August 26, 2015

Tony Feltrin

The beautiful Vancouver Island town of Ladysmith is known for two things. It is a beautiful, quiet seaside community right on the 49th parallel, full of antique shops and coffee houses popular with tourists and retirees. And it is the birthplace of Pamela Anderson.

It is not known for hockey. There is no rink in this community of 7,000 people. And there is no chance of an outdoor rink in this mild part of Canada. Hockey players in Ladysmith usually travel
north to the nearby bustling town of Nanaimo.

That being said, it probably comes as no surprise that Ladysmith has only had one local player make it all the way to the National Hockey League. That player was a solid hitting defenseman named Tony Feltrin.

Feltrin did play his hockey in Nanaimo, playing for the famed BCJHL junior Clippers team before moving further down the Island to the BC capital city of Victoria in 1978. There, playing with Pamela Anderson's good friend and future NHLer Geoff Courtnall for a time, Feltrin helped the WHL Cougars advance to the Memorial Cup in 1981. Unfortunately the Cougars were eliminated in the tournament by the Kitchener Rangers.

The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted the six-foot-one, 185 pound defenseman with the 72nd overall draft pick in the 1980 NHL draft. He would go on to play a total of 38 games with the Penguins over three seasons. His best stretch was in 1982-83 when he played 32 games, contributing three goals and six points.

Feltrin would play exclusively in the minor leagues after that, and was not offered a contract in the summer of 1985. The New York Rangers signed him for the 1985-86 season. He played in 10 more NHL games but seemed destined to the minor leagues again.

Tragedy struck on New Year's Eve, 1985. Feltrin would suffer an eye injury that would force him off the ice for good. Jeff Larmer's stick inadvertently got in Feltrin's right eye, tearing the retina in two places. He underwent surgery in order to save the eye itself, but he had to live with patches on both eyes to remain in total darkness for seven days.

His career was over just like that. He was able to see again, but never got doctor's clearance to play again.

Feltrin would go on to be a long time scout for the Rangers and later the New York Islanders. He was said to be instrumental in 1991 in convicing the Rangers making Alexei Kovalev the first Russian player ever drafted in the first round of the NHL draft.

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