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October 17, 2017

Canadian Olympic Profiles 1980-1994

Over the past number of weeks this website has been focusing on profiling 1980-1994 era Canadian Olympic hockey players. A listing of all rosters and links to the completed biographies follow below.

 Most of it was written in August and I had hoped to be done all players some time ago, but the website has had some behind-the-scenes issues that have kept me busy. Hopefully I get back on track in a week or so after a fun getaway to Vancouver.

1980 Canadian Olympic Roster

Glenn Anderson
Warren Anderson
Dan D'Alvise
Ken Berry
Ron Davidson
John Devaney
Bob Dupuis
Joe Grant
Randy Gregg (C)
Dave Hindmarch
Paul MacLean
Kevin Maxwell
James Nill
Terry O'Malley
Paul Pageau
Brad Pirie
Kevin Primeau
Don Spring
Tim Watters
Stelio Zupancich

1984 Canadian Olympic Roster

Warren Anderson
Robin Bartel
Russ Courtnall
J. J. Daigneault
Kevin Dineen
Dave Donnelly
Bruce Driver
Darren Eliot
Patrick Flatley
Dave Gagner
Mario Gosselin
Vaughn Karpan
Doug Lidster
Darren Lowe
Kirk Muller
James Patrick
Craig Redmond
Dave Tippett (C)
Carey Wilson
Dan Wood

1988 Canadian Olympic Roster

Ken Berry
Serge Boisvert
Brian Bradley
Sean Burke
Chris Felix
Randy Gregg
Marc Habscheid
Bob Joyce
Vaughn Karpan
Merlin Malinowski
Andy Moog
Jim Peplinski
Serge Roy
Wally Schreiber
Gord Sherven
Tony Stiles
Steve Tambellini
Claude Vilgrain
Tim Watters
Ken Yaremchuk
Trent Yawney (C)
Zarley Zalapski

1992 Canadian Olympic Roster

Dave Archibald
Todd Brost
Sean Burke
Kevin Dahl
Curt Giles
Dave Hannan
Gord Hynes
Fabian Joseph
Joé Juneau
Trevor Kidd
Patrick Lebeau
Chris Lindberg
Eric Lindros
Kent Manderville
Adrien Plavsic
Dan Ratushny
Sam Saint–Laurent
Brad Schlegel
Wally Schreiber
Randy Smith
Dave Tippett
Brian Tutt
Jason Woolley

1994 Canadian Olympic Roster

Mark Astley
Adrian Aucoin
David Harlock
Corey Hirsch
Todd Hlushko
Greg Johnson
Fabian Joseph
Paul Kariya
Chris Kontos
Manny Legacé
Ken Lovsin
Derek Mayer
Petr Nedved
Dwayne Norris
Greg Parks
Allain Roy
Jean-Yves Roy
Brian Savage
Brad Schlegel
Wally Schreiber
Chris Therien
Todd Warriner
Brad Werenka

Legends of Team Canada: Gord Hynes

Defenseman Gord Hynes was born in Verdun and grew up in Pierrefonds, playing his minor hockey in the North Shore program. He moved to Calgary at age 11 when his father, a bank manager, was transferred
Hynes played junior in Medicine Hat and was Boston's fifth choice (115th over-all) in 1985, at age 18. But it took the 6-foot-1, 170 pounder another seven years to make it to the NHL. In between there were two seasons in the minors - he shared a home in Moncton with Brett Hull - one in Italy and three full years with the Canadian national team under coach Dave King, where Hynes said he learned to play the game.
"When I was drafted I had big eyes. My sights were set on the NHL," he said. "But I wasn't big enough, good enough or strong enough. I wasn't that good. I didn't know how to play and I wasn't that smart. I had to learn how to play. And I matured."
He scored 12 goals and 30 assists in 57 games last season with the national team, adding another 12 goals and 22 assists in 49 pre- Olympic games this year. In seven games at Albertville, Hynes had three goals and three assists.
Following the Olympics, and a free agent by this time, Hynes went home to contemplate his future. He was considering returning to Europe, and even enrolling in school and retiring from hockey, when Bruins assistant general manager Mike Milbury called.
"I thought I had the talent and knew I'd get better," he said. "And now here I am in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Go figure."
He scored his first NHL goal at the Montreal Forum.
"It was very exciting t score here," he said. "I was born here. I was a Montreal Canadiens fan. When I went to bed I dreamed of scoring a goal as part of the Montreal Canadiens. To score in the Forum is the next best thing."
He ended up signing with the Philadelphia Flyers in the off-season, toiling in 37 games with them the next season.  But he soon disappeared and had a long career playing in Germany.

October 16, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Patrick Lebeau

Patrick Lebeau was always an offensive force - something Canadian Olympic teams in the pre-NHL era were infamously lacking.

He scored 68 goals and 174 points in his final season of junior and 50 goals as an AHL rookie. in 1991-92 he had 33 in 55 games when he departed the AHL season to joined the Canadian national team to pursue Olympic glory in Albertville. 

Lebeau's reasons for leaving the Montreal Canadiens farm team were not entirely about the Olympic medal. He was upset with Montreal management not giving him more opportunity to prove he could play in the NHL. There were rumors throughout his career in the Habs organization that he had asked for a trade.

Lebeau joined the national team, ironically around the same time the Canadiens ran into a rash of injuries. 

