Dale McCourt

Dale McCourt entered the NHL with impressive enough credentials to be dubbed the next NHL superstar. He would never achieve those lofty expectations, but had a productive NHL career followed by a lengthy career in Switzerland.

Born in Falconbridge, Ontario, McCourt was a junior superstar in the OHA. He was a perennial 50 goal scorer who captained the the Hamilton Fincups to the Memorial Cup in 1976. He was also honored as the Stafford Smythe Memorial trophy as Memorial Cup MVP. In 1977McCourt also represented Canada at the 1977 World Junior Championships where he was tournament all-star and helped the nation win a silver medal. That season he was named the Canadian Major Junior player-of-the-year in 1977. He graduated junior as the all time leader in many scoring categories in all of Ontario (all records since broken).

The struggling Detroit Red Wings opted to select McCourt with the first overall pick at the 1977 Amateur Draft, passing on the highly rated defenseman Barry Beck and a future Hall of Famer Mike Bossy. McCourt stepped in immediately, and playing on a line with Paul Woods and Bill Lochead, he impressed with 33 goals. He was the toast of Detroit after helping the Red Wings return to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

McCourt's sophomore year was marred by a weird court battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. McCourt became property of the Los Angeles Kings as it was ruled he would be the compensation for Detroit's signing of former Kings goalie Rogie Vachon. McCourt refused to report to Los Angeles, and after a lengthy legal debate that was resolved with McCourt remaining in Detroit. However the affair seemed to effect his play as he got off to a slow start. He finished strongly, with 28 goals and 71 points. McCourt would later say that the lengthy court battle and the subsequent blackballing by the NHL and many NHL players cost him his love of the NHL. That loss of love would become evident over the coming years.

McCourt continued to be a solid point producer for Detroit, upping his scoring totals to 81 and 86 points in the following years, but the team never built on its success enjoyed in 1977-78. With Detroits failure to make the playoffs, the Red Wings became impatient and traded youngsters McCourt and Mike Foligno to the Buffalo Sabres early in the 1981-82 season. The trade would be one of the most famous in Buffalo history, as Foligno became a team leader and fan favorite.

McCourt, meanwhile, was a bit of an enigmatic center in Buffalo, often playing with Tony McKegney and Alan Haworth. McCourt struggled under coach Scotty Bowman, and after two seasons of just 20 goals each, McCourt was released.

McCourt, the nephew of hockey hall of famer George Armstrong, signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1983-84, but his offensive struggles continued as he scored just 19 goals

With his NHL teams often missing the playoffs, McCourt had a taste of international hockey by twice representing Canada at the World Championships. In 1984-85, McCourt decided to give the European game his best, by joining Ambri Piotta of Switzerland. He would stay in Switzerland for seven seasons before retiring in 1991.

In retirement McCourt has remained in Europe, coaching in Italy, including as an assistant in 1994 Olympics, and in Germany. He returned to Canada in 2000 and got a job as a truck driver.



Don Grosso

Skinny Don Grosso was nicknamed "The Count" because of his uncanny resemblance to Dracula.

The versatile left-winger's is best remembered skating alongside Sid Abel and Eddie Wares on Detroit's "Liniment Line." "It was called that because one of us was always hurt," Grosso explained. "That's because we got so much ice time on our regular shift, killing penalties and on the power play."

Grosso's best regular-season performance came in 1941-42, when he registered 23-30-53 totals to finish third in NHL scoring and establish a new Detroit single-season record for points.

Known as a money player who could always be "counted" on in big games, Grosso saved some of his best hockey for the playoffs. During the 1942 post-season, Grosso tallied a Stanley Cup-record 14 points, eight of them coming in Detroit's seven-game loss to Toronto in the finals.

His hat-trick in Game 3 of the 1943 finals at Boston paved the way for Detroit's 4-0 series win. It was the only time Grosso would win the Stanley Cup.

The Ottawa Citizen suggested a wealthy Detroit fan may have had something to do with Grosso's improved production come spring:

Grosso, who got $75 for his goals the first game from Harry Jacobson, No. 1 Detroit fan, picked up another $15 from the same source in the second game-but not for his scoring. "I offered $5 for a body check-that is a good clean check which put the man on the ice-and Grosso bowled over three of them," Jacobson explained. "Syd Abel got $5 and here's the payoff, Jimmy Orlando, a defenceman who was considered a cinch to pick up the most money, didn't get any.

In 1944-45 Grosso was traded to Chicago in mid-season as part of a package which allowed Detroit to grab perennial all-star defenseman Earl Seibert. He would also briefly play with the Boston Bruins.



Rick Zombo

Born in Desplains, Illinois, defenseman Rick Zombo is the answer to a unique trivia question. When the Detroit Red Wings selected him 149th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Zombo became the first player in history to be drafted to the NHL directly from the United States Hockey League. Most USHL players are not drafted until they reach NCAA or jump to the junior leagues. But Zombo and the Red Wings broke that barrier.

It turned out to be an astute move the Wings, as they landed solid but unspectacular defenseman who would play in the National Hockey League for 13 seasons. In 652 regular season games he scored only 24 goals and 154 points. But he was better known as a dependable depth rearguard.

Rick "Squirrel" Zombo was a surprisingly good skater, better than man stay-at-home defenders. He was blessed with good agility and quickness as well as exceptional balance. But he lacked the ability to read offensive plays very well so he never took the jump to the next level of two way defenseman. He could make a strong defensive zone breakout pass, but rarely jumped into the rush or gambled on pinches from the point. Safe and steady was his game plan, and it helped him last in the NHL for a long time.

Not that his arrival in the NHL was immediate. He may have been drafted back in 1981, but he did not land as a regular NHLer until 1987. First he was off to the University of North Dakota, where he majored in Business Administration and helped the Fighting Sioux captured the national championship in 1982. He also made two USA world juniors squads before leaving UND to pursue a career in professional hockey.

Zombo would apprentice for 2 and a half seasons in the minor leagues before catching on full time with the Red Wings. He would play six full seasons in Detroit, with another 5 in St. Louis and 1 in Boston.

Unfortunately, if Rick Zombo is remembered by history it may be for this slashing incident with lineseman Kevin Collins:

There was no penalty on the play as Collins admitted he was at fault for colliding with Zombo and forcing the turnover that led to the game winning goal. Zombo clearly slashes Collins immediately, but later claimed he did not realize it was an official rather than an opposing player. NHL disciplinarian agreed that Zombo had mistakenly slashed Collins thinking he was another player, but handed down a 10 game suspension (and, . . . wait for it . . . a $500 fine) for intentionally bumping Collins after the play was over.

The Collins slashing incident is an unfortunate footnote to Zombo's otherwise quiet but solid career.

After retiring in 1997 Zombo returned to his roots and worked as a scout, then a coach and then a manager in the USHL. He also opened his own hockey schools in St. Louis and San Antonio. An accomplished artist, he created his own kids hockey-themed colouring book and even worked on the City Of Heroes comic book series.



Jimmy McFadden

The first - and likely the only - Belfast, Northern Ireland born hockey player to win the Calder Memorial Trophy (1948) as the NHL rookie of the year, Jimmy McFadden enjoyed a solid six-plus seasons in the National Hockey League.

McFadden likely could have had a longer career had he got a chance to play earlier. He was 27 when he was a rookie with Detroit. He had spent much of his earlier days serving with the Canadian Army at training bases near Winnipeg. He continued to play hockey while doing so, as his Winnipeg Army team twice challenged for the Allan Cup. Then he was off to Ottawa where he starred with the Senators of the Quebec Senior Hockey League.

McFadden's promising rookie campaign (24 goals, 48 points in 60 games) was never fully duplicated, but he did prove to be a capable player through the rest his NHL days. He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1950.

He was traded to Chicago in 1951, and helped the Blackhawks emerge as the surprise playoff team of 1953, almost upsetting the Montreal Canadiens. 

