November 28, 2015

Fred Barrett

Fred Barrett is one of countless players who sacrificed personal goals for the good of the team. Fred concentrated almost solely on playing defensively. As a result few people remember him now.

But if you played against him, chances were you remembered after the game was over. He was a rare throwback to the old days of hockey - a classic defensive defenseman who played very physically but without taking many penalties. He only had 671 PIM in 745 games. That certainly wouldn't qualify him for the Lady Byng trophy, but in the NHL a rough and tumble blueliner who managed to stay out of the penalty box is almost unheard of.

Former NHL coach and GM and long time broadcaster Harry Neale was a fan of Barrett's. He once called him "perhaps the most underrated defenseman in the league."

"You hate to play against him because he must get 10 hits a night," Harry said. This of course was long before the NHL published statistics such as body check counts.

"He defends in the classic way, by taking people right out of the play and, as often as not, it hurts."

Barrett also acquired his fair share of aches and pains.

"I used to get injured a lot myself, probably as a result of playing the body the way I did," said Barrett. It took him 6 years before he played a full season in the NHL without a major injury. In all he only played in three of thirteen seasons where he played more than 70 of 80 games.

He excelled as a defensive rearguard on some bad Minnesota North Star teams in the 1970s and early 1980s. In that time he saw the Stars go from absolutely horrible to a promising team. By the late 1970s the team had acquired an impressive collection of talent and many people expected the team to be the team of 1980s. Aside from a surprising Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1981, the team never fulfilled its destiny.

Fred rounded out his NHL career with 15 games with Los Angeles in 1983-84 when he and Steve Christoff were traded for the crafty Dave Lewis.

Garth MacGuigan

Garth MacGuigan was a versatile utility player. He excelled as a penatly killer and face off specialist and also played left wing. He was a dedicated defensive player who liked to play hard nose hockey.

Born and raised in Charlottetown, Price Edward Island, was the third round draft choice, 50th overall, of the New York Islanders in 1976. The New York Islanders sent MacGuigan to the Muskegon Mohawks, the Islanders farm team in the IHL. MacGuigan played most of the season in Muskegon of the IHL where he played very well, recording 54 goals and 156 PIM en route to being named the top rookie in the IHL.. He finished the season the Isle's farm team the Fort Worth Texans in their playoff run.

MacGuigan was a solid contributor to the Texans Adams Cup Championship seas on 1977-78 and would improve even more the following season. He had a respectful 41 points in the regular season, and 7 more in the playoff. MacGuigan tallied another solid campaign the following year scoring 49 points in the regular season. He also led the league with three hat tricks

MacGuigan went into the 1979/80 season with some major changes. The New York Islanders pulled out of Fort Worth and moved their farm team to the CHL's newest member, the Indianapolis Checkers. MacGuigan spent most of the year in Indianapolis but during the season he got the call up to the Islanders. MacGuigan only played 2 games in an Islanders sweater and only recorded 2 penalty minutes in his efforts. MacGuigan would play in 3 more NHL games 4 seasons later, picking up 1 assist. MacGuigan might have spent more time in the NHL if his rights had belonged to a team other than the talent rich New York Islanders. The New York Islanders went on to win four consecutive Stanley Cups.

MacGuigan finished his career with the Indianapolis Checkers after the Isles made the city their minor league affiliate in 1979. "Mac" enjoyed 6 solid seasons to extend his pro career to 9 full paid seasons before retiring in 1985.

Gary Coalter

Gary Coalter was selected 67th overall in the 1970 Amateur Draft by the New York Rangers. He had played 3 years in Hamilton with the OHA Red Wings. He wasn't a big scorer or a physical player. He relied on his skating ability to do an effective job as a checker and penalty killer.