"I don't regret it," he said of missing a chance to be recalled. "I lived a good experience. It was good for my career. I'm a better player from the Olympics."
"I don't know if I'm in the Montreal organization's plans," continued the younger brother of Montreal centre Stephan. "If I do the best possible and they say, `you're not on our team,' I'll have to think about something else."
Ultimately Lebeau was not in the Habs plans. He was sent to Calgary in the off-season, but GM Serge Savard never liked the way the whole Lebeau-to-the-Olympics thing worked out.
Savard was particularly upset that it was Lebeau and his agent who approached Dave King's team without first informing Montreal.
"The Olympic program is a joke," says Canadiens boss Savard. "All kinds of money is being spent to develop a team, and then when the Olympics come along, they're picking up players who can't make their NHL teams."
The Calgary assignment looked promising, at first, as the Flames had just hired Dave King to his first NHL job. 
"Naturally, I know (Flames coach) Dave King and he knows what I can do," Lebeau said. "I was expecting to be traded by the Canadiens and I'm happy to be with the Flames."
But aside from a single game that season, Lebeau did not make King's team. He was demoted to the minor leagues where he was the leading scorer for Salt Lake.
Aside from brief appearances with Florida (4 games) and Pittsburgh (8 games) he never made the NHL. He ended up dominating in German and Austrian leagues for many seasons.

October 15, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Dave Archibald

David Archibald played Major Junior Hockey at the age of 14! Such an early start labelled this kid as a can't miss prospect. Unfortunately Archibald did miss. And it's all because of pro hockey's mentality of rushing young hockey players before they are ready. 

Archibald had all the tools to be an above average NHL player. He was a tremendous skater, with exceptional balance and agility, though lacked breakaway speed. He was a masterful puckhandler. He enjoyed playmaking almost to a fault, choosing to pass often, and not using his excellent wrist shot as often as he probably should have. He had good NHL size, and although he was definetly not a physical player, he was not afraid to take hits or to play in traffic. 

Dave played three years of major junior hockey with the WHL's Portland Winter Hawks. He however didn't dominate the league until his draft season of 1986-87. He electrified crowds that year with 50 goals and 107 points in 65 games plus another 28 points in 20 playoff games. His strong season earned him high praise from NHL scouts who touted him as a sure bet NHLer. The Minnesota North Stars selected Archibald 6th overall in the 1987 Entry Draft. The next center selected in that draft was future NHL star Joe Sakic. 

Instead of allowing Archibald to continue to develop his game at the junior level for at least another year, the lowly North Stars opted to keep the mature-beyond-his-years forward in the bigs. His first two seasons weren't too bad considering he was used primarily as a powerplay specialist who saw little ice time at even strength, especially late in a close game. He scored 13 goals and 33 points in 1987-88 and 14 goals and 33 points in 1988-89. 

Now remember the kid was only 20 years old by the time he finished his second full NHL season. Then when Dave showed little progress in the following training camp and early part of his third campaign, the North Stars gave up on him, expecting more from a third year player. This despite giving him little chance to succeed, and despite still not reaching his 21st birthday. 

Archibald was moved to the New York Rangers on November 1, 1989 in exchange for Jayson More. After scoring just 2 goals and 5 points in 19 games with the Rangers, Dave was demoted to Flint of the IHL. It was probably the best thing for Dave, as he would get his first chance in 3 years to play regularly. He responded well by scoring 52 points in 41 games with the Spirits. 

Despite his improved play at the minor league level, Dave wasn't happy with his experience in pro hockey. He and the Rangers agreed to make arrangements that would see Dave play the 1990-91 season with the Canadian national team. Dave played well, scoring 19 goals and 31 points in 29 games, before having a quiet 1991 World Championships. He scored just 1 assist in 10 games, although he played very rarely as non-playoff bound NHLers comprised most of the Team Canada roster. 

Dave thoroughly enjoyed his time with the National team program, and definitely wanted to return the following season and be a part of the 1992 Olympics. Archibald was an offensive leader with the Nats during their regular season, scoring 63 points in 58 games. He also added a very strong 7 goals in 8 Olympic contests as Canada won the Silver medal. Also on that team was disgruntled NHL goalie Sean Burke, NHL veterans Dave Tippett and Dave Hannan, and future NHL stars Jason Woolley, Joey Juneau and Eric Lindros. 

"My joining the Olympic team had nothing to do with going to the minors," says Archibald. "I enjoyed that more than playing in the NHL. I just didn't want to do it again this year.

"People expect me to talk (negatively) about certain people. I can't do that. It was just a personal decision. I simply chose not to bother with pro hockey this year."
"I've actually enjoyed being here this year. It's a different type of environment. There's less pressure and more learning. Here you get to practise the things you used to be good at but had started to lose (in the NHL)."
After such a strong showing in 1991-92 season, Dave decided to give the NHL a shot again. He resigned with the Rangers, but was demoted to the farm team to start the season. He was off to a strong start in the AHL with 6 goals and 9 points in 8 games, but then the Rangers traded "Archie" to the Ottawa Senators. 

Dave spent most of the following the 4 seasons with the Senators, reinventing himself as a defensive checker under head coach Rick Bowness. Dave did an unheralded and reasonable job in Ottawa, even though the Sens were perhaps the worst team in hockey much of his stay there. However injuries took their toll on Dave's body, slowing down the enthusiastic Archibald. 