McFadden's last NHL season proved to be 1953-54. He headed west to Calgary where he continued playing pro until 1957. He later moved back to Manitoba (Carman), where he coached senior hockey and drove a school bus for many years.

Jimmy McFadden played 412 NHL games with 100 goals, 126 assists and 226 points.



Harvey "Rocky" Rockburn

This is Harvey "Rocky" Rockburn. Chances are very likely you've never heard of him. He was born in 1904 and played 94 games in the NHL way back in the 1920s. He played with Detroit back when they were known as Cougars and then Falcons. Then he played for the Ottawa Senators - the original Ottawa Senators.

Rockburn was a hard hitting defenseman. He and Reg Noble formed a particularly vaunted defense duo with  Detroit.

Cooper Smeaton, coach of the Philadelphia Quakers at the time, was an admirer of the duo.

"These two guys have perfected the art of sandwiching attackers. Noble steers people into Rockburn and then Rockburn creams you. If you try to split them you can get hurt. And I mean hurt!"

Smeaton tried getting that message through to his players. Stan Crossett apparently was not listening.

Archie Campbell, the Quakers trainer, carries on the Crossett story.

"Noble got him first, then Rockburn sent him flying off his feet. It was no ordinary hoist either. The big fellow seemed to take off like an airplane. Then he made a perfect three-point landing on elbows and stomach and started to skid along the ice. The wind had probably been knocked out of him before he ever touched the ice," said Campbell.

"He was helpless. He slid on his stomach from mid-ice right over to the boards with his stick extended in front of him. When the stick hit the boards, it jabbed Crossett's chin and knocked him out cold."

That was not the end of the story for Crossett. Somehow Crossett took a penalty on the play when he was up in the air and about to crash hard on to the ice. Even though Crossett was out cold, he was assessed a 5 minute major on the play. His stick somehow managed to snag Rockburn, opening a nasty and bloody cut over Rocky's eye.

Campbell was then summoned to the penalty box with the unconscious Crossett. As he dangled countless smelling salts to wake up Crossett he tried to explain why he was in the penalty box!



Pat Rupp

Pat Rupp only played in one NHL game.

Playing his first professional season with the Eastern Hockey League's Philadelphia Ramblers, Rupp was loaned to the Detroit Red Wings on the night of March 22, 1964 when Wings starting netminder Terry Sawchuk came down with a sudden injury. Rushed in just in time for the game, Rupp played admirably in a 4-1 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Earlier that same season Rupp, who was born in Detroit, tended the crease for the American Olympic team at Innsbruck, Austria games.. He went 2-3 with a GAA of 4.00. He would also participate for Team USA at the 1968 games in Grenoble. The Americans did not medal in either Olympics, finishing in 5th and 6th place respectively.

Rupp finished the season with the Ramblers, and then moved to the EHL's New Jersey Devils for the 1964-65 season. Half way through that season he ended up with the IHL's Dayton Gems. Rupp would stay in the Ohio city for the next 6 seasons.

Rupp retired in 1972 but resurfaced in the lowly NAHL 3 years later. He was filling for the Buffalo Norsemen who had injury problems.

Rupp passed away from cancer in 2006. Living in Dayton, Ohio at the time, Rupp was 63 years old. He had enjoyed a second career as a financial planner, owning his own business with his wife, Kathy.



Chris Cichocki

How could you not cheer for Chris Cichocki? The kid was born to play hockey. He even had the word hockey in his name!

The Detroit born Cichocki was one of the Red Wings prized catches in the summer of 1985. The Wings went on a spending spree that summer, signing several top undrafted collegiate players and turning them professional. Adam Oates turned out to be the only player worth the money. Ray Staszak, Dale Krentz, Tim Friday and, yes, Chris Cichocki all proved to be busts.

Perhaps "bust" is too strong a word for Cichocki. The Michigan Tech Husky grad did play 59 games in his rookie season, scoring 10 goals and 21 points. He certainly did not wow too many people in his NHL rookie season. His finesse skill set was just not of NHL quality. But he worked hard, never backing down and working hard in the corners and long the walls. He was a determined player who played admirably if unspectacularly.

Still, Cichocki could not parlay that into a longer NHL career. He did go onto a lengthy minor league career as a nice goal scorer. But he would only get into 2 more games with the Detroit, and a total of 7 more with New Jersey over the span of his career.


Tim Friday

In the off-season of 1985, Mike Illitch opened his wallet and spent freely on several college free agents. Illitch and Detroit general manager Jimmy Devellano were hoping to hit a home run by finding a diamond in the undrafted rough. It's always a long shot, but once in a while it actually works.

The Red Wings did well in signing Adam Oates out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He became one of the top players of the 1990s and a Hockey Hall of Famer. The only problem was the Red Wings traded him off before he really emerged as a star.

The rest of the Wings gambles did not work out. At all.

The other free agents signed were Ray Staszak (with great fanfare and a big contract), Dale Krentz, Chris Cichocki, and an undersized defenseman from Burbank, California named Tim Friday.

He played with Oates at RPI, helping the school win the NCAA Division 1 championship in 1985. But Friday was in over his head at the NHL level. 

A NHL defenseman can not afford to be both slow-footed and not physical. Friday also could not adjust to much faster pace of play. He handled the puck like it was a grenade. He played as if he wanted no piece of that puck.

Friday's NHL career lasted just 23 games. He would suffer a shoulder injury against Philadelphia in December of 1985. He did return to the ice, mostly in the minor leagues where he put up solid numbers at the AHL level. He even helped Adirondack capture the Calder Cup championship.

But the injury ultimately ended Friday's hockey career. He was playing in the AHL while still struggling with the shoulder injury. Not willing to risk further injury, Friday decided to retire on a strong note after winning the AHL title.

According to Wikipedia Tim Friday now lives in Framingham, Massachusetts and owns Water Street Wine and Spirits.


Greg Stefan

Greg Stefan was born on February 11th, 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. 

Why is that so significant? Because he was born just a couple weeks after Wayne Gretzky. That meant the two grew up playing hockey together. For Stefan, a goalie since the age of 5, had to face a whole lot of Gretzky shots from the earliest of ages. Even though they were often on the same team, Stefan had to face the relentless Gretzky every week in practice.

"I kind of knew he was kind of special right from the get-go," said Stefan. "(Gretzky) was playing way ahead of himself. So it was special and the good thing about me and him, we played hockey together, then once hockey was over, we went right to baseball. And we were pretty good baseball players too." 

The two friends spent a lot of time taking shots in the famous "Wally Coliseum," the backyard rink built by Wayne's dad Walter Gretzky.

"It was pretty neat," Stefan said. "It is a lot bigger in our minds than it really was. He had the floodlights, the cones, the real steel nets which were hard to get in those days and it was a lot of competition and skill on that little rink. Late at night, sometimes it was just Wayne and myself and Wally. A lot of great memories." 

One memory may be legend more than anything. But the story goes that since young Wayne and Stefan looked alike at that early age, Stefan filled in for Gretzky to fulfill all the autograph requests during a tournament in Quebec. The story even goes as far as Stefan signing items but unknowingly misspelling Gretzky's last name - replacing the "z" with the all too common "s" error.

Facing the world's greatest goal scorer from such an early age probably only helped Stefan become a NHL goaltender. Stefan would play in 299 regular season games in the 1980s - all with Detroit. He posted 115-120-30 record with 7 shutouts. He also participated in 30 playoff games.

Stefan was an acrobatic goalie, exciting the crowd with great reflexes. He also had a legendary temper, a la New York Islanders great Billy Smith. He would go absolutely haywire at times, such as in the 1985 playoffs when he chopped Al Secord to earn an 8 game suspension, or the nasty stick swinging duel with Willi Plett. Unlike Smitty, Stefan's temper got the best of him. His play was greatly rattled when he erupted. 

