July 12, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Pat Falloon

The 1991 NHL Entry Draft was an exciting time.

Not only was it grabbing all the headlines because of the controversial arrival of generational talent Eric Lindros, but it was also the first draft of the NHL's newest expansion team - the San Jose Sharks.

With the second overall pick, the Sharks selected Pat Falloon from the WHL's Spokane Chiefs. The native of Foxwarren, Manitoba had just come off back-to-back sixty goal seasons in the WHL. He and future Sharks teammate Ray Whitney were fantastic together in Spokane. They led the Chiefs to the 1991 Memorial Cup, with Falloon being named as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

There is always extra pressure for the first player ever drafted by a brand new team. The pressure is immense as the sudden face of the franchise and the darling of the marketing department.

As Falloon soon found out, the pressure grows as the team flounders. Expansion teams often do flounder, and San Jose did it extra well.

Falloon also found out that the pressure grows even more as other top picks passed over by the Sharks emerge as superstars, such as Scott Niedermayer at number three and Peter Forsberg at number six.

Falloon was such a highly regarded junior player because of his excellent skating. He had great acceleration, balance and agility.

Falloon, a center in junior but usually used as a right winger in the NHL, was an opportunistic scorer, using his speed around the net to dart around the slot. Though he was not a physical player per se, he used his stocky build and intelligent quickness to battle in front and pounce on loose rebounds.

The problem for Falloon was that in San Jose's disastrous early years, he was too often the only player with any offensive pedigree. Since he was so young when he was brought into the league, he never had a chance to develop while being sheltered from the other team's top checkers. Right off the bat he had to produce against the best.

Falloon had some decent seasons, scoring 22 or more goals in each of his first full three NHL seasons (with injuries and the 1994-95 lockout interfering in two other seasons. But he never did get the breakout year that was expected when he was drafted second overall.

The Sharks and Falloon parted early in the 1995-96 season when he was traded to Philadelphia, where he once helped the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup final. Soon enough he found himself moving quickly from the Flyers to Ottawa to Edmonton to Pittsburgh and then right out of the league to Switzerland.

"There were certainly some ups and downs in my career," he says. "I would have liked to have won a Stanley Cup. The closest I got was when we got to the finals in Philadelphia. Other than that it was great times. I enjoyed every minute of playing in the NHL. I feel lucky to have played that many years and that many games in the best league in the world." 

Falloon ended up playing in a total of 575 NHL games (143 goals, 179 assists and 312 points).

"I think it was a good career," Falloon said. "I don't know if I would have done anything different. It was great, I enjoyed it."

He later added, "the only disappointment I had is my career was maybe cut short a little bit."

He headed back to Manitoba to work on the family farm, growing wheat, barley, oats, canola and peas.

"I enjoy myself here," he said.

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