Dave followed Bowness to the New York Islanders for the 1996-97 season, but he only played in 7 scoreless NHL games before being released to play in Germany. Dave would play in Europe and in the North American minor leagues following his NHL days.

Legends of Team Canada: Dave Hannan

Dave Hannan was an average player in many respects. Yet he was one of the most valuable and unheralded players on every team he ever played on.

"Hanner" was an average skater and puckhandler. He liked to play a physical game but because of his size limitations, he wasn't the most effective hitter out there. Yet he played bigger than he actually was. Hannan was a good faceoff man and penalty killer, with a knack for defensive anticipation. Although he had modest tangible skills, Hannan enjoyed a 16 year professional career with more than 900 games under his belt. He lasted that long because of his great attitude, hard work and leadership abilities.

After playing his junior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie and Brantford of the Ontario Hockey Association, Hannan was drafted 196th overall in the 1981 Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hannan played his first NHL game during the 1981-82 season with the Pens, but spent the rest of the year with the Pens farm team in Erie of the AHL.

Dave spent most of the 1982-83 season with the Pens, scoring 11 goals and 33 points, but spent most of the following two seasons in the minors. He did appear in 54 NHL contests over those years but it wasn't until the 1985-86 season that Hannan had finally made it to the National Hockey League to stay.

Hannan played a solid role as a penalty killer and defensive specialist in what was essentially his 2nd full NHL season. But Hannan also chipped in with his best offensive season, scoring 17 goals and 35 points.

"Hanner" was on course for a similar season in 1986-87 but he was limited to only 58 games due to injuries. He scored 10 goals and 25 points

Dave began his seventh pro season in the Penguins' organization before he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers during the 1987-88 campaign. Hannan was part of the huge deal that saw Paul Coffey leave Edmonton. The deal essentially was Hannan, Craig Simpson, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph for Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp. That year he helped the Oilers win the Stanley Cup, the first of his career, an obvious highlight of his career. 

"Winning the Cup in Edmonton and playing with some great players, it was a big stepping stone for my career," Hannan said.  "I learned how to win in Edmonton and how to care about your teammates." he said. 

Hannan's stay in Edmonton was short however as the Penguins re-acquired him for the 1988-89 campaign. The Pens picked up the likeable center off of the preseason waiver draft list. He played in 72 games for the Pens that year, scoring 10 goals and 30 points. He played aggressively, picking up a career high 157 penaty minutes.

Hannan joined the Toronto Maple Leafs the following year where he played parts of three seasons with Toronto. One of the highlites of his stay in Toronto came in his third year. He was having a long season as he wasn't playing very much and was obviously counting down the days until he was moved from Toronto. Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher suggested that Hanner should join Dave King's Olympic program. It would give Hannan a chance to resurect his career and Team Canada desperately wanted his veteran leadership. For Hannan, the choice was obvious and had no regrets.

"I really enjoyed the '92 Olympics because I'd never been to Europe and I didn't really realize how big the Olympics were till I got there," Hannan said. "Once I got over there to practice with the team and started seeing the hoopla and the media and the attention that you get, and then when I marched into the stadium with the team, I felt like a young kid again with this team jacket on. It was incredible. 

"I went over there and had a fairly good tournament and we won the silver medal," Hannan added. "I didn't really realize it at the time, I mean it was great to win it (the silver medal), but as the years passed on it sunk in more and the Olympic experience was something I'll never forget." 

Following the Olympic tournament, he returned to the NHL and was traded to the Buffalo Sabres where he completed the 1991-92 season.  The Sabres were impressed by his play in the Olympics and decided to take a chance on him. It worked out really well for all involved as Hannan spent parts of five seasons with the Sabres as a key defensive forward and sound penalty killer.

Hannan began the 1995-96 campaign with Buffalo but midway through the season he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. He played a key role in the Avalanche's Stanley Cup championship run that season and looks back at that Cup victory, the second of his career, with fond memories. 

"I think getting traded and going to Colorado, which was at the time where my career was probably almost over, to go through that and then watch guys win Cups and have success for their first time was amazing," he said. 

Hannan then played 34 games with the Ottawa Senators during the 1996-97 season before deciding to hang up the blades. He retired from the NHL with career totals of 114 goals and 305 points in 841 regular season games.

October 14, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Joe Juneau

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a good NHL player, but in the case of Joe Juneau it certainly didn't hurt.

Juneau, one of the most interesting people ever to lace up the skates, left his hometown of Pont Rouge, Quebec unable to speak much English. He didn't let that deter him from balancing hockey and education at the famed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state. He graduated from RPI with a degree in aeronautical engineering, also known as rocket science, in 1991.

Boston's 81st overall draft choice back in 1988, Juneau was far from a blue chip NHL prospect at this point. It would have been easy for Juneau to walk away from the game and begin working in the engineering field. But at the conclusion of his final two seasons at RPI he extended his season by skating with the Canadian national team. When coach Dave King offered him a chance to spend the entire 1991-92 season and audition for the Olympic tea, Juneau but his engineering ambitions on hold.

Juneau really emerged into a top prospect during this season. He led the team in scoring, and impressed many with his speed and passing abilities. Many NHL scouts closely scrutinized the Canadian national team that season. All amateur players at the time, scouts and media took unusually high interest in the season because of the presence of Eric Lindros on the team. Juneau, the leading scorer in those Olympics, led Canada to a silver medal, leading Juneau to proclaim those Games as the highlight of his career.

