May 04, 2016

Shane Churla

Shane Churla was the ultimate team player.

Churla - a cousin of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien - always stood up for his teammates and did it well. His eleven NHL seasons were not the most glamorous but his services were always in demand.

If it hadn't been for a Medicine Hat scout then Shane might not have played in the NHL at all. Shane was just ready to hang up his skates as a teenager when a scout for the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers showed interest in the feisty Shane.

Shane immediately understood that his ticket to pro hockey was to play physical hockey. He played very well along the boards digging up pucks for his teammates.

And NHL scouts liked what they saw. Hartford picked him as their fourth choice (110th overall) in 1985 Shane split his time between the minors and the NHL the first couple of years and was a willing fighter all the time.

On one occasion back in 1986 Shane even went into the crowd to fight during an AHL game. That action cost him a suspension, but it didn't slow Shane down. His first fight in the NHL was against Dean Kennedy of Los Angeles. The green Shane didn't have a chance against the big Kennedy, but he soon learned the tricks.

After having been in Hartford and Calgary he settled down in Minnesota for many years. The team eventually relocated to Dallas. Shane didn't change his playing style although guys around him got bigger and bigger.

Shane explained his situation.

" I don't see myself as a heavyweight, but I'm not afraid of anyone. I never back down. When I first came to the league it was pretty wild. I was throwing haymakers, sometimes I connected but I got caught a lot to. Good reach and good size are important factors in a fight, I don't have anything of that. Not that I'm small, but I don't have much of a reach, that's why I try to fight from the inside."

When Shane left Dallas early in 1996 he went on to play a couple of games for Los Angeles before coming to New York and the Rangers. Late in the 1996-97 season Shane suffered a serious knee injury that kept him out for the entire 1997-98 season. His knee never did return to 100 % so he decided to take his doctor's advice and retire.

Shane wasn't the most talented player around but few worked harder for their spot in the big league.

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