July 28, 2016

Randy Bucyk

Randy Bucyk was somehow destined to play in the National Hockey League.

But he had far bigger goals in mind.

Randy was born in Edmonton in 1962. By that time his uncle - the legendary Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bucyk - was already dominating the NHL.

It was just a matter of time before Randy would be dominating at hockey rinks, too. He was a natural on the ice and dominated all levels of youth hockey. No matter how good he was, he was always "Johnny Bucyk's nephew."

But unlike Uncle Johnny, Randy loved being in the classroom even more. He was an excellent student and always had dreams beyond the ice.

As a result, going the junior hockey route was never really a strong consideration for Randy. He always had plans of letting hockey take him to University.

"Sports is a stepping stone to get where you want to go if you put it in a proper perspective," he said.

Bucyk ended up accepting a scholarship to study and play hockey at Northeastern University in downtown Boston. He would play there for four years.

He faced a difficult decision in the autumn of 1984. His hockey eligibility was up and he still was a semester shy of earning his degree in civil engineering. He was never drafted by a National Hockey League club, but he was invited to attend the Montreal Canadiens training camp.

He decided he had to give pro hockey his best shot right then and there, as the opportunity may not be there again. He could always finish his degree later.

"Hockey was my dream and I had to make a decision. If you don't try (pro career) you'll always be wondering if you could have made it. You don't want to have that hanging over you. I was confident I could make it in hockey."

Make it he did. He earned a contract that training camp and apprenticed in the minor leagues for the 1984-85 season.

The next season Bucyk made his National Hockey League debut. He would play in 17 games plus 2 more in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He often played on a line with Brian Skrudland and Lucien Deblois. Bucyk was filling in for the injured Mike McPhee on that line.

Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1986. Because Bucyk played in two games in the playoffs he did get his name on the Stanley Cup and has a championship ring.

Randy never again played for the Montreal Canadiens. He returned to the minor leagues the next season and the team never renewed his contract.

Randy signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames organization in the summer of 1987. He would play four years with the Flames farm team in Salt Lake City, but only twice got into games with the Flames.

Bucyk hung up his skates after the 1991 season.

Soon after Bucyk returned his focus to business. But instead of using his civil engineering degree to build skyscrapers, he ended up working for the pharmaceutical company Merck out of their Calgary offices. He became their associate director of patient access specifically in the oncology department.


Ralph Intranuovo

Ralph Intranuovo is the son of an Italian immigrant. Father Marco arrived in 1967, unable to speak English. And he certainly had no idea what a hockey puck was.

By 1973 Marco had married and started a family. They had a son that year who would go on to introduce them to nearly every level of hockey available in Canada.

From a young age Ralfaele Intranuovo - know to everyone simply as Ralph - was a natural hockey star. Dad - by now a journeyman bricklayer in Scarborough - wanted his son to play the Italian national sport of soccer, of course, but Ralph truly loved the game on the ice.

He was always a fantastic skater, both in terms of speed and agility. He could handle the puck, too. And he had this sixth sense about him on how to play creative offensive hockey.

Intranuovo's big draw back was always that he was not very big himself. He grew to be five-foot-eight and maybe 180 pounds soaking wet. He learned how to survive in a big man's game by darting in and out of traffic and finding open ice. He could see the ice and the play developing better than most.

Intranuovo showed he could play in the Ontario Hockey League. In three seasons he played in 182 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He scored 106 goals and 258 points.

More importantly, in all three years with the Greyhounds Ralph was able to lead them to the Memorial Cup tournament. The Greyhounds finally won Canada's junior championship in their third try in 1993.

Intranuovo was named as the Memorial Cups' Most Valuable Player at the end of that emotional final game.

For Ralph that was, in many ways, the pinnacle of his hockey career.

Despite his ability to dominate the OHL game with his speed and creativity, he was always a long shot to play in the National Hockey League where brutes and brawn so often win out.

Intranuovo was drafted 96th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1992. Over six pro seasons he showed he could produce more offensive magic at the AHL and IHL minor league level.

But Intranuovo was only given a limited chance to play in the NHL. His career totalled 22 games - 19 with Edmonton and three more with Toronto. In that time he scored twice and set up four others.

Ralph left the minor league game behind in 1999 and travelled to Europe to extend his career. He played many seasons in Germany and Austria and Slovenia before finally making the family's inevitable return to Italy in 2009.

Ralph played the final four seasons of his hockey career in Italy before hanging up his skates in 2013.

Jack Ingoldsby

During World War II Jack Ingoldsby was a junior aged scoring sensation in Toronto. That made it hard for the Toronto Maple Leafs not to notice the tall, imposing center. And with NHL rosters suffering from players enlisting in the military, they were quick to sign him.

"Ding" Ingoldsby would get into 29 NHL games - all with the Leafs - over two seasons in 1943 and 1944. Then he, too, ended up the Canadian army. He would be stationed at home in Toronto, at least.

Ingoldsby never returned to pro hockey. Upon his return from War commitments he wound up to be a notable senior league player first in Toronto and then for years in Owen Sound. He led the Owen Sound Mercurys to the Allan Cup as Canada's amateur champions in 1951.