Stefan, a notable golfer on the celebrity tour, took up scouting as well as some youth coaching after hanging up the big goalie pads. 


Ray Staszak

When Detroit's GM Jim Devellano announced that he had signed 22-year old undrafted free agent Ray Staszak to a five year $1.4 million dollar contract on July 31, 1985,  it caused some stir around the NHL. It was a record sum for a rookie at that time. Ray had just finished a great season with the University of Illinois-Chicago (72 points in 38 games) and was a candidate for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.

Ray made the Detroit roster at the start of the 1985-86 season. His stint in the Motor City did not last for long though, after only four games (one assist) he was sent down to Detroit's farm team in Adirondack (AHL). Detroit lost the first five games that season, which was one of the main reasons why Ray was sent down, but Devellano also thought that Ray had lost some of his confidence when the puck wasn't going his way.

"He seemed to me to be in no-man's land. I thought he was a full step behind and having a tough time with the transition. He can go down, relax, start to unwind, start to handle the puck a little better and start to do some of the things he can. It looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Because he cares, he has pride and character, he wants to contribute and he wants to live up to his contract. That's unfair because no one can live up to that contract." Devellano said.

Ray himself didn't think that he played so bad, although he admitted that he was struggling a bit. "I was playing tentative. But I didn't think I was playing that badly. Obviously, they did," Ray said.

When Ray went to Adirondack he figured to be back with Detroit soon. Unfortunately a serious groin injury ended any further dreams of more NHL action. Ray was just hitting a fine form in Adirondack when he during a practice on December 12, 1985 sustained a groin injury. The night before the injury he had scored his first professional hat trick and had 21 points (13 goals and 8 assists) in 26 games for Adirondack.

What eventually made the injury career ending was the fact that Ray tried to play with the injury for almost two weeks which made the condition of the groin even worse. On top of that Ray also had a bad shoulder.. He was under careful medical supervision for several months, but nothing got better. Before Ray knew that it would be a career ending injury.

"It's been a frustrating year most of all. Things started really going well. I finally got my act together where I was playing well and doing the things I was supposed to do. Then something freakish like this happens, especially during practice. It wasn't a motion that was any different from what I usually do every day. I was just breaking hard to the net and the thing went. It's something that you really can't explain. I'm just trying to take it in stride and keep my spirits up."

Ray's high spirit didn't save him and Detroit eventually bought out the remainder of his huge $1.4 million contract. Ray never got the chance to show how good he was. Only a month prior to Ray's signing a young Adam Oates signed with Detroit. Oates went on to score well over 1000 pts in the NHL. Who knows? maybe the more heralded Ray would have done the same if he had stayed injury free.



Howie Glover

This is the 1962-63 Parkhurst hockey card #28. Howie Glover, younger brother of minor league legend Fred, played with 4 NHL teams in parts of 5 seasons.

Howie Glover was a well travelled minor leaguer in the late 1950s and 1960s. But in the early 1960s he enjoyed the bulk of his 144 career NHL games came with the Detroit Red Wings.

Glover was an aggressive and fiery winger, known more for his checking ability than anything else. But in 1960-61 he played a nice, surprise role with the Wings. Playing on a line with Val Fonteyne and Gerry Melnyk, in 66 games Glover deposited 21 goals, the 4th most on the team behind Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Norm Ullman.

Interestingly, Glover was a top candidate for hockey's version of the Cy Young Award that season. He assisted on just 8 goals, giving him a stats line of 21-8-29.

That season Glover and the Wings made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final where they bowed out to the champion Chicago Black Hawks. That would the closest Howie would ever get to winning the Stanley Cup.

Injuries decimated his season in 1961-62 and he never really was given a NHL chance again. He spent most of the 1960s as a notable goal scorer in the AHL.



Bill Gadsby

Name the greatest player never to win a Stanley Cup. Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perreault, Brad Park, Mike Gartner. You could probably make one hell of an all star team of players who never sipped champagne from Lord Stanley's Mug, and Bill Gadsby would be the captain.

Bill almost never got to play in the NHL. When he was only 12 years old , Bill and his mother were aboard the Athenia, returning from England at the outbreak of World War II. The ship was torpedoed and they spent five hours in the Atlantic before being rescued. Bill however went on to play his junior hockey in Edmonton and signed his first pro contract with the Blackhawks. But before he made the jump to the parent club, he was initially sent to Kansas City of the minor leagues for seasoning.

But Bill didn't stay there too long. After 12 games in Kansas City, he was promoted to the Hawks early in the '46-47 campaign. In his first game with Chicago, Bill was cut for 12 stitches. Bill got used to stitches over the years as he took approximately 600 stitches due to high sticks and flying pucks. He earned the nickname "Scarface II" (team-mate Ted Lindsay was, of course, Scarface I).

Some of Bill's injuries included:

- Two broken legs.
- Two shoulder separations.
- Broke his nose nine times.
- Countless charley horses.
- Broken ribs.
- Four broken toes.
- Eleven broken thumbs.
- Two slight concussions.
- A cracked cheekbone.

Bill remembered each and everyone of his injuries, and how long they kept him out. He once played with a broken ankle and except for the broken legs and one shoulder separation, in which the bone protruded through the skin, he wasn't out long.

"The worst (injury), though, was when I broke my nose -- the inside of the nose," Bill said. " I mean, it was torn right up the middle, in both nostrils, and I thought I was going to faint from the pain. We were on the way to play Montreal, and before we got on the train, the doctors put cotton in my nostrils and gave me a couple of shots.

"I played the next night, and Rocket Richard got me in the corner and hit me smack on the nose with his elbow. I mean, everything spurted out.

"My nose was tore wide open again, and I never knew what pain was until this moment. I couldn't see a thing. There were too many tears in my eyes."

Bill was a rare bright spot on some pretty bad Chicago teams from 1946 to 1955. He was the Hawks top blueliner and an effective leader. In 1952, Bill was captain of the Blackhawks when he was struck by polio during training camp. He was able to fight off the ailment and he even rejoined the team and played the entire year with Chicago. After that show of commitment, Bill was named as the Hawks' team captain.

Bill played with the Blackhawks for eight full seasons, the last two of which he was named to the second All Star team. But in 1954-55, after 18 games with the Hawks, he was traded to the New York Rangers with Pete Conacher for Al Stanley, Nick Mickoski and Rich Lamoureux.. He finished that year with the Rangers. The trade proved to be a blessing for Bill who would excel with a better team. In his second season with the Rangers he was a First Team All Star as he posted career high numbers with 51 points. In all he played six seasons in New York before another trade took him to the Red Wings for the 1961-62 season.

Bill was initially packaged up with Eddie Shack for Red Kelly, but when Kelly refused to report to New York his rights were given back to New York. A year later, he was traded to Detroit for Les Hunt.

Bill played his last five seasons with the Wings before retiring after the 1965-66 season. He played more of a defensive role in his final days, but he didn't care as he finally had a chance to play with a good team. The Wings went to the Cup finals in 3 of Bill's 5 years, though they never did capture the Cup.

He left the NHL with career totals of 130 goals, 438 assists and 568 points in 1,248 regular season games while adding 27 points in 67 playoff contests. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970.

Nobody played harder for the than Bill. He took on everyone who came into his zone, hurled his body in front of flying pucks, and battled in the corners, in front of the net and, sometimes, even in the stands when the fans got out of line.

Following his NHL career, Bill returned to coach the Wings for the 1968-69 season and for two games of the 1969-70 season when he was suddenly dismissed. He then entered the construction business before retiring in 1986.

Today he is a co-owner of Gadsby Golf Center in Howell. It is a practice golf facility offering golf accessories and a miniature putt-putt course for the whole family.



Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom is just a wonderful hockey player. If you ever had a chance to watch him live, or even just watching a Wings game on TV, you were wise to try watching Lidstrom instead of the puck every time #5 was out on the ice. He as so flawless in his positioning and his execution that you learned so much about the game simply by observation. There have been a lot of hockey superstars over the years, but you can not say this about many of them.