"I think the top would be the (1992) Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. We were all amateurs [on the Canadian men’s ice hockey team] and we managed to get a silver medal, and I was the high scorer in the tournament. It was great. I went to the Stanley Cup finals twice, and as much fun as it was, I didn’t think it was like the Olympics were."

Juneau, a certified pilot who spent his off-seasons rebuilding his own deHavilland Beaver float plane, continued his high flying ways when breaking into the NHL immediately after the Olympics. He stepped in with 5 goals and 14 assists in 14 games to close off the regular season, and added 12 more points 15 playoff games. He proved those numbers were no fluke when in his official rookie season of 1992-93 he scored 32 goals and 102 points.

Juneau was the beneficiary of some great line mates in Boston, namely Adam Oates and, when healthy, Cam Neely. When the Bruins traded Juneau to Washington in 1993-94, he was never able to duplicate the same lofty scoring totals. He remained a good playmaker that was a strong presence in back to back Stanley Cup finals, 1998 with Washington and 1999 with Buffalo, despite falling short both times.

Juneau would spend 6 seasons in the U.S. capital. His offensive production would never challenge his previous numbers, but he earned great acclaim for rounding out his game and becoming a very versatile player. His offense slowly dried up, but he became a key penalty killer and checker. He underwent an interesting transformation from scoring star to a jack-of-all-trades utility player noted for his work ethic and strong defensive play. While his scoring totals diminished, his hockey sense remained as strong as always. It was just used in different fashion and, to his credit, he never complained about his role.

The highlight of Juneau's stay in Washington was the 1998 playoffs when the Capitals unexpectedly made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Juneau was a big part of that run, scoring 17 points in 21 games, including two overtime game winning goals. Unfortunately the Capitals couldn't pull off the upset.

After bouncing around the league late in his career, Juneau returned home to Pont Rouge and became a partner with the engineering company Harfan Technologies. Juneau, who also spends lots of time at the companies Maryland office, spends much of his time promoting the small company that develops infrastructure asset management solutions for the private and public sector.

An avid outdoorsman who enjoys flying his float plane to the remotest fishing holes in northern Quebec, Juneau was troubled by social conditions in some of Quebec's isolated and usually native communities in the region known as Nunavik. He has begun working with communities in Nunavik, using hockey as a tool to boost self confidence and scholastic performance of the region's youth.

Legends of Team Canada: Todd Brost

Todd Brost is hardly the most recognizable player of Team Canada's 1992 Olympic team.

The 5'8" center went goalless in eight Olympic games while picking up four assists. The University of Michigan grad never went on to play anywhere close to the NHL. In fact, a couple of seasons later he was off the ice entirely.

So it should come as no surprise that the Olympics must rank as Brost's career highlight.

Sure, winning silver medals and playing on the world's grandest stage will do that to a guy. But he also will remember for getting engaged just prior to the Games, and for having his family - parents and fiance - travel to France to experience the Olympics with him.

Brost spent much of the 1993-94 season back with the Canadian National Team program but was cut before the puck dropped on the Norway Olympics.

After taking off his skates Brost became a minor league coach until about 2005. Then he put his economics and financial planning degree from Michigan to good use and became a financial planner in picturesque Corning, New York.

October 13, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Robin Bartel

Another anonymous name from Team Canada's 1984 Olympic hockey team in Sarajevo is that of defenseman Robin Bartel.

Team Canada's defense had a number of players who went on to long and notable careers. Players such as Bruce Driver, James Patrick, Doug Lidster and J.J. Daigneault. Bartel only went on to play 41 NHL games and is long forgotten by most hockey fans.

But Bartel had a couple of things going for him.

Bartel played junior hockey as the defense partner of James Patrick, so they had instant chemistry.

After junior hockey Bartel, who was never drafted by a NHL team, enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan and helped the Huskies capture the Canadian collegiate championship.

The coach of the Huskies was none other than Dave King.

The next season King jumped to the Canadian national team to become head coach. Bartel followed suit, putting his education on hold in hopes of an Olympic medal.

"If it wasn't for (King) I would not have committed to the program," Bartel said.

Bartel still had to earn his spot as he was not guaranteed to go to Sarajevo by any chance. He did keep his role on the team and helped Canada to a fourth place finish, just out of the medals.

"Even if we didn't do quite as well as we were hoping, it was still unquestionably the highlight of my career. Not only to be a part of the spectacle that is the Olympics, but the chance to travel and grow. It was a great experience."

Legends of Team Canada: Dan Wood

Dan Wood was about as anonymous of a hockey player as there was on Team Canada's 1984 Olympic team.

That was until he found himself as the center of controversy on the eve of the Sarajevo games.

These were the days of amateur hypocrisy, where the Soviets and Czechs could bring their top players because they drew their official salary as members of the military. Yet their full time job was like any NHL player - completely focused on hockey. Maybe once in a while someone like Vladislav Tretiak would have to pose for a photo with a tank just for propaganda reasons.

Canada, meanwhile, had to take true, cash-starved, hungry amateurs to the Olympics.

In 1984 Canada tried bringing along four players who had already signed NHL contracts, but were not yet NHL players. Two players - Don Dietrich and Mark Morrison - had played a handful of NHL games. Two others - Wood and goalie Mario Gosselin - had not.