Earl Ingarfield Jr.

Earl Ingarfield Jr. played in 39 games in the NHL.

Ingarfield was the son of Earl Ingarfield Sr., the long time New York Rangers stalwart in the Original Six days. After expansion in 1967 he was a popular veteran in both Pittsburgh and Oakland.

Earl Jr. was not quite as successful. He had a couple of solid junior seasons with his hometown Lethbridge Broncos of the WHL but was never drafted by a NHL team.

He would sign with the Atlanta Flames organization in 1979, and followed the organization to Calgary when the franchise relocated in 1980. All told he played 17 games for the Flames.

Part way through that 1981-82 season Ingarfield was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Dan Labraaten. In Ingarfield's only NHL season he scored four goals and four assists in 38 contests.

Ingarfield was farmed out the next season and never returned to the National Hockey League.

It was a mysterious and hasty exit for a player who was once considered to be a very good two way player mature beyond his years.

"He really has wheels," said Flames coach Al MacNeil. "He's got that quick acceleration. From
blueline to blueline he may be the fastest guy on the team."

"I don't do anything super. I just stick my nose in there and try to do the job," he said.

Like father, like son.

As for his skating, he said, "I try to work a bit harder so that I can have that extra step in the third period, I'm not big, so I have to work to take the man out and grind it out with them and maybe get them tired. Then perhaps I'll still have that extra step in the third period and it can make the difference in setting up a goal that can help the team."


July 27, 2016

Brent Imlach

They say every player who has ever played for the Toronto Maple Leafs knows the immense pressure that comes with playing in the city.

Though he played only three games with the Leafs, few felt more pressure than Brent Imlach.

Yes, Imlach. Son of the Leafs legendary coach George "Punch" Imlach - architect of the Leafs 1960s Stanley Cup dynasty.

Some will say he got into three NHL games because he was the coach's son. Others will say he only got into three NHL games because he was the coach's son. Either way, Brent Imlach still played in more NHL games than most of us.

Brent was a pretty good junior player with the Toronto Marlies and then the London Nationals when he got called up for three games total due to injuries with the Leafs.

Unlike most junior players, Imlach was in no way in awe of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Toronto Maple Leafs when he got his brief chance to play.

"From the time I was 12 until I was 20, I think I spent more time at Maple Leaf Gardens than I did at home," Imlach told Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun in 1999. "In the afternoons on Saturdays I would usually go up to the press box and do my homework. Then I'd stay for the Leafs' game."

His first game came against Detroit in 1966. He did not expect to get much if any ice time, and basically hid at the end of the bench watching Gordie Howe more than anybody else. But then his dad sent him out on a second period penalty kill with adamant instructions of "Don't make any mistakes! Don't make any mistakes!" By the third period he was playing a regular shift with none other than Frank Mahovlich!

Of course, being the coach's kid led to some obvious jabs in the dressing room.

"Bob Pulford said to me on the bus one day: `Your dad's a miserable son of a gun.' I said: `That's nothing; I've got to go home to him every night."

Jokes aside, Brent admitted playing for his dad was very difficult.

"I didn't want to play because everybody was going to think the only reason I was on the team was because of my dad. Even I wondered if I was there as a spy. It bothered me. But I wasn't going to let my dad down when they called me up. You might have wished for different circumstances. But now, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Imlach may not have had made much of his own impact in the National Hockey League, but he did in business and then baseball - his dad kept leaving brochures lying around the house, he said. He quit pro hockey to attend the University of Western Ontario's business school. From there he was very successful working for Molson Breweries. He then left to run the Vancouver Canadiens Triple A baseball team as general manager.

Brent continued living in British Columbia's Lower Mainland for many years.

Ken Solheim

The NHL Trade Deadline has become one of the most anticipated events on the NHL calendar. Television and radio stations provide dozens of hours of coverage - often live regardless if there is anything actually going on.

There was not much media coverage back in 1983. Good thing. There was only one trade that trade deadline. The Minnesota North Stars traded two goal scorer Ken Solheim to Detroit in exchange for future considerations.

Detroit actually cancelled the future considerations  and returned Solheim to the North Stars a little more than year later.

Solheim was a big Albertan winger. At six-foot-three and 210 pounds, he was an imposing figure though he was not noted for his physical play.

The Grand Prairie native was more noted as a goal scorer in junior hockey. He starred with the Medicine Hat Tigers and scored 54 and 68 goals in his two seasons in the WHL. That definitely helped him get drafted 30th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1980.

Solheim would only get to play in five games with the Hawks. Even though he scored twice, he was traded to Minnesota in exchange for veteran Glen Sharpley. That trade was hardly insignificant. Sharpley was a solid depth player and Solheim was a promising up and comer.

Solheim would play parts of four seasons with the North Stars. His only full season in the NHL was 1984-85 when he played in 58 contests. He scored eight goals and eighteen points.

Solheim played in the Edmonton Oilers organization in 1985-86 before retiring from the game.


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