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August 03, 2009

Glen Wesley

This is Glen Wesley, lifting the Stanley Cup over his head back in 2006.

Wesley was a quiet, underrated NHL defenseman for 20 seasons in the NHL. He is perhaps the most popular player in Carolina Hurricanes history.

Showing poise beyond his years, Wesley broke into the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 1987-88. He jumped straight out of junior hockey with the WHL Portland Winterhawks after being drafted 3rd overall in the NHL entry draft. The Bruins acquired that draft choice along with a young Cam Neely from Vancouver. Wesley, had been named the WHL western conference defenseman of the year in each of his last two seasons of junior, sure would have looked good in Vancouver.

The Bruins did not hesitate to included him in their line up. After all, the great Raymond Bourque was in his prime, and would serve as a great mentor. Wesley had an amazing rookie year, being named to the All Rookie team after a season of 7 goals and 37 points. He was an absolute standout in his very first Stanley Cup playoffs that spring. He scored 6 goals and 14 points in leading the Bruins all the way to the finals against eventual winners Edmonton.

The Red Deer native exploded for 19 goals and 54 points in his second season, but somehow there was always this sense that he was being shoe-horned into an offensive role that he really was not suited for. He was an amazing skater and a gifted breakout passer, but for the most part he was just really good at most aspects of the game - but not elite. His offensive totals were inflated somewhat by playing alongside Bourque, especially on the power play.

That is no knock by any means. The Bruins realized this and cut back on his offensive play time and let him evolve into a truly multi-dimensional defenseman. He was the consummate professional - smart, positional defender that was hard to sneak by even though he did not punish anyone physically, and good at headmanning the attack or even joining it at the right times. He rarely made mistakes.

Wesley was traded by the money-tight Bruins in the summer of 1994. The Hartford Whalers, seeking a veteran to guide newcomer Chris Pronger, made an offer that was just too good for the Bruins to pass up - first round picks in 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Johnathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov).

Interestingly, even though the Bruins draft NHL players with the picks, they went into a tailspin without Wesley. Bourque was getting past his prime and without Wesley the Bruins never really had the same depth on the blue line to help him out.

Wesley in the mean time went on to become one of the most respected players in Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes history. He was never a standout and sometimes miscasted as a number one defenseman, but fans and especially coaches appreciated his steadying influence and consistent performance night in and night out.

He would play 13 seasons with the franchises, interrupted only by a playoff rental stint with Toronto in 2003.

The highlight of his career was definitely in 2006 when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. Wesley had been fighting for the silver chalice for nearly 2 decades by that point. After getting so close in both his first and third years in the league with Boston, and again in 2002 with the 'Canes, Wesley must have thought the day would never come.

Wesley retired in 2008, with the franchise retiring his jersey number early the following season. He remains in Carolina and helps the with the Hurricanes defensmen though not as a full time coach.

He has played in 1,410 career NHL games with the Bruins, Whalers/Hurricanes and Maple Leafs, scoring 128 goals and 404 assists for 532 points. He has also scored 53 points in 169 career playoff games.

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