Unlike early in his career, Lidstrom got a lot of long over due praise and ink in the second half of his career.  As Lidstrom's career has concluded, I do find it interesting that there is a growing movement to crown Lidstrom as the second greatest defenseman of all time, behind the incomparable Bobby Orr, of course.

Now traditionally the "2nd best" label goes to Montreal great Doug Harvey, with real old timer Eddie Shore also ranked right up there. More modern contenders include Larry RobinsonDenis PotvinRaymond Bourque, andPaul CoffeyViacheslav FetisovRed Kelly and Dit Clapper also deserve mention.

Lidstrom vs Harvey

How can we compare Harvey - a throwback from the 1950s, an era of hockey that is so foreign to hockey now - to Lidstrom? Not too many of us can. But Scotty Bowman, who coached both of them, definitely can. He basically refused to pick, calling them equals from very different eras.

"It's hard to compare them in a way because they played in vastly different eras. I coached Harvey in St. Louis before Nick Lidstrom was born," Bowman told "But the two most common denominators between those two was that it was very seldom either one got caught up ice. Their passing skills were so terrific. Their first pass. 

"If you charted a hockey game and you wrote down where the puck went every time those two touched it, it usually went on another teammate's stick unless they were killing a penalty. Their positioning and that sixth sense to be aware of what's going on ... they made a lot of partners looked pretty good." 

"The thing about the two of them and how they could play the point, they both could get the puck through," Bowman continued. "Both were terrific quarterbacks on the power play; they controlled the puck." 

The one area I think Lidstrom has Harvey beat is consistency. Lidstrom has been extremely good, albeit somewhat quietly early on, right from day one. He's always been a flawless defender and a top offensive producer. He's always been a real key to the Detroit Red Wings success in the 1990s and 2000s. 

Harvey was much more enigmatic. Because of his unworldly composure on the ice, many fans and newspapermen of the 1950s accused Doug of being lazy and frustrating. One night he would be the best player on the ice, and in the next two or three games he would blend in. Perhaps that is just Montreal for you, but Nicklas Lidstrom never had any periods of criticism like Harvey did. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Lidstrom is the greatest defenseman of his generation, and a very comparable player to Harvey in terms of style and legacy. I am completely comfortable with either player being considered better. Fact is, there is not much to choose from.

What about Ray Bourque?

If there is one player would could trump either Harvey or Lidstrom, it would be Ray Bourque. He is another carbon copy of each, and, unlike Harvey, basically from the same era as Lidstrom. So with that in mind, who was better, Bourque vs Lidstrom?

First, I'm really high on that comparison because they played very similar styles. Perhaps Bourque was a bit more flashy offensively, but he played in an era that demanded it, but otherwise both are near perfect defenders. Bourque might have been a little more emphatic in his physical game, too, but it is a marginal argument.

So let's compare the legacies of Bourque and Lidstrom. I've included Doug Harvey here, too, but keep in mind his stats are dulled by the era he played in more than 50 years ago.

The last two comparables are interesting. Lidstrom tied Harvey for second most Norris trophies (behind Bobby Orr's 8). Bourque "only" won 5 Norris trophies, but was a runner up 6 times (compared to Lidstrom's 3). Bourque, arguably, won his Norris trophies against tougher competition - fellow HHOFers like Paul Coffey and Chris Chelios most notably.

Another pretty telling stat for me is post season All Star awards. In 19 of his 22 seasons Bourque was either on the first or second team, including in each of his first 15 NHL seasons. Lidstrom was honoured 12 time, but it took him 7 years before his first all star nod. It may be the only statistical anomaly between these two great defenders. A case could even be made to suggest Bourque faced stiffer competition for All Star honours.

Lastly, let's look at MVP status. Lidstrom became the first European player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs, in 2002. But Bourque twice was runner up for the Hart Trophy, the regular season MVP and hockey's most cherished individual prize. He was runner up to Wayne Gretzky in 1987 and to Mark Messier in 1990. He was just two voting points behind Messier in the closest Hart Trophy ballot ever.

All in all, I give Ray Bourque the slightest edge on both Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom in the "All Time Greatest Defenseman" debate. He stood out as a top defenseman immediately. He also played with the weakest of the three teams in this debate.


Aaron Ward

The Winnipeg Jets made Aaron Ward the 5th overall draft pick in 1991. Ward never did play in Manitoba as he was traded to Detroit for Paul Ysebaert in 1993.

It was the best and worst thing that ever happened to the promising young defenseman.

By 1996 Ward was a regular with the Red Wings. He was a big boy but some felt he was reluctant to use his size to his considerable advantage. His skating was also a serious concern. Some questioned, fairly or unfairly, his intensity and his toughness. 

One of those who was not a big fan of Ward was legendary coach Scotty Bowman. Scotty was famous for having his whipping boys, and young Ward quickly became just that. For years Ward had to relentlessly live this less-than-enviable situation. 

 "Scotty was very effective because he would strike fear in the hearts of his players by using some guys as examples. Most of the time, I was that example," Ward says.

Many of the whipping boy stories are not repeatable, Here's a couple Ward told to James Duthie in an Ottawa Citizen article in 2009:

"One night in Chicago, I blocked a shot with my mouth and from the lip to the nose, I was gushing blood everywhere. As I headed to the room, Scotty yelled 'If you're not back in five, you don't play another shift.' Our doctor was about 80, so I knew there wasn't a chance that the stitches were going in that fast!"

Another night in Colorado, Forsberg and Sakic stepped on the ice, and Detroit assistant Dave Lewis sent Ward and his partner out. "Scotty came running down the bench, yelling 'Jesus Dave are you trying to make us lose the game!?!' I was halfway across the ice, but I could hear it so clearly, I decided to save my career so I did a 180 and went back to the bench."

"It was a nightmare, and he never relented the whole time I was there, but in retrospect it was the best thing for me. When I left, I knew no matter what any coach ever did or said to me, it would be child's play in comparison. It made me much tougher."

And better. He became an above average NHL defenseman and shook early labels concerning his physical play. He won two Stanley Cups in Detroit, then moved to Carolina where he was a top pairing dman during the Hurricanes Stanley Cup title run in 2005-06.

The Cup did not follow Ward to New York when he signed with the Rangers in 2006. But controversy certainly did. He almost came to blows with superstar Jaromir Jagr in a dispute over Jagr's alleged dedication to the team. Needless to say, Ward was soon moved out of Manhattan, joining the Boston Bruins.

After a couple of seasons in Boston, Ward returned to Carolina and then finished his career with a brief stop in Anaheim. In 839 NHL games Aaron Ward scored 44 goals and 151 points.

Aaron Ward may not have enjoyed a lot of his time in the NHL, but it is telling that when it is all said and done that he thanked Scotty Bowman.


Brendan Shanahan

Brendan Shanahan is the only NHL player to score more than 600 goals (656) and earn more than 2,000 minutes in penalties (2489).

He retired with 656 goals in his career, the second-most goals in history by a left wing, and 13th highest overall. His 19 consecutive 20-goal seasons are second most in history. His 1354 career points were the 25th highest ever at the time of retirement.

Add three Stanley Cup championships, a 2002 Olympic gold medal and a World Championship to his resume, and you have a case for Brendan Shanahan as one of the greatest players in hockey history.

Brendan Shanahan was a wonderful combination of skills and savvy packaged with grit and size.

At 6'3" and over 215lbs he was a brute who played his best when playing aggressively. But he combined that with soft hands and hockey intelligence not usually seen in the power forward mould. If he didn't bowl you over with his physical game he had the skills and smarts to make beautiful plays with the puck. This beautiful package of brawn and brains made him the game's premier power forward.