In an attempt to throw Team Canada into distraction, Team USA waited until the very last minute to launch a complaint that resulted in the eruption of controversy. Ultimately it was decided that anyone who had played even a game in the NHL would not be allowed to play. Dietrich and Morrison, along with three Canadians playing for low ranking European countries, were kicked out of the Olympics just as the Opening Ceremonies were beginning.

Wood and Gosselin remained. Gosselin became a bit of a household name for his acrobatic efforts in net. Wood, a Kingston junior who was drafted by the St. Louis Blues, picked up just one assist in seven Olympic games.

The banning of Morrison and Dietrich led to the end of amateurism in hockey at the Olympics by 1988. It was decided all players - amateur or professional - would be allowed to compete. But the crooked Eastern Bloc countries that controlled the IOC had little to worry about as they new the world's best professionals would not be allowed to leave their NHL teams at that time. That did not come until a decade later, long after the Eastern Bloc fell apart politically.

October 12, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Dave Gagner

During his prime, Dave Gagner was a skillful scorer whose game was aided by his great determination and grittiness. Standing just 5'10" and 180lbs, Dave played much bigger than his listed size. He was an aggressive and fearless little guy who was a 30+ goal threat when at his best. Twice he topped 40 goals.

An intelligent player, Gagner wasn't a great skater but knew how to shake his check to get open. A finisher more than a playmaker, Dave possessed a good shot with a quick release. An adequate-at-best defensive player, Gagner was an on-ice leader. He was an admirable NHLer, giving everything he had on every shift.

Despite being a high draft pick, Dave took a long time to justify his lofty selection. The 12th pick in the 1983 Entry Draft by the NY Ranger's, Dave played for the Canadian Olympic Team at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo and finished the tournament as the team's third leading scorer. 

It was not an easy decision to play internationally for Gagner. When the Rangers let him know he would not immediately play in the NHL, he wanted to return to junior to chase a Memorial Cup championship. The Rangers wanted him to play under Dave King, and learn the defensive side of the game.

When he did turn pro, Gagner's tough adjustment to the pro ranks continued as he alternated between the Rangers and their AHL affiliate during the 1984-85, 1985-86, and 1986-87 seasons.

The Chatham Ontario native moved on to Minnesota in 1987-88. Despite tearing up the IHL with 16 goals and 26 points in 14 games, Dave was still unable to make any impact at the NHL level, scoring just 8 goals in 51 games.

Things changed for the better for Dave in 1988-89. Voted as the North Stars' Most Improved Player, he exploded with 35 goals and 78 points, proving to be a top 2 line center.

So why did he finally succeed after so many failures in the past? Well, opportunity is the main reason. The North Stars brought in a new coach in Pierre Page that season and he immediately liked Gagner's spunk and energy. After a strong training camp, Page called him "the hardest worker in the National Hockey League." Under Page's coaching systems, Gagner was finally in a perfect fit, and finally was given a chance to succeed.

And succeed he did.

Dave had an incredible start to the year. 22 goals and 41 points by mid season. He slowed down a bit in the second half of the year but ended up with 35 goals and 78 points in what amounted to his first full NHL season.

Page would only coach the team one more year, but Gagner's success continued for many years to come. He followed up his breakthrough season with a 40 goal, 78 point 1988-89 season. He had a career high 82 points including a second consecutive 40 goal year in 1990-91. Which saw him win team MVP honors as well as an appearance in the All Star game.

He continued to be a consistent scoring threat, scoring 31, 33, and 32 goals in the following 3 years before slowing down a notch. He scored 14 goals in the lockout shortened 1995 season.

Half way through the 1995-96 season, after 14 goals in 45 games with the Stars, the team traded Dave to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal that was designed to strengthened the Leafs. The Leafs already had superstar Doug Gilmour on their lineup, and Gagner's style of play was similar. Though nowhere near as good defensively, Dave was a poor man's version of Gilmour - very spirited, fearless play with good offensive output.

Dave however wasn't able to supply as much offense in Toronto as was hoped. He scored 7 goals in 28 regular season games, as well as 15 assists. However he registered only 2 assists in 6 playoff games in a disappointing spring for the Leafs.

Toronto traded the grizzled veteran to Calgary come the 1996-97 season. He had a decent year in Calgary, scoring 27 goals and 60 points in the offensive drought of the late 1990s. It was good timing for Dave too, as he was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. As a result, Dave signed a lucrative contract with the offense hungry Florida Panthers.

Dave was never able to supply what was expected in Florida. Scoring 20 goals and 48 points for a player who signed for over 2 million dollars a year, Gagner was soon on the trading block. The trade came in the form of a blockbuster as Gagner was part of the Florida package sent to Vancouver for hold out star Pavel Bure!

Vancouver was weak at center and it was hoped that Gagner, in the last year of his contract, could step in and help out. Unfortunately Gagner, who was ultimately nothing more than a throw-in in the Bure deal in order to make financial sheets balance, Gagner was very ineffective. He scored just 2 goals in 33 games with the Canucks.

Following his awful year, no teams were interested in Gagner and he had little option but to retire.

"I'm very fortunate to have made a living playing the game I love. At this time, I would like to spend more time with my family and pursue other interests."