Despite playing three years in the Rangers minor league system, Coalter was never given a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level. Prior to the 1973-74 season, Gary was traded by the Rangers to the California Golden Seals. Gary spent most of the year with the Seals farm team in Salt Lake, but did make his NHL debut that year, cracking the Seals’ lineup for four games in 1973-74. His call up was a reward for his strong season in the WHL, as he notched a career high 38 goals to go along with 69 points.

Coalter was given his best shot at the NHL in 1974-75. However it wasn't with California, but the Kansas City Scouts, who claimed him in the expansion draft that summer. He appeared in 30 games with the Scouts, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists, while playing the rest of the year in the AHL.

That however proved to be Gary's final appearance in the NHL. He went on to join the Springfield Indians for the 1975-76 campaign and then the NAHL's Maine Nordiques - where he set personal career highs with 54 assists and 85 points in 74 games.

Coalter then played his last two years of pro hockey with the Philadelphia Firebirds of the AHL, hanging up the skates after the 1978-79 season.

Gary's first NHL goal ranks as a personal highlight.

"I actually did score one goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs and that was my hometown. Coming in to play against them and beating them … actually, we beat them in Kansas City. But playing against them was an exciting memory for me."

Gary has been working in the construction industry in the Toronto area after his hockey career.

Gary Edwards

Gary Edwards was the first ever entry draft selection of the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, who opted not to select players in their first year (1967), selected Gary 6th overall in 1968.

Despite such a lofty draft position, Gary's career in St. Louis was short. Though he stayed in the Blues system until the summer of 1971, he only appeared in 8 minutes of action with the Blues. Instead Gary spent most of his time bouncing around the minor leagues. When he did get called up to St. Louis he backed up living legends Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante.

With names like that in goal, its no surprise that things didn't work out for Gary. Thus in the summer of 1971 he was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings, who also acquired Rogie Vachon that summer. Rogie was supposed to be the starter and Gary would back him up. However Rogie hurt his knee that year, and Gary filled in with a young Billy Smith as backup. Gary played admirably despite a 13-23-5 record with 3.60 GAA. He played well enough that upon Rogie's return, the Kings eventually let Smith go to the NY Islanders and would soon become a legend.

Edwards spent 6 more seasons in Los Angeles. He and Rogie provided solid goaltending in some lean years in LA. In fact in 1975 he and Rogie were runners up to Bernie Parent of the Flyers for the Vezina trophy, then awarded to the goalie(s) of the team with the fewest goal against. The Flyers gave up three fewer goals than the Kings that year.

Gary rarely played in the city of Los Angeles, as he was nicknamed "the road goalie" by the media. Rogie and Gary would often split the workload, but Rogie played most of the home games while Gary played on the road.

Gary was traded with Juha Widing to the Cleveland Barons for Gary "Cobra" Simmons and Jim Moxey. Gary played 2 years in Cleveland and accompanied the team's move to Minnesota where he played two more years.

Gary spent his last two seasons bouncing around the NHL, from Edmonton, back to St. Louis and finally Pittsburgh before retiring in 1982.

Gary surrendered over 1000 goals in his career, but is famous for letting three special goals in. He surrendered was Guy Lafleur's first NHL goal, Bobby Orr's last NHL goal, and Wayne Gretzky's 50th goal of his rookie season in 1979-80.

Gary Leeman

The Toronto born Leeman played his junior hockey in Regina as opposed to the OHL. He had a fantastic junior career. He spent one year with the legendary Notre Dame Hounds before graduating to the Regina Pats of the WHL. In two seasons in Regina Leeman established himself as one of the top defensemen in junior hockey. After being drafted by Toronto 24th overall in 1982, Leeman followed that up by being named the top defenseman in the WHL. He was also a top player on Canada's World Junior Championship team.

Many of Toronto's top young defensive prospects were rushed into the NHL in the early 1980s. The likes of Leeman, Jim Benning and Fred Boimistruck were all top junior stars who were small and soft by NHL standards. They were all rushed into the league due to a chronic lack of depth instead of apprenticing in the minor leagues. As a result all relative busts as defensemen.