The only flaw in Shanny's game was skating. He was not very quick or agile but he knew where he wanted to be and more often than not he got there. He loved to set up just to the side of the crease, especially on the power play. With his trademark short back swing he swatted at pucks with his hard and accurate snap shot. Sometimes he would back off to the face-off circle for a deadly one-timer. More likely he would slide in front of the net to screen the goalie just as the puck was arriving. He became a master of tip-ins and rebound goals. 

Shanny was always a shoot first type of player. But he made nifty passes that he never got a lot of credit for. What he did get a lot of credit for was his big-game play. Shanahan was a leader who revelled in playing in pressure situations. His intensity often set the tone for his team's night. For the most part he was one of the NHL's most likeable and popular players, but in a big playoff game Shanahan was the player leading his team into battle.

He was drafted by (2nd overall behind Pierre Turgeon in 1987) and started out with New Jersey, and enjoyed his best individual years in St. Louis. He also briefly played with Hartford and the New York Rangers. But Shanahan - who was also a heck of a lacrosse player - will be best remembered with the Detroit Red Wings. 

Shanahan was the final missing piece to get the Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the Red Wings over their Stanley Cup hurdle. With Shanny the Wings won the Stanley Cup in both 1997 and 1998, and again in 2002. Shanny, a feared fighter and a playoff warrior, was the missing ingredient in Detroit.

"We were always a skilled team and he was the big power forward that we needed," said Scotty Bowman. "He had great physical strength. He could score, he could fight and he could check."

Shanny's willingness to do the dirty work in Detroit really took Detroit over the top.

"He got a lot of respect; he could shoot and he had a temper. Tough guys weren't going to try him because they'd have to fight him," added Bowman. "He was perfect, because we were always a team that wasn't tough. He didn't get in many scraps while he was here because no one would fight him."

Shanahan holds the unofficial record for most Gordie Howe hat tricks in a career with 17 (officially recorded since 1996). In fact, if there was one player who might favorably compare with the legendary Howe, it might be Shanny.



Happy Emms

Leighton "Hap" Emms was nicknamed out of pure sarcasm. His sour look provided an opportunity for his teammates to tag the name "Happy" on him, which was later shortened to "Hap".

He is more famous for his contributions to junior hockey after his retirement, but he did play in the NHL regularly. He was a defenseman who broke in the NHL with the mean machine of hockey, the Montreal Maroons, in 1926-27.

He played some in 1927-28, but found himself in the minors for two seasons of success after that. He was involved in a big sale in 1930 as the Montreal Maroons purchased Lionel Conacher from the New York Americans. But Conacher demanded a high salary and so the Maroons sold Emms, Frank Carson and Red Dutton to the Americans for a whopping $35,000, a high sum in those days. Emms became a regular on the Amerks blueline with Bullet Joe Simpson .When Simpson retired after 1930-31, Emms faced the pressure of playing good defense alone and was sub-par. He was traded to Detroit.

He wasn't happy in Detroit and asked Jack Adams to release him. Adams obliged and Emms signed with Boston, but was traded back to the Americans during 1934-35. He would finish his NHL career as a steady presence with the Amerks. He would extend his career for several seasons, excelling with the Pittsburgh Hornets and Omaha Knights.

It was in Omaha that Emms contracted the coaching bug. Emms broke his leg midway through the 1941-42 season while the player coach for the Omaha Knights. He coached Omaha from 1939-42 and in the 1942 playoffs guided the team to 8 straight wins in three series, playing with as few as 10 players. After that, he joined the armed forces and served in World War II. He played two games for the St.Louis Flyers in 1944-45, but it was obvious he was finished and he retired as a player.

He then began his great success as a builder of junior teams.He built some of the best junior clubs ever assembled, first in his hometown of Barrie, then in Niagara Falls. His Flyers won four Memorial Cups, two by the Barrie Flyers in 1951 and 1953, and two by the Niagara Falls Flyers in 1965 and 1968. He developed such players as Jerry Toppazzini, Doug Mohns, Jean Pronovost, Doug Favell, Bernie Parent and Phil Myre just to name a fraction of the players who went on to play in the NHL. He also owned a team in St. Catherines.

Because of his success as a junior coach and manager, the Boston Bruins named him general manager of the Bruins in 1965 and he served two years. However,the Bruins showed little improvement despite adding a rookie player who would become the greatest defenseman in NHL history, Bobby Orr, in 1966-67. Emms was fired at season's end.

Born in 1905, he died of heart failure on October 22nd, 1988. Five years earlier he suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk or talk.



Eddie Bush

This is Eddie Bush. On April 9th, 1942 Bush set a new NHL record for points by a defenseman in a Stanley Cup finals game with 5, scoring a goal and 4 assists.

Prior to that game he was virtually unknown in NHL circles. He would continue to be anonymous after the game, too. Bush never scored another point in the NHL ever again.

Even worse, Bush's Red Wings blew a 3-0 series lead in that Stanley Cup final to lose the Stanley Cup to the Toronto Maple Leafs!

Bush played in 26 career NHL games (scoring four goals and 10 points) and 12 playoff games (7 points), but he would never appear in the NHL again following the '42 Stanley Cup collapse.

It was an unfortunate coincidence, really. And military obligations during World War II certainly did not help. He went to a lengthy career in the minors before becoming a legendary junior coach in the Ontario league in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

He capped his coaching career as head coach of the NHL's Kansas City Scouts in 1975-76. His return to the NHL was not so successful. He guided the Scouts to a 1-23-8 record before being replaced in the middle of the season.


Jiri Fischer

When Detroit Red Wings defenceman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the team's bench after suffering a seizure during the first period of an NHL game against the Nashville Predators in 2005, there were very few people who considered him to be lucky at the time.

But lucky he was. It could have happened while he was home alone, or on a plane, or while driving a car. Instead it happened at the rink before a sold out audience and many more television viewers. Just three rows behind the Red Wings bench sat team doctor Tony Colucci. He was able to attend to Fischer, and save his life.

"I died. I died and I was brought back," Fischer said.

Unconscious for six minutes, Fischer was resuscitated by CPR and by a defibrillator before being rushed to hospital. The exact cause of the attack was never found.

Fischer was previously diagnosed with a heart abnormality in September 2002. Though team doctors took extra pre-cautions with Fischer's health, all Fischler was really worried about his hockey career.

"I wasn't scared about the abnormality," Fischer said. "But I was scared about not playing hockey again. That was a shock for me."

And what a career it would have been. The prized Czech defenseman was a giant at 6'5" and 220lbs blessed with strength and mobility. He had all the tools to develop into an impact NHL player.

But the cardiac arrest of 2005 took away his promising career, and nearly his life. He was initially ordered to take time off with no physical activity. When continuing heart concerns appearing over the next couple of weeks doctors ordered him to never player hockey again.

This time around, Fischer had a much better focus on the big picture.

"It really changed my life for the better. I haven't been this lucky in my life," Fischer told, in hindsight "It was an experience that made my life better. I was able to learn things about my body at age 25 instead of age 60.

"Right now, many people come up to me and they feel sorry for me. They say, 'How are you doing? I hope you can play one day.' I say, I hope I can get healthy one day."

Fischler has made a pretty nice life for himself off the ice. He continues to work with the Detroit Red Wings in player development. He started his own charitable foundation, the Healthy Hope Foundation.

“What we want to share most as part of our foundation is hope. There’s many patients that don’t have hope anymore. They just survive. It’s not fully living. If someone wants to be healthy, they’ve got to keep their hope up. It’s the most important thing of it all. Keep the passion for life.

“The main goal is for everyone to realize how important it is to take personal responsibility in health. I don’t believe that cardiac arrest changes people. I believe it’s the life after. At least that’s what it’s been like for me.


Mathieu Dandenault

One word describes Mathieu Dandenault as a hockey player more than any other: versatile.

Dandenault was an explosive skater with game breaking speed and acceleration. All through junior he used that speed and skating ability to become a 100 point forward with his hometown Sherbrooke Faucons. That made him a 2nd round draft pick (49th overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in 1994.