Dave will always be remembered as a solid NHLer, a hard worker and a great team guy.

Legends of Team Canada: Dave Tippett

"He's the sort of player only a coach would appreciate."

Those are the words used by Dave King to describe his star shut-down center and team captain Dave Tippett at the 1984 Olympic games in Sarajevo.

Tippett of course would go on, like King, to his own lengthy and successful coaching career and probably appreciates that comment now more than ever.

When Tippett returned to the Olympic in 1992 as a grizzled NHL veteran, the ecstatic King said, "Dave Tippett is one of my favorite players. He's also the best defensive player I've ever coached."

Dave King loved defensive forwards to a fault, so singling out one as the best is quite the compliment for Tippett.

A native of Moosomin, Saskatchewan, the left wing played for the Prince Albert Raiders before heading south to play collegiate hockey. Between 1979 and 1981, Tippett was an offensive standout helping the Raiders win the Century Cup in 1981.

Tippett then notched 28 goals, 59 assists and 87 points in his two years at the University of North Dakota. As captain, he helped lead a squad full of future NHLers to both the MacNaughton Cup (regular season championship) and the NCAA championship in 1982.
Despite his record, Tippett was overlooked in the NHL draft.  Instead, he played a full season with Dave King's national team and was chosen as Team Canada's captain at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. And he built a great reputation for shutting down the opposition's top players.

Tippett was tasked with shutting down a young American superstar named Pat Lafontaine.

''We wanted to neutralize him so he wouldn't be a big factor,'' Tippett said. ''Dave wanted me to work on him. He wanted me to talk at him, too, to get him upset, but I decided not to do that. ''The largest part of it involved staying high and letting my wings do the forechecking so I could pick him up at his blueline and stop him from getting the fast centre drives he does so well.'' 

He also played well against the top Soviet players, who were as good as almost every NHL superstar.

"You just can't make mistakes in front of them or they capitalize. We know about the drop passes, behind-the-back passes and lateral feeds. The biggest difference will be the skill level," he said.

Tippett was no miracle worker. The Soviets ended up winning gold that year, while Canada finished without a medal. But Tippett was finally able to catch the attention of the NHL, signing with the Hartford Whalers. He immediately played the last 17 games of the 1983-84 season.
While unable to become an offensive leader at the NHL level, over the next six years in Hartford Tippett built a reputation as a solid defensive winger who could contribute a handful of goals and assists. His efforts did not go unnoticed by the team, as he was named alternate captain, and earned Community Service, Unsung Hero, Mr. Hustle, and Best Defensive Forward awards.
In 1990, he was traded to the Washington Capitals, where he spent another two years as a steady third and fourth line wing.
Chosen to represent Canada again at the 1994 Albertville Olympics, he came home with a silver medal, not to mention painful torn rib cartilage that he played through.

"I`m grateful for the opportunity," Tippett told The Washington Post at the time. "It`s tough not playing here every night. But it`s an opportunity to go play very competitive hockey. Anybody would be crazy to think playing in the Olympics isn`t a great thrill. The `84 Olympics were one of the biggest thrills of my career."

''At the start of the year I wasn't playing much and the whole season we haven't run into any injury problems, so I just wasn't getting the games,'' said Tippett, a veteran of seven NHL seasons. ''I talked to Dave (Poile, Washington's GM) and we agreed that me coming here would be a win-win situation for both of us.

''Coming here is good for me personally. I'll get three weeks of high-quality competition and then return to Washington in time to contribute to the stretch drive.''
Tippett then spent just two more years in the NHL, signing one-year deals with first the Penguins, then the Flyers.  In 1994, he moved to the IHL Houston Aeros, first as a player/coach, and then as head coach.

Of course Tippett would go on to become a top NHL coach himself.

October 11, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Carey Wilson

When Carey made his NHL debut as a 21-year old for Calgary in 1984 he had a solid hockey career behind him. 

After graduating from Dartmouth College he went to Finland where he played two seasons in the Finnish Elite league where he had 72 points in 65 games. He also had represented Canada in the 1982 World Junior Championships (gold), but the highlight until his NHL debut was when he played for Canada in the 1984 Olympics. While there he scored a hat trick in the opening game against the defending champions USA in a 4-2 win.

Carey's father Gerry was the vice-president and team doctor for the WHA Winnipeg Jets. His father was once a dominant junior player who briefly played for the Montreal Canadiens before injury cut short his promising career. 

Needless to say, Carey was brought up with hockey in his veins. So were academics. Carey had graduated with a Biochemistry degree from Dartmouth and qualified as a pre-med student before he left to pursue hockey in 1981.

But it was far from a conventional hockey move. Carey, a 1980 draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, joined his twin brother Geoff, a 1981 draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for a couple of seasons with HIFK Helsinki in the top Finnish League. The two had a tight bond in hockey but also in triathlons during the off-seasons.

The boys interest in Scandinavia can also be attributed to their father Gerry. He had the family spend considerable time there in their youth as he studied the physiology of hockey players in Sweden. That is where he learned of Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Lars Erik Sjoberg and brought them to the WHA's Winnipeg Jets and helped changed the way hockey was played in North America.

Wilson returned to North America for the 1983-84 season. The Blackhawks had moved his playing rights to the Calgary Flames, but before he would embark on his long NHL journey Wilson committed to Dave King's Canadian national team program and the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.