Leeman was able to save his career when the Leafs moved him up to right wing during the 1985-86 season. While he tried, he simply couldn't handle the necessary physical aspects in a NHL defenseman's job duties. But the Leafs felt that Leeman's explosive speed and agility and his soft hands could be utilized on the wing.

The move paid off for the Leafs and Leeman. It did take some time though. His offensive instincts were obvious - he had great vision to go with his puck skills. But he tended to play the role of a setup man too often. As his career on right wing progressed Leeman learned it was alright for a winger to be a little selfish and take it up on himself to score. And while many converted defensemen make good defensive forwards, but that wasn't the case with Leeman.

Leeman was probably the Leafs most talented player during the 1980s. And it showed as he progressed. He found a a home on the "Hound Line" with fellow Notre Dame Hound graduates Wendel Clark and Russ Courtnall up until 1987. Leeman took his place on the right side of the top line in Toronto along with Ed Olczyk and Mark Osborne. That line had great chemistry and Leeman really took off playing with Eddie O. Leeman put together back to back 30 goal seasons before exploding with a 51 goal, 95 point 1989-90 season.

The Leafs became an exciting offensive team to watch thanks to two great lines, and some good offense from the defensemen. But things fell apart for both the Leafs and Leeman after that year. Leeman suffered through a shoulder injury that kept him out of 25 games in 1990-91, and he struggled to score 17 goals. To make matters worse an off-ice dispute between Leeman and teammate Al Iafrate tore apart the Leafs dressing room.

Although his skill was obvious he was never able to rekindle his success after that. After a slow start in 1991-92 he was part of a huge trade which landed Doug Gilmour in Toronto. Leeman was an absolute bust in Calgary - scoring just 11 goals in two years. He later had unsuccessful stints in Montreal, Vancouver and St. Louis. He ended his career in the minor leagues followed by in Europe.

Gary Leeman was a skating enigma who proved he could be a star in the National Hockey League. Unfortunately injuries and off ice problems ruined a sometimes spectacular, sometimes frustrating hockey career.

Gary Croteau

On the ice Gary Croteau was a blue collar mucker and grinder. Off the ice he was a scholar.

The man they called "Crow" was a workmanlike left winger who played a minor role even on some of the NHL's weakest teams. The 6'0" 200+ lb grinder tirelessly dug, raked and dove for loose pucks like his life depended on it. In addition he excelled in shorthanded opportunities.

Gary took the unconventional route to the National Hockey League. In the late 1960s the Sudbury Ontario native attended St. Lawrence University in Canton NY. That was still during the days where college hockey was not an option for a serious hockey player. However Croteau was a serious hockey player, and a serious student too. He didn't try his hand at pro hockey until he graduated. He continued his education part time while playing, earning his masters degree in guidance counseling at the University of Missouri.

Originally territorial property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Croteau was traded to the Los Angeles Kings before he even had a chance to wear the Blue and White. He played primarily in the minor leagues for his first two pro years, although he got into 14 games with the Kings, scoring 5 goals and 6 points. However late in the 1969-70 season he was dealt to Detroit where he finished the year by playing irregularly in 10 games.

The Wings left Croteau exposed in the intra league draft prior to the 1970-71 season. That turned out to be a good move for Gary as he returned to the Californian sunshine when he was selected by the California Golden Seals. He played as a regular for 4 years in the Bay area before expansion Kansas City Scouts selected him in 1974.

Croteau fell in love with the Missouri City, and even though the franchise relocated to Denver Colorado as the Rockies just 2 years later, Croteau made his off season home in Kansas City, partly due to his enrollment at the University.

Croteau played 4 years in Colorado before calling it quits. Those 4 years were 4 of his best statistically, as he topped the 20 goal mark twice. He also was a solid player for his famous (or maybe that should read infamous) coach Don Cherry.

Croteau worked in real estate in Denver after hanging up the blades.

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