Back on that draft day nobody, least of all Mathieu Dandenault, could have expected the career path he would take. Not that he would complain in hindsight, mind you. But he could never have guessed he would become a quality NHL defenseman.

Starting in his second NHL season Detroit coach Scotty Bowman experimented with the idea of playing Dandenault on the blue line. Due to a rash of injuries, Bowman figured Dandenault's skating would allow him to play there, at least short term. But Bowman, who similarly employed Jimmy Roberts in such fashion with Montreal back in the 1970s, was impressed enough to make it permanent.

"I had never played defence in my life and to start learning at the NHL level against the best players in the world was difficult. But you know, you learn and I worked hard and the guys helped me out a lot, and eventually I got comfortable and starting playing well."

Over the course of his career he would the ultimate swingman, capable of playing responsibly in his own zone or as a physical speed merchant up front on a 3rd or 4th energy line.

"I was a forward my first year and then Scotty Bowman asked me to play defence my second year." Dandenault said. "My third year, I was a forward and then my fourth year, I moved to defence and that's where I stayed, although there seemed to be a couple of weeks every season where there were injuries and I played a little forward."

Dandenault, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons and a three-time Stanley Cup winner, never complained. It meant he was a very valuable member of the powerhouse Detroit teams. No matter what the circumstances called for - be it a rash of injuries or a needed change of pace mid-game - Dandenault knew he would be called on to make important contributions to the team's success.

Bowman, arguably the greatest coach in NHL history, must have been very impressed with Dandenault even before the switch to the back end. Bowman preferred veteran players over rookies, but he kept Dandenault with the Wings as a 19 year old and only apprenticed him in the minor leagues for four games.

Dandenault played in 868 career NHL games and recorded 68 goals and 135 assists for 203 points, to go along with 516 penalty minutes. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Detroit Red Wings (1995-96 to 2003-04), and four seasons with his hometown Montreal Canadiens.

"It was a childhood dream of mine to play in the NHL and having the opportunity to play for two original-six franchises made it even more special," said Dandenault. "I grew up a huge Montreal Canadiens fan so skating out onto the ice in Montreal for the first time as a member of the Habs is something I will never forget. I feel honoured to have my name engraved on the Stanley Cup as a Detroit Red Wing.

On the international stage, Dandenault won a gold medal as member of Team Canada at the 2003 World Hockey Championships in Finland.

Mathieu Dandenault was one dandy hockey player. It is incredibly rare for a life-long forward to adequately make the switch to defense at the NHL level. Dandenault acquitted himself nicely.



Dalton Smith

This is Dalton "Nakina" Smith. He and his brother Carl (aka Winky) were career minor leaguers who both got called up to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1943-44 season. One source suggests both were called up at the same time.

Dalton played in 10 games, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists. His only goal was the game winner against Toronto.

By the way, this Dalton Smith is not to be confused with another Dalton Smith. The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted a different Dalton Smith 34th overall in the 2010 NHL draft. The two Dalton Smiths are of no relation, though the younger Dalton does have some interesting bloodlines of his own. He is the son of former NHLer Derrick Smith, and the nephew of Keith and Wayne Primeau.


Carl "Winky" Smith

This is Carl "Winky" Smith. He and his brother Dalton were career minor leaguers who both got called up to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1943-44 season. One source suggests both were called up at the same time.

Carl, who replaced Johnny Sherf, played 7 games, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist. He started on a line with Joe Carveth and, interestingly, defenseman Bill Quackenbush. (Dalton played in 10 games, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists.)

Carl passed away in 1967 in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1949 he ended his hockey career with several seasons with the Omaha Knights of the USHL. He and linemate Nelson Boyce were popular both on and off the ice. They were dubbed as Blinky and Winky.



Bill Dineen

This is Bill Dineen. He was a speedy depth winger with the Detroit Red Wings (and briefly with the Chicago Black Hawks) in the 1950s. He was a teammate of Gordie Howe back then, which is ironic in that both established great family dynasties. Dineen, in fact, played a big role in establishing the Howe family legend.

Dineen, nicknamed Willie and Foxy, was born in Arvida, Quebec. His father, Matt, was a star defenseman with the University of McGill who later tried out for, but never played with, the Montreal Maroons. He became a civil engineer instead.

Bill played his youth and junior hockey in Ontario, starring with the Ottawa St. Pats and the St. Michael's (Toronto) Majors. Education was important to Bill's father, hence his playing at the legendary St. Mikes. The University of Michigan also offered a scholarship and a chance to play, but Bill wanted pursue his NHL dreams.

In 1953 Dineen jumped directly from junior to the NHL - no easy task in those days of the Original Six. Many star players had to apprentice in the minor leagues before making the jump. Dineen was no star, but he established himself as a useful NHL player with the powerful Detroit Red Wings. He helped Howe and the Wings win Stanley Cups in 1953 and 1954.

Dineen's rookie season was something special. He finished as a runner up for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year to Camille Henry of the New York Rangers. But Dineen finished ahead of the much hyped Jean Beliveau in rookie of the year voting. Dineen scored 17 goals, and possibly could have hit the impressive 20 goal level. However the Wings, under orders from boss Jack Adams, benched Dineen late in the season. Had Dineen reached 20 goals the Wings would have had to pay him a $6,000 bonus. The cheap Wings had no intention of allowing that to happen.

Perhaps his confidence was shaken by the undeserved benching, because he was never quite the same player again. He played 23 playoff games over the next two seasons but only picked up one assist. His offensive numbers over the next 4 seasons steadily declined, even though the Wings dynasty had begun to fall apart and were looking for bigger contributions from newcomers.

On December 17th, 1957 Dineen was traded to Chicago by Detroit with Billy Dea, Lorne Ferguson and Earl Reibel for Nick Mickoski, Bob Bailey, Hec Lalande and Jack McIntyre. It was a huge shuffle but Dineen couldn't find his game in Chicago either. After that season he was down in the minor leagues.

Dineen continued to play hockey, toiling in the minor leagues while riding the buses and scraping by with puny pay checks. Dineen stilled loved hockey, but you have to wonder if he ever wished he followed his father's desire for education and have a steady job. Dineen had a growing family - 6 boys and 1 girl - and quite simply had to keep playing hockey for the pay check to help keep his family afloat.

Dineen eventually retired in 1971, 13 years after his last stint in the NHL. He then turned to a long life of coaching, mostly in the minor leagues.

In 1972 Dineen got a big break. He was asked to coach the new WHA team the Houston Aeros. He knew he wanted an 18 year old youngster named Mark Howe. Mark of course was the son of Dineen's old teammate Gordie Howe. Dineen immediately set about acquiring the WHA rights to Mark and Gordie's other hockey playing son, Marty. Then he approached Gordie with the idea of coming out of retirement to play with his sons. Houston badly needed some sort of draw if hockey was to succeed in the Texan city. Gordie agreed to return to the ice, and counts playing with his sons as his career highlight.

The legend of the Howe family is well known. But Dineen's own family is quite the story. Three of his sons played in the NHL - Peter, Gord and most noticeably Kevin, who was a NHL standout for years.

Interestingly Bill Dineen, too, returned to the NHL in the 1991-92 season, as he was surprisingly named as Paul Holmgren's replacement as Philadelphia's head coach. He would coach the Flyers for the remainder of the season and the entire season following that before being fired himself.

Dineen's hiring was a surprise in that he was essentially a career minor leaguer, both as a player and as a coach. But no one was more surprised than Kevin Dineen, then playing for the Flyers, that his dad would now be his NHL coach!



Darren McCarty

The Detroit Red Wings were a team best known for their high skill level and beautiful theory of how hockey should be played. With the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov, they were a beautiful team to watch.