Wilson was one of Canada's strongest players. He scored a hat trick in the opening game against the United States. Unfortunately he never scored another goal in the tourney and finished with six points. Canada finished in fourth place.

Wilson was proud of his Olympics experience. He did it for his father.

 'I heard my father was a real tough kid and a good player in his day. But he never got a shot at the pros. His career was cut short because of calcium buildups in his knees, so maybe it might be realistic to say he lives through me. ''I'm going to give it a shot at turning pro. I'm ready to sign after this. My long-term goal is like his, though, to study medicine.''

Wilson immediately joined the Calgary Flames after the Olympics and began an impressive NHL career. Carey scored a total of 427 points including 169 goals and 258 assists in 552 regular season games, as well as 24 points including 11 goals in 52 playoff games.

Of course nowadays Carey Wilson might be better known as Colin Wilson's dad. Colin was a long time Nashville Predator who recently joined the Colorado Avalanche. 

The family tradition continues, only now it is American tradition. Colin was born in Connecticut when Carey was playing in New York with the Rangers. Colin has competed internationally with Team USA.

Carey Wilson, had divided loyalties naturally.

"I could not put anything USA on," Carey said. "But in fondness for my son, I won't wear anything Canadian, either. But I absolutely wanted them to meet at this tournament, but in the gold-medal game."

Legends of Team Canada: James Patrick

This is James Patrick. "Jeep" played in nearly 1300 NHL games, 4 world championships, 2 world juniors, 1 Canada Cup and 1 Olympics, but somehow is one of the most underrated defensemen in the history of the game.

Patrick, who suffered from the digestive disease colitis, was an exceptional talent. He was an excellent skater in every way - speed, agility and power. His skating was amplified by his superior puck handling ability, often rushing the puck. He had a great point shot, always kept low for tips and rebounds.

That is how Patrick picked up most of his points, because he was not an elite passer. He was never great at the perfect breakout pass from his own zone. His instinct was always to skate with the puck. Once he reached the neutral zone he would either dump the puck into the offensive zone, or just drive all the way to the net, whether the defenseman should be or not. He was unlikely to utilize the players ahead of him when rushing the puck.

Though his skating and hockey smarts always placed him in strong defensive positioning, he was often criticized for his defensive play. Despite his good size, he was never a physical presence by any stretch of the imagination. It was not in his demeanor, or in his upper body strength. Still, his skating and balance should have allowed him to be a smart take-out defenseman, but too often players would drive through his checks.

James came from a great Canadian athletic family, but not the family you may expect. He is no relation to Frank and Lester Patrick, hockey's most influential family. He is the son of Steve Patrick, a former CFL star quarterback turned Manitoba politician. James' brother Steve Jr. also played in the NHL, including a short time with James on the Rangers. Nephew Nolan Patrick was a top draft pick in 2017.

James was the Rangers 9th overall draft pick in 1981, selected ahead of the likes of Al MacInnis and Chris Chelios. Patrick was named as the Canadian Tier II junior player of the year that year, leading Prince Albert to the Centennial Cup. But the Rangers would have to be patient with Patrick, who was heading to the University of North Dakota to hone his game and study business administration.

Patrick immediately established himself as one of the best players in the NCAA, winning WCHA Rookie of the Year in 1982. That year North Dakota won the NCAA championships, with Patrick being named as the team's MVP. Patrick would be named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker award as the best college player in the country in 1983.

Patrick would leave North Dakota early. In his magical 1982 season he also discovered international hockey, helping Canada earn it's first World Junior gold medal. He enjoyed that experience so much that he jumped at the opportunity to return. He spent the 1983-84 season playing with Dave King's Canadian national team, earning a spot on the Canadian Olympic team. The Canadians finished just out of the medals in 4th place, but Patrick would credit the experience with readying him for the NHL.

 "The coaches at Notre Dame are Barry McKenzie and Terry O'Malley, who played on Father David Bauer's national teams," Patrick said. "They brought out the Olympic idea to us. I was 16 then, and it's all I've wanted since. Passing up the Rangers just now is no sacrifice, believe me." 

Canada would finish out of the medals, but for Patrick there was no regrets. 

''Sure, there's money in the NHL, but I feel my life is more fulfilled by the Olympic experience,'' he also said. ''I'd rather take $10 a day to play for my country than one year of my NHL salary.'' 

Patrick would finish the season with the Rangers, immediately taking a spot on the power play. He would be a regular on the point for the next decade.

Although he had better offensive years, his best year was in 1987-88. He began the year playing with Canada at the Canada Cup, and finished the year being named as the Rangers best defenseman and team MVP.

In late 1993 the Rangers traded Patrick in a complex three way trade to land Steve Larmer. Patrick would play most of the season with Hartford before being traded again to Calgary where the Flames were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers, meanwhile, won the Stanley Cup, a reward that would prove to be elusive for Patrick.

Patrick would play in Calgary for six years, battling serious knee, neck and concussion injuries. For a time Patrick was reunited with former Olympic coach Dave King, giving him a great vantage point to compare the younger and more experienced versions of the coach.

"He's a little more patient now than he was back then, Patrick said of King, who became coach of the Flames in 1992. "You have to adjust to the NHL when you're dealing with stars and egos and salaries. He still stresses defensive play and likes to teach the players.
"His personality has maybe mellowed a little, (but) not his competitiveness, said Patrick. "When I was with the Olympic team, you didn't know if Dave liked you or not.
"He still likes to teach. I've always felt he was one of the best practice coaches with drills simulated to game conditions.

