April 28, 2016

Jason Arnott

The son of a mechanic, Arnott was born in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, then a town of about 1,200 people located two hours north of Toronto on Georgian Bay. Arnott grew up there with a love of fishing and hunting.

And, of course, hockey.

He would grow up as the most dominant hockey player in his youth, but in many ways played in the shadows of others once he arrived in junior and in the pros.

As a junior Arnott played in the shadows of teammate Eric Lindros. When Lindros left, Arnott was left behind as the Oshawa Generals big man, both in terms of physicality and importance.  At 6-foot-4, 225-pounds Arnott spent the rest of his career trying to live up to those expectations.

"When you get expectations put on you at a young age, that can be tough,'' Arnott said. "I've been fortunate to have a great supporting cast over the years, so even when I've been down, they've been there to pick me up. I've learned from a lot of great players and hopefully I can pass that on.''

After being drafted seventh overall in 1993, Arnott burst into the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers with a team leading 33 goals and impressive 68-point rookie season.

But Edmonton had just recently lost Mark Messier, and the glimpses of greatness fans saw in Arnott would haunt him. He was being billed as a young Messier thanks to a combination of size, speed and offense.

But Arnott - or anyone else - was never going to adequately replace Messier, no matter how badly anyone wanted it. But everyone always wanted more from Arnott.

Early in 1998 the inevitable happened when the Oilers traded a struggling Arnott, along with Bryan Muir, to New Jersey for Valeri Zelepukin and Bill Guerin.

It turned out to be a very good thing for Arnott and the Devils. He centered an awesome line with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, culminating in June of 2000, when Arnott scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal in double overtime of Game 6 in Dallas.

"He's a different player than he was in Edmonton, where he'd skate around 1,000 mph and never accomplish as much as you thought he should," observed coach Ken Hitchcock. "Now he plays a much stronger positional game. For the most part, he reads and reacts, lets the game come to him. But when he asserts himself, 'Look out.' He's that dominant."

"To me, Jason was a victim of the system we had in this League," Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. "There was too much pressure on him to succeed right out of the draft. When he came to New Jersey, he was one-dimensional -- all offense. He learned how to be a well-rounded player with the Devils and learned how to win.

Arnott would move on to apply his harnessed skills and emerging leadership qualities to become a very solid player in extended stays in Dallas and Nashville. He ended his career with another brief stop in New Jersey as well as Washington and St. Louis.

Arnott retired after 18 seasons in the NHL, having scored 417 goals and 938 points in 1,244 games

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