In stark contrast to many of his teammates, Darren McCarty provided the necessary grit and toughness needed come playoffs. He was big, mean, tough and fearless. He fit in perfectly with Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby on the famous Grind Line, energizing the team with his physical intensity, fierce forechecking and determined backchecking. He even added a few goals, none more pretty than this:

He was an awkward skater and not a great fighter, but he was such a valuable contributor to four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit. His teammates never wavered in their belief that McCarty would be there for them if trouble was ever brewing. They also knew that he could be counted on to rattle their own cage if the team ever needed to be shaken from a sluggish game.

In 758 games, he recorded 127 goals, 288 points and 1,477 penalty minutes. Over 174 playoff contests, McCarty racked up 23 goals and 49 points.

McCarty was an admirable character, but he faced his own troubles away from the rink. He loved live and lived it with much of the reckless abandon that he was famous for on the ice. He was renowned for his love heavy metal music and professional wrestling. Far more concerning was his increasing dependence of alcohol and growing financial difficulty. He eventually sought help for his alcoholism and filed for bankruptcy.

Much of his off ice struggles coincided with his father's death from cancer. He set up the McCarty Cancer Foundation which he created to assist in the battle against multiple myeloma, a terminal cancer that took his father's life in 1999.


Slava Kozlov

In my estimation little Slava Kozlov is one of the most underrated players in hockey history. He played in the shadows of the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov and Brendan Shanahan in Detroit, and later Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley/Marian Hossa in Atlanta.

But in his own right Kozlov was a wonderful offensive player. The darting winger had a great knack for shaking his check at just the right time, seemingly materializing out of nowhere for scoring chances. Unlike so many Russian players (especially of his generation) he was never shy to shoot the puck. He had a quick release and loved to pick the top corners of the net.

A wonderful skater, he could be a frustrating player for some fans. He liked to hold the puck, often a little too long at times. While he was willing to take a hit to make a play, the 5'10" and 180lb winger/center generally did not thrive in physical contests.

Playing alongside Fedorov and Doug Brown the native of Voskresensk, Russia, helped the Red Wings capture back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 1997 and 1998 and once owned the Detroit franchise record with 12 game-winning goals in the playoffs. One of his biggest fans was coach Scotty Bowman, who described him as reliable - a trait the coaching legend valued highly.

The Red Wings moved Kozlov to Buffalo on July 1st, 2001 in exchange for goalie Dominik Hasek. Replacing Buffalo's most popular and greatest player would be anything but enviable. He was outspoken about his unhappiness in Buffalo, which hardly endeared him to the fans. And it went from bad to worse when he missed much of the second half of the season with a 75% tear of his Achilles tendon. The Sabres moved Kozlov to Atlanta in the summer of 2002.

It turned out to be a great move for Kozlov. He recovered from his foot injury fully and meshed perfectly with countryman Ilya Kovalchuk and later Marian Hossa, his long time Atlanta linemate. But the Thrashers just never had enough depth or luck, and only made the playoffs just once in Kozlov's tenure.

"I've very much enjoyed my time in Atlanta ever since I got traded from Buffalo," said Kozlov. "It's a good organization here, they've treated me really well."

But he desperately missed the NHL playoffs where Kozlov shined the brightest.

"The atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit was unbelievable," he said. "I miss those times. I miss being in the playoffs. I think it's the greatest thing in hockey."

In his career Kozlov scored 20 or more goals 11 times. Five times he topped the 70 point mark. In total Kozlov scored 356 goals, 497 points and 853 points in 1192 NHL games. He added another 42 goals and 79 points in 118 Stanley Cup games - all but four of which came in his 7 full seasons in Detroit.


Kirk Maltby

With 128 goals and 260 points in 1072 career NHL games, it is clear that Kirk Maltby did not survive all those NHL wars because of his offense. Although he was a 50 goal scorer in junior hockey, Maltby never scored more than 14 goals in a single NHL campaign.

"We have a handful of guys on our team that had to adjust their roles as hockey players from what got them drafted originally. And we've been able to adjust to it and accept it both mentally and physically," said a wise and mature Maltby later in his career.

Maltby was drafted by Edmonton but traded to Detroit in March, 1996 (in exchange for Dan McGillis). In Detroit Maltby, who scored just 3 goals in the season prior, was forced to accept a lesser (but no less important) role if he wanted a NHL paycheck. After all, Detroit featured such superstars as Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Keith Primeau, Brendan Shanahan and Igor Larionov.

Adjust he did, and he found a home for the next 13 seasons. He even earned four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit. He was also named as an elite role player for Team Canada in their 2004 World Cup of Hockey championship.

Maltby used his good speed to his advantage. He worked tirelessly in pursuit of pucks and puck carriers, and loved to flatten opponents with clean but emphatic hits that suggested he was much bigger than he actually was.

Skating was his forte, obviously in speed but also in balance. But he was also a great student of the game. He was very coachable, and as a result he came to understand the game expertly from the role player's vantage point.

A member of the Red Wings famous Grind Line with Kris Draper and Darren McCarty, Maltby was a great penalty killer, an opportunistic forechecker and a fearless shot blocker. He also was an agitating presence, suckering more than a few opponents into taking penalties against him.

"I know my role as a hockey player in this organization," says Maltby. "I think that's one of the reasons why our team has been so successful over the last 10 years, because we've got players that are willing to change their game or they know their roles and want to win for the best of the team and not from an individual standpoint."

Maltby was a big part of setting that championship example in Detroit.



Steve Black

Stephen Black was a husky left wing came out of the Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League where he had played for the Port Arthur Bearcats between 1943-46.

In 1946-47 Stephen played exceptionally well in the Pacific Coast Hockey League where he picked up 79 points (including 43 goals) in only 60 games for the Oakland Oaks. His fine season caught the eyes of some prominent pro scouts.

Between 1947-49 Stephen played for the strong minor league club St.Louis Flyers (AHL) that was trained by future Hall of Famer Ebbie Goodfellow. Under Ebbie's tutelage Stephen became a great all-around player and had 71 points (24 goals and 47 points) in 62 games for the Flyers in 1948-49.

His great play earned him a spot in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings. During the first half of the 49-50 season Stephen filled in as a utility forward for an injured Pete Babando. He went on to win a regular spot on the team and played the entire season with the Wings, winning the Stanley Cup. Stephen was traded to Chicago on December 2,1950 with Lee Fogolin for Bert Olmstead and Vic Stasiuk. In Chicago he was reunited with his old AHL coach Ebbie Goodfellow who wanted him in Chicago.

He only played a half season in the windy city before heading back to the minors again. Stephen finished his career with the St.Louis Flyers (AHL) and Calgary Stampeders (WHL) and retired after the 1953-54 season.

His career wasn't spectacular but he won the Cup and made it to the NHL in the tough six team era.

Black returned to Ontario following his hockey career. From 1955 through 1985 he worked with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. He died in Thunder Bay in 2008.



Floyd Smith

Many Sabres fans know Floyd Smith. He was the coach of the magical 1974-75 Buffalo team that marched tot he Stanley Cup finals before bowing out in a classic playoff battle with the Philadelphia Flyers.
But not a lot of fan remember that Floyd Smith played for the Sabres as well.

A serviceable though rather unmemorable utility forward, Smith carved out a lengthy professional career. He turned pro in 1955 but spent most of his time in the minor leagues. He did get a couple of chances to play with both the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, but it wasn't until he joined the Detroit Red Wings organization in 1962-63 that he earned a full time NHL job. He found a home on a line with two of hockey's biggest names - Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson.

All three members of that line, along with Doug Barrie, were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968. The deal was one of the biggest in NHL history, as the Wings got Frank Mahovlich, Carl Brewer, Pete Stemkowski and Garry Unger in return. Smith, Ullman and Henderson continued to play together in Toronto

When the Buffalo Sabres hired former Toronto boss Punch Imlach to create their team for the 1970-71 season, Smith was one of the players Imlach went out and acquired Smith and named him as the Sabres first team captain. He was a good choice. He was a very upbeat guy in the locker room. He was quiet and humble, but not afraid to say something when the situation warranted it.