The Flames would not renew his contract in 1998, and some speculated Patrick's career was done.

The Buffalo Sabres were looking for a veteran presence on their blueline, and signed Patrick up. Neither party probably expected Patrick to play in Buffalo for six seasons, although injuries limited his playing time. Patrick's career highlight came in 1999 when he helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup finals. The Sabres would fall to the Dallas Stars in six games.

In 21 NHL seasons Patrick played in 1280 games, scored 149 goals and 639 points. Patrick finally retired in 2004 and took a spot behind the Sabres bench, coaching the defensemen.

At one time he also held the record for most games played by a Canadian at the World Championships.

Not surprisingly, Patrick felt players should never say no when asked to play for their country.

this game has given them so much. It's given them so much security -- they'll probably be secure for life," he said. "I don't know if they realize that they grew up playing in Canadian minor-hockey leagues, from atom to midget, to Canadian junior leagues. ... I believe they have an obligation to their country, for everything that they've been given. 

For a player with such a great mind for the game, there was never such an obvious transition.

October 10, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Zarley Zalapski

Zarley Zalapski, hockey's ZZ Top, had one of the greatest names in NHL history. He also had all the tools to be a great defensemen.

He was big at 6'1" and 210lbs, and tutored under defensive coach extraordinaire Dave King for three years with the Canadian Olympic team program in the late 1980s, though serious back pain slowed his progress.

Offensively he had uncanny skills that no one can teach. His defensive game improved although he frustrated NHL fans anyway by not imposing his size in a physical enough manner. Zalapski simply did not have the temperament to dominate a game with physicality, and ultimately it hurt his overall game. Too often he got caught playing the puck instead of taking the body.

The key to his game was his skating, as he was a tremendous skater, blessed with speed, power and agility. He always had great instincts as to when to jump into the rush and when not to.

Zalapski was drafted 4th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1986. With his size and skating ability, and with Dave King's influence, expectations were high once Zalapski joined the NHL following the 1988 Olympic games. The Edmonton-born defenseman was so highly thought of even the Oilers could not pry him out of Pittsburgh as part of the big Paul Coffey trade.

Zalapski joined the Canadian team in '85-86 out of Tier Two junior hockey and immediately impressed everyone, especially the Penguins. But he had made the commitment to the Olympic team and to himself to see the project through to the Games. When they drafted him, the Pens knew that and while GM Ed Johnston respected Zalapski's decision, he did make an effort to change his mind.

"The Olympic team helped me get to be a first-round draft choice and the Penguins, I hope, will be my team for a long time.

"I needed a little more time to develop as a person and as a hockey player. I might as well stay here and play against better competition and travel the world."

With youngsters Zalapski and Trent Yawney anchoring the blue line and studs Sean Burke and Andy Moog falling in to place in net, Dave King had a nice nucleus to build around.

The team really came together at the 1987 Izvestia tournament in Moscow where Zalapski, just 18 years old, was named as the top defenseman. Canada upset the heavily favored home side, becoming the first Canadian team to win a game in Russia since 1972.

After that the expectations rose for Team Canada, perhaps unfairly. When team chemistry was disrupted by the parachuting in of some depth NHL players, the team never quite found it's mojo in Calgary and finished in fourth place, just out of the medals.

The next year Zalapski moved on to the NHL. Zalapski was showing signs of achieving his potential after three seasons in Pittsburgh, but he was a key piece of the big trade that brought Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Sameulsson from Hartford. That trade, which saw Zalapski, John Cullen and Jeff Parker go to Hartford, turned out to be terribly lopsided, as the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup the following two years. The Whalers, without their franchise player Francis, lost their soul and soon would move to Carolina.

Zalapski put up solid numbers in his first two seasons in Hartford. In 1991-92 he scored career highs with 20 goals and 57 points. The following year he improved to 65 points, thanks to 14 goals and 51 assists. He was the Whalers' all star game representative in 1993.

Yet all was not right in Hartford. Because the famous trade was so lopsided, and because the team struggled so mightily after Ron Francis' departure, there was a lot of pressure placed on Zalapski. Because of the franchise's troubles maybe he was never really appreciated like he should have been.

Late in the 1993-94 season Zalapski was traded along with James Patrick and Michael Nylander in exchange for Gary Suter, Paul Ranheim and Ted Drury. Zalapski's offense dried up in Calgary. He played solidly enough, but his lack of production was not what Calgary had hoped for. They had acquired Zalapski's point shot knowing that Al MacInnis' days in Calgary were likely to come to an end. When MacInnis left in 1994-95, Zalapski was unable to fill in for the legendary power play point shooter.

A terrible knee injury forced Zalapski to miss all but two games in the 1996-97 season. The resulting surgery took away much of Zalapski's mobility, rendering him a liability at the NHL level. More injuries limited him to just a combined total of 75 games over the next three NHL seasons. By 1999 he was a minor league player struggling to find his game. He was clearly unable to keep up with the speed of the NHL game. He even was being used as a forward at times.

A proud athlete, Zalapski headed to Europe in 2000. Playing for six season in Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria, it was a great move as he was able to find his passion for the game again and enjoy the game once again.

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