Guy Gendron. They quickly realized that they needed size and strength in order to accomplish NHL success, and they quickly turned their focus to big, nasty men. Soon enough they became known as the Broad Street Bullies and pounded their way to two consecutive Stanley Cup championships by the mid 1970s. While the days of Bullies are gone, the Flyers have always been one of the biggest and most physical teams since then.

One of the first men they brought in to fill this size problem was Serge Bernier - a 6'1" 200lb center. It was hoped that he could come in and soak up some of the heavy checking against some of the large and rugged Eastern teams. In fact Serge was the first ever draft pick in Philadelphia Flyers history.

Serge was born in Padoue, Quebec and was happy to be placed in the AHL with the Flyers farm team in Quebec City. Bernier spent three years there before finally making the Flyers in 1970-71.

Given the desperate need to add size up the middle, Serge was given every chance to succeed that season, and he responded well with 23 goals and 51 points. However by mid season in 1971-72 it was decided that the Flyers needed to upgrade their physical play more so, and Bernier, along with Bill Lesuk and Jimmy Johnson, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Cowboy Bill Flett, Ross Lonsberry, Jean Potvin and Eddie Joyal. Serge finished the season with 23 goals and 45 points.

Serge played one more season with Los Angeles, and blossomed to the 22 goal, 46 assist, 68 point level. However Serge jumped at the chance to join the World Hockey Association at season's end. He was a free agent and his WHA rights were acquired by the Quebec Nordiques. Serge eagerly signed with his home province Nords.

Serge's best years as a professional came as a Nordique and in the WHA. He became a true scoring threat in his 6 seasons in the WHA. He was a constant 35 goal threat although once scored 43 and 54 goals. He was better known as a playmaker as his 336 assists in just 417 WHA games attests. And his 566 career WHA points ranks him tied for 4th overall in league scoring history.

Serge was the star of the Nordiques teams in the WHA, even if Jean Claude Tremblay got more attention. Of course Serge's best year came in 1976-77 when the Nordiques won the Avco Cup as WHA champions. Serge was named as the playoff MVP as he led all skaters with 14 goals, 22 assists and 36 points in 17 contests.

When the WHA folded in 1979, Serge joined the Nordiques as they merged with the NHL. However injuries took their toll on Serge, who only played two half seasons in his two year return to the NHL before retiring quietly in the summer of 1981.

Read more...

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP