In an era when the NHL was being dominated by hockey's version of globalization, Adam Graves was the traditional Canadian hockey player.
"He's very physical, he will do anything to get his team geared up," said one NHL coach "He plays the game every inch of that ice. He wants to command, and he commands a lot of respect out there. He's a total player. He's a spark. He's an inspiration. There's an m.v.p. guy, let me tell you. He's just an outstanding player and an outstanding person."
"Adam was always the type of kid you wanted to make it," Colin Campbell, his former coach said. "He is conscientious, nice, hard-working, respectful. And usually those guys don't make it. Adam is the milk-drinker who goes through hell for you."
He plays a rugged, aggressive game of hockey, with a mean streak that enhances his talent and inspires his teammates. He parks his often bruised body in front of the net, especially playing on the power play. Graves is a willing fighter, often known as Mark Messier's bodyguard, both in Edmonton and later New York. Kevin Lowe, team-mate of both in both cities, calls Graves "the sheriff" for his willingness to defend fellow Rangers.
Graves was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings out of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He finished the 1988 season with the Wings after leading the Spitfires to the OHL championship. He split the 1988-89 season with the Wings and their AHL affiliate. He was quickly traded in the beginning of the 1989-90 season in a huge trade. Graves, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy and Jeff Sharples were all moved to Edmonton in exchange for Michigan-born Jimmy Carson and long time Oiler tough guy Kevin McClelland.
Graves filled a similar role to McClelland while in Edmonton, but possessed much promise which never really was tapped in the City of Champions. He played 2 seasons with the Oil, scoring 15 goals in 139 games. He teamed with Martin Gelinas and Joe Murphy to form the Oilers version of the "Kid Line." The trio combined speed and youthful enthusiasm in a supporting role in the Oilers 1990 Stanley Cup Championship.
The New York Rangers plucked Graves away from Edmonton in 1991 via the free agency market. It was in New York that Graves blossomed into a star. He blossomed in 1991-92 to score 26 goals, more than doubling his career total. The next year he improved to 36 goals and by 1993-94 he joined Vic Hadfield as only the second New York Ranger in history to score 50 goals. In fact Graves' 52 goals better Hadfield's then-team record by 2. Graves of course would add 10 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games to help bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Broadway for the first time since 1940.
Graves would have trouble reaching the same plateau again. Playing in pain but rarely missing a game, he became a consistent 20 goal scorer in the years following.
Though not known for using a stick in flagrant ways, one of Graves' most infamous moments involved a stick foul against the Pittsburgh Penguins' star Mario Lemieux in the 1992 playoffs.While killing a Pittsburgh power play, Graves swung his stick and broke a bone in Lemieux's right hand, putting him out of the series. Graves received a suspension that kept him off the ice for the rest of that series, and the Rangers, regular-season champions then, as they are now, were eliminated by the Penguins.
Gravy is also one of the NHL's nicest guys. The 1994 King Clancy Memorial winner, Graves participated in many activities involving under privileged kids in New York.