April 01, 2016

Todd Strueby

Grew up in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League like his idols Bobby Clarke and Derek Sanderson.

Lanigan is a small town more than hour east of Saskatoon. There's not a lot to do there other than play hockey on the countless natural sheets of ice nearby. Bobby Baun, Brian Propp and Sheldon and Wade Brookbank all grew up in the railway town that now thrives on a nearby potash mine.

Strueby, too, would make it to the National Hockey League, albeit for only five games. He was a strapping winger with the Saskatoon Blades, blessed with speed. He was tough, too.

The Edmonton Oilers made him the 29th overall draft choice in 1981. But it was not a happy relationship. Strueby had trouble adjusting to the pro game and was guilty of being impatient himself.

"I wish I had been more prepared mentally when I started my career. I was immature and not mentally tough enough for the transition from junior to professional hockey. I wouldn't change any of the experiences or friends I have gained through my career. But, looking back I had a couple of hard years dealing with the transition."

He added "I had no style, I found it hard to find a niche. In junior I was a scorer, physical but in pro I didn't know any more. No matter how tough you are, there's someone tougher.

"I just wanted to play."

Despite his brief and rocky tenure in the NHL, playing in Edmonton was a highlight.

"I was very, very fortunate to play a few games in Edmonton while they had that awesome dynasty team in the early 1980's. To be able to say that I played with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Andy Moog, Grant Fuhr, Randy Gregg,etc. etc. etc. is almost unbelievable."

After being assigned to the minor leagues out of training camp in, an unhappy Strueby held out and demanded to be traded. It would take two months before the Oilers packaged him and Larry Melnyk to the New York Rangers in exchange for Mike Rogers.

Strueby never played for the Rangers or any other National Hockey League team. He would play a number of years in the minor leagues before committing to the Canadian national team for several seasons.

Some of Strueby's best memories occurred after outside of the NHL and junior.

While in Muskegon in the IHL we won the Turner Cup once and were in the Finals two other years. While I was with Team Canada I had the opportunity to play in the Izvestia tournament three times in Moscow. I played in the World Universiade in Japan where we won the Gold and I was also a member of the 1982 Junior Team Canada that won the Gold," he told Kathleen Hunt at the Professional Hockey Players' Association's website.

Playing for Dave King and the Canadian national team was also a great memory.

He made the Canadian national team by calling the coach, Dave King, for a tryout. "I worked hard and it was a great experience," Todd said. “Kinger is still one of the best coaches all-around in the world. He once told me that you should challenge yourself every day to be a better person and of course for him that challenge was for his players to be better people both on and off the ice."

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