Smith hung up the blades early in the 1971-72 season and became a very successful coach with the Sabres affiliate team in Cincinnati. He would be promoted to the Sabres in 1974, taking the place of Imlach himself. Smith remained with the Sabres through 1977 before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs for the rest of his hockey career. He would serve in a variety of roles including coach, scout and GM.



Johnny Wilson

Johnny Wilson's 12-year National Hockey League career extended over three decades (1949-62). The left winger broke into the NHL in 1949-50 season with the Detroit Red Wings after playing junior hockey across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario with the Windsor Hettche Spitfires in the International Hockey League.

Wilson played from 1947-49 with the Spits where he compiled 43 points (26G-17A) in 29 games played. After 4 games in the 1948-49 season with Windsor, Wilson was sent to the Omaha Knights of the USHL where he played 70 games that year, scoring 41 goals and 39 assists with 46 penalty minutes.

One of the things that Wilson says helped keep him and his teammates focused on making the NHL during their days with the Spitfires was that he and his teammates would receive passes to go to Olympia on Sunday nights and watched the guys at the big club play. In addition, guys like Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe use to come and watch them play in Windsor. Wilson credits the attention with providing a boost to his professional career.

In the 1949-50 season, Wilson played one game with the Red Wings before being sent to Indianapolis for more experience. He played the remainder of that season and part of the next with the Indy Capitals before making the NHL club. During his time at Indy, Wilson played in 112 games scoring 94 points (59G-35A).

Later in the 51-52 season, Wilson was called up to the Detroit club and played in 28 games. While he only managed 4 goals and 5 assists, Wilson's NHL career started to take off.

Johnny remained a wearer of the Winged Wheel until after the 1954-55 season when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. This was a familiar trade route for many Detroit and Chicago players as the same family, the Norris', owned both teams. Wilson was part of a 7-man trade that year as he, Tony Leswick, Glen Skov and Benny Woit were sent to the Windy City for Dave Creighton, Bucky Hollingsworth and Jerry Toppazzinni.

Wilson would play 140 games with the Hawks over the next two seasons before being sent back to Detroit in a deal that saw an out of favor Ted Lindsay head for Chicago. Lindsay was being punished for his involvement in attempting to start the NHL Players Union, and team management wanted him out of Detroit.

After another two seasons with the Wings, Wilson was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Barry Cullen. After scoring 31 points in 70 games for the Leafs that year, he was sent to the New York Rangers the next season. After two seasons in New York, Wilson decided that he had had enough.

Wilson stated that New York was a tough place to play because you traveled a lot and didn't have the same luxuries that he had at Detroit and other cities. Since the team leased ice time from Madison Square Gardens, they would practice at another rink, which caused some problems. In addition, the Gardens didn't own the parking lot that they players used and it cost to park for every game. That added to having to cross four tunnels to get downtown and the costs of babysitting, and playing the game was starting to become expensive.

Wilson was able to have the honor of helping to bring along a couple of players to help carry the torch for the Rangers. His final season in the NHL (61-62) marked the first time in a number of years that the Rangers had made the playoffs, and Wilson broke in a couple of young guys named Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert. In that post season, they nearly knocked off Toronto but were eventually eliminated by the Leafs.

Had Wilson remained in the NHL, he could have probably played quite a few more years as, unknown to him at the time, expansion loomed on the horizon. Players that did stick around, like Howe and Alex Delvecchio, were able to almost indefinitely extend their careers.

After being out of the game for a few years, Wilson decided that he missed the ice and took a coaching position with the Detroit Red Wings. Wilson coached 145 games in Detroit over two seasons (71-73), and posted a 67-56-22 record.

Wilson also coached the Michigan Stags franchise, which played in downtown Detroit at Cobo Arena during the 1974-75 season. The Stags had relocated to Detroit from Los Angeles where their moniker was the Sharks. The troubled franchise didn't find the Detroit market to be financially better and they packed up in mid season and headed to Baltimore, where they eventually folded for good.

Following his Michigan-Baltimore experience, Wilson headed to Cleveland where he coached another WHA franchise called the Crusaders. When Johnny got to Cleveland, he found that they were running out of money as well. The team shortly disbanded.

Out of a job, Wilson heard about a NHL team that was moving from Kansas City to Colorado and was looking for a head coach. After making a phone call to Muncie Campbell, Wilson was named the bench boss of the Rockies.

Once his hockey days were all said and done Wilson returned to live in the Detroit area, holding a sales job with a local company. He was also an active member of the Detroit Red Wing Alumni and played numerous charity games each season in and around Michigan.

On December 27th, 2011 Johnny Wilson passed away at the age of 82. He had suffered a long battle with a lung disease.


Bobby Connors

Bobby Connors was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1904 but grew up in Port Arthur, Ontario playing the great Canadian game.

Connors was quite the player in Port Arthur and later in Niagara Falls as an amateur player. In 1927 he finally turned pro, appearing in 7 games with the NHL's New York Americans.

Connors had moved to Detroit in 1927-28, finding early success on the Cougars (later renamed Red Wings) top line with Herbie Lewis and Larry Aurie. The speedy winger finished his only complete NHL season with 13 goals in 41 games.

In 1929-30 Connors game fell to reserve status, playing rarely and scoring just three times in 31 games. He last later demoted to the minor leagues.

The picture above shows him in a jersey of the Seattle Eskimos of the PCHL. He played out west for the 1930-31 season before he was suspended for the rest of the regular season for a viscious stick attack on Doug Brennan of the Vancouver Lions. Newspaper reports suggest the PCHL was increasingly unhappy with Connors thuggery that season. He literally broke his old, heavy, solid wood hockey stick over Brennan's forehead.

Uncertain of his future in hockey Connors returned home to Port Arthur, but no one could have guessed what would happen next. Connors life came to a tragic end in July, 1931. The 27 year old broke his neck and fractured his skull diving into shallow waters near his home town of Port Arthur. He was paralyzed from the neck down and died a day later.


Pete Bellefeuille

This photo is of Pete (Pierre) "The Fleeting Frenchman" Bellefeuille. He played 92 NHL games in the late 1920s with Detroit and Toronto, scoring 25 goals and 4 assists.

The right winger from Trois Rivieres, Quebec was more or less utilized as a substitute back then. In those days the best players played most of the game, and were spotted by bench players here and there for short breaks. Bellefeuille spent a lot of time sitting on the bench.

When given a chance to play at the minor league level Bellefeuille was a regular scorer. He also played the game with an edge, if his penalty minutes are to be a clue into his temperament.


Stan McCabe

Born in Ottawa in 1908, Stan McCabe became a well known hockey player in Detroit.

After playing senior seasons in Ottawa and North Bay, McCabe moved to Detroit in 1927 and made it his life long home. He started with two and a half seasons with the Detroit Olympics of the Can-Pro league, but joined the Detroit Cougars (later renamed  Falcons then Red Wings) when they arrived in the National Hockey League.

The tiny left winger played the 1929-30 and 1930-31 seasons in the NHL, scoring 9 goals and 4 assists in 69 games. He returned to the Olympics (now of the IHL) for the 1931-32 season.

McCabe attempted to return to the NHL in 1932-33, but the Montreal Maroons claimed him from Detroit on waivers. The obedient McCabe left Michigan for five seasons, all for the paycheck. He would only play in 9 games with the Maroons (his final games of his NHL career) and instead bounced around from Quebec, Windsor, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Spokane in various leagues.

McCabe ended those vagabond days by returning to Detroit in 1937, playing with the MOHL Detroit Pontiacs for a couple of seasons before hanging up the blades.

McCabe stayed in the game as an on-ice official, working the lines for many NHL games, mostly out of Detroit. He also worked for Ford at one of their factories, rising all the way to foreman.

In 1958 Stan McCabe died of a heart attack. He was just 50 years old.


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