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September 10, 2016

Neil Komadoski

Neil Komadoski grew up in frigid Winnipeg in the 1960s. Like so many kids on the Canadian prairies, Komadoski didn't let extreme winter conditions prevent him from playing hockey every chance he could get. He was going to make his dream come true - he was going to play in the National Hockey League.

That dream did come true, but it was probably a lot different than when he was playing in the driveway in the middle of yet another snowstorm.

There was only six teams when Komadoski was a kid. By the time he arrived on the NHL scene, expansion saw the league more than double. There was no way the kid with the frozen feet would ever believe he would play in the NHL, but not with Montreal or Toronto, but in California.
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Komadoski, a noted hipchecker, was drafted 48th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1971. After a year in the minor leagues, he was a regular on the Kings blueline until 1978. He was often paired with Gilles Marotte or Gary Sargeant.

"Bob Pulford was our coach there," he told Paul Patton in the writer's famed Globe and Mail column Where Are They Now? "He was a strict disciplinarian and we were defensive-oriented. We had good goaltending with Rogie Vachon and Gary Edwards and enough scoring with Butch Goring and Marcel Dionne and Juha Widing, and as long as we stuck to his system, we did well.

"We got into the quarter-finals two years in a row against Boston, and though we came up empty both times, they were good series. I remember in the sixth game one year we played them in The Forum and we were trailing 3-1 with about four minutes left and Mike Corrigan scored one goal and Tommy Williams tied it, and then Goring scored the winning goal with just a minute left in the second overtime."

Komadoski knew his role with the team well.

"I knew my job was preventing them, blocking shots and playing the body."

And as such, he was rewarded. Fans in Los Angeles voted Komadoski the team's unsung hero award in 1975-76.

He was traded to St. Louis in 1978 where he rounded out his career. In total he played 502 games, scoring 16 goals and 92 points with 622 penalty minutes.

Komadoski stayed in St. Louis after he hung up his skates. He ended up working in the beer distribution business.

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