November 29, 2015

Doug Palazzari

When The Hockey News named Doug Palazzari the greatest player in CHL history, many people said Doug who? A lot of fans probably never even heard of the old Central Hockey League.

In their 1997 50th anniversary issue, THN named the 6 year CHLer as the best, saying "Palazzari of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles led the league in goals, assists and points twice and was named the MVP both times." Palazarri had 430 points in 315 CHL games, including 185 goals.

Doug, born in Minnesota in 1952, is the son of Aldo Palazzari who played for the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers of the NHL. Following in his father's footsteps, Doug attended college playing for four years for Colorado College of the W.C.H.A.. Doug was chosen twice as a First Team All-star, First Team (Western) All-American, and named M.V.P. in the W.H.C.A.. Doug finished his college hockey career playing in 113 games, scoring 89 goals, 127 assists, for a total of 216 points.

Doug's fine play in college was rewarded when he received a contract offer from the St. Louis Blues in August of 1974.

Doug, who was only 5' 5" tall and 170 lbs, made a memorable NHL debut. In his first game with St. Louis Blues, he scored two goals against the California Golden Seals. Despite his impressive early showing, Doug's play was downgraded to mainly a penalty killing role with St. Louis. A feisty player who would constantly harass the opposition, it was feared that Doug was too small to excel in any other capacity at the NHL. In Doug's rookie season he played in 73 games and scored 14 goals, 17 assists for a respectful total of 31 points.

Doug missed the start of the 1975-76 season with a shoulder separation which required surgery. When Doug recovered from his injury, he was sent down to St. Louis's farm club the Providence Reds of the A.H.L.. While playing in Providence, Doug put up some decent numbers, playing in 55 games, scoring 19 goals, 32 assists, for 51 points.

The following season, 1976-77, Doug played a few games with the St. Louis Blues, but most of the season with St. Louis' new farm team in the Central Hockey League, the Kansas City Blues. Doug's first season in the CHL was one he'd like to forget. After an impressive 52 points in 41 games, his season came to a halting stop when he caught a teammates skate in the mouth during a practice. Doug lost 11 teeth and shattered his jaw in six places. His mouth was also wired shut for eight weeks. Doug nearly retired after that horrific accident.

Although he gave retirement some serious thought, Doug still had the itch to play. Doug agreed to return to the ice and even played three games with St. Louis before they sent him to their newest farm team, the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles. The Utah city would soon fall in love with Doug Palazzari.

Doug was not hard to spot on the ice as he wore a cage on his helmet similar to what goalies use for masks sometimes (a la Dominik Hasek or Chris Osgood). The cage was worn to protect him from any future injuries to the face. Although you might think a cage like that would hamper a player's vision, the cage did not effect Doug's playing abilities. He went on to set records that were never broken in CHL history. Doug became the first player in to win all three major CHL scoring titles in a season. He was also the first American-born player to win the Tommy Ivan Trophy, which is awarded to the leagues Most Valuable Player. In addition he was selected for the First Team All-Star team.

Doug split the 1978-79 season with St. Louis and Salt Lake. In St. Louis he played in 20 games, scoring 2 goals and 5 points. In Salt Lake he was 14th in league scoring despite playing in just 35 games. In that time he had 24 goals and 56 points.

The 1979-80 season was the best professional season of Doug's career, unless you count his rookie year where he played entirely in the NHL. Doug played the entire season in Salt Lake and they absolutely dominated the league. The Eagles won the regular season title setting a new record of 49 wins. Doug again won all three major scoring titles, (48 goals, 61 assists, 109 points) as well as the Tommy Ivan Award (MVP award). He was again named to the C.H.L. First Team All-Star team. The Eagles fulfilled their destiny and won the Adams Cup championship.

Doug missed most of the 1980-81 season due to shoulder surgery in December. He only played in 27 games, scoring 16 goals and 37 points. However Doug returned in time for the playoffs and Doug's 7 goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games led the Eagles won the Adams Cup Championship.

Shortly after the 1981-82 season began, Doug re-injured his shoulder. Doug only missed a few games that year, and while he continued to play well, he was never quite the dominant player in the CHL that he once was. He had 75 points in 68 games that season

That season proved to be Doug's last professional hockey season. However he continued on in the hockey world after retiring as a player. He moved into the front office as PR director of the Golden Eagles. He later became assistant coach at Colorado College and later served as USA Hockey Senior Director of Youth and Education Programs and as a member of USA hockey national staff since 1991.

In the year 2000 Palazarri was recognized for all of his contributions to hockey at both the professional and amateur levels in the United States when he was enshrined in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

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