BY MURRAY PAM
Fifteen years ago this week Bill Muckalt was on an emotional high. A piece in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL annals, Muckalt was dealt by the Islanders along with Zdeno Chara and the 2001 second-overall draft pick (Jason Spezza) to the Senators for Alexei Yashin.
The former Michigan Wolverine was elated to play for a contender. However, Muckalt’s season didn’t go as anticipated. In limited ice-time, the right winger failed to notch a goal in 70 games. After netting 11 the previous campaign and scoring 105 at Michigan, Muckalt compared his Ottawa experience to “missing the cut at the Masters.”
Inking a deal with the Wild during the summer, he quickly returned to form, scoring five goals in his first five games. Then disaster struck. Muckalt suffered a debilitating shoulder injury, limiting him to only eight more games the remainder of the season including playoffs, which turned out to be his last in the NHL.
By Joshua Kloke
Players looking for advice on dealing with trade deadline fallout should call Brent Ashton. After all, he was dealt a remarkable eight times over his 14 NHL seasons.
Ashton began his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks in 1979 after going 26th overall in the 1979 draft, then was shipped to the Colorado Rockies two years later. From there, Ashton’s rollercoaster of a career took off as he would play for four teams in the four seasons to follow.
One of the NHL’s most prominent pugilists of all-time says take a good look at fighting now, because you won’t see it much longer.
Dave Manson, a former NHL defenseman and now an assistant coach with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, says the game of hockey has evolved to the point where fisticuff action is getting phased out.
“Long gone are the days when an enforcer would be there to fight then sit on the bench, only playing two minutes a night,” Manson said. “You have to be able to keep up and make plays. You have to be able to play as an enforcer. You need four lines that can play hockey.”
We were not privy to what was said during Ryan Reaves’ disciplinary hearing that led to his three-game suspension, but it’s pretty safe to say Reaves used the good old, “just finishing my check” defense for slamming the head of San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson into the boards Monday night.
And why wouldn’t he? Reaves is a marginal player, a fourth-liner who has forged himself a nice little career playing exactly that way. No doubt he’ll vow not to change his ways, despite losing more than $18,000 in salary. So there’s probably no rehabilitating guys like Reaves, those guys who are supposed to be out there to keep everyone safe, yet find themselves in an inordinately high number of incidents just like this one.
For a good portion of Rick Vaive’s life – the formative years – it was all about hockey.
Hockey, hockey, hockey.
And damn if he wasn’t one heck of a player. The kid lit up the QMJHL for 127 goals and 265 points in 136 games for Sherbrooke before he even turned 19. Then the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association started their kiddie corps program at a time when the NHL refused to employ teenagers.
Off to Alabama he went as a pro hockey player. There were some crazy times in the WHA. Vaive recalled being in the trainer’s room during an intermission when he heard loud noises coming from an adjoining room. He crept down the hall to the weight room and there was Bulls’ coach John Brophy dressed in a suit and pounding away on the heavy bag. “He was cursing and swearing,” Vaive said. “I just shook my head.”
It was his debut on the big stage. His first NHL appearance came when he took the ice in relief. In less than half a game’s work, he allowed three goals on 14 shots. If there was an NHL-ready starting goaltender under that equipment, it didn’t shine through right away.
Then, miraculously, the run began – a string of remarkable play that had the entire league wondering where exactly this kid came from. Over his next 16 games, he set an NHL record for the longest unbeaten streak to begin a career, going 14-0-2.
While it sounds like the story of 27-year-old Andrew Hammond, who stole headlines with the Ottawa Senators in 2014-15, it’s not. It’s the tale of 22-year-old Pittsburgh goaltender Patrick Lalime, who became one of the NHL’s great stories during the 1996-97 campaign, a season he recalls fondly.
Twenty years ago this summer, the first crop of elite-level Group III unrestricted free agents went on the open market. The NHL was coming off its first protracted work stoppage, and the 1994-95 season was reduced to 48 games for each of the league’s 26 teams. The new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association granted unconditional free agency for any player 32 or over once his contract expired.
Among the first players to act was future Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk. By that time, ‘Ducky’ was already a veteran of 14 NHL seasons and had 489 goals and 1,314 points. But this was his first real chance to cash in – he signed a $7.5-million deal over three seasons – and his first real opportunity to challenge for a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues were loading up that summer 20 years ago, also signing UFAs Geoff Courtnall, Grant Fuhr and Brian Noonan. But it was Hawerchuk they really wanted, and negotiations with agent Gus Badali took just a few minutes. St. Louis coach-GM Mike Keenan knew he was getting an aging superstar who still had a lot to offer, because Keenan had watched Hawerchuk develop and dominate for the better part of a generation. Read more
By Namish Modi
Danny Lewicki may not have had the fairest of shakes at an NHL career, but he can be remembered for one particular record. He remains the only player to win the Allan Cup, Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup as a junior.
“I don’t think that record will ever be broken,” he said.
Lewicki, 83, has fond memories of his playing days but also recollects some things that didn’t go his way, resulting in a short career. In his autobiography, From the Coal Docks to the NHL, Lewicki highlights his life from his childhood growing up in an immigrant enclave in Fort William, Ont., all the way to the end of his pro career – nine seasons as an NHLer. “There were many problems with management in those years,” Lewicki said. “You were not allowed to speak back, which I did, unfortunately.” Read more