November 07, 2006

Good Goal Kid, Now Get Out Of Here

You will have to excuse Dallas Stars rookie Louie Eriksson for breathing a sigh of relief after the NHL’s opening night.

Eriksson was a “bubble player” during training camp. The rookie had played well enough to stick with the Stars for game one, but rumours persisted that he would be sent down to the farm team should he not get off to a good start.

Eriksson must have expected he had bought himself a little slack when it came to sticking in the big leagues. Eriksson did about all you could a coach could ask for that night. He scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.

However it was not enough. The next day he was banished to the AHL’s Iowa Stars.

Good goal kid. Now get out of here.

Eriksson is a strong prospect, drafted 33rd overall back in 2003. With his speed he should be a good candidate for an NHL future, and no doubt he will get another chance in the NHL, quite possibly this season.

But there is also a slim chance he will never play in the big leagues again. If that is the case, he’d become the 4th player in National Hockey League history to score a goal in his only NHL game, and then be demoted and never to be heard from again.

The other three players are Brad Fast, Rolly Huard and Dean Morton.

Now Fast still has a chance to remedy his status. The 6’0” 195lb Michigan State grad was drafted by Carolina 84th overall in 1999. Upon graduation he turned pro and was assigned to the Hurricane’s AHL affiliate in Lowell. A late season call-up in 2003-04, the defenseman’s wrist shot beat Florida’s Roberto Luongo in a 6-6 tie. He played a solid 21 minutes in that game, and record 4 shots in total.

Despite the decent showing and the scoring of a goal, Fast has yet to get another chance to play in the NHL. Obviously the lost season of 2004-05 didn’t help, but he never got a sniff in 2005-06, then toiling in the Los Angeles Kings organization. While Fast is only 26 and hopes to one day return to the NHL, he could not find a NHL organization for the current season. He signed with Langnau, a Swiss A-division team, in late August.

It is a similar story for Dean Morton, a tough defender with the late 1980s Oshawa Generals that advanced to the Memorial Cup in 1987. He turned pro in 1988 and joined the Red Wings' minor-league affiliate in Adirondack for two years. He was recalled to the Red Wings for his first taste of the NHL in the 1989-90 season. Playing along side childhood friend Steve Chaisson, the rookie scored, but was soon returned to the minors. His career quickly unwrapped, as he ended up as an independent player bouncing around several minor league teams and leagues.

Dean Morton did return to the NHL though. After working in the family deli and in the auto parts industry, Morton was approached about becoming a referee in 1999. He has spent most of his time back in the minor leagues, but has been called up to officiate 38 regular season games prior to the current season.

The one player who must have appreciated Dean Morton’s status was Rolly Huard. For the 60 years Huard was the only NHL player to score a goal in his only NHL game.

The long time senior and semi-pro player in the southern Ontario/northern New York state area got his only shot at the NHL on December 14, 1930. Huard was loaned to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Buffalo Bisons of the Can-Pro league as an emergency injury replacement. The Leafs were not totally sure what to expect from the 5'10" 170lb center. They had hoped he could come in and take a regular shift but otherwise didn't expect much from Huard, who was to be returned to the Bisons immediately following the game. Huard however proved to be a valuable addition as he scored a goal that night!

Huard returned to Buffalo as promised and continued to play semi-pro hockey before turning to coaching some 5 years later.

Seeing as that there a total of about 300 players who played in only one NHL game in the career, Fast, Morton and Huard certainly have a lot to be proud of.

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