July 11, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Pat Riggin

Pat Riggin followed in his father's footsteps to become a National Hockey League goaltender.

Riggin's father was Dennis Riggin, who stopped pucks for Detroit in the early 1960s. The Riggins joined Sam and Pete LoPresti and Ron and Ron Grahame Jr. as rare father/son NHL goaltending combos.

Pat Riggin could be frustrating goalie to watch. Some nights he was spectacular, other nights he was erratic. Such was the way with a lot of 1980s goalies, it seemed. 

Riggin was a reflex goaltender who tried to adjust his game to the accepted stand-up style of the day. He was theatrical with the big kick save or his quick glove, but it was a good strategy by his coaches to try to get him to adapt as he was one of the best skating goalies at the time. 

When he was hot he was excellent, as good as any goalie in the league if only for fleeting stretches. When he struggled he lost his angles and flopped around too much and left juicy rebounds with too much of the net exposed.

Riggin had a strong junior career with the London Knights. He also had a strong showing at the 1977 Memorial Cup when he was loaned to the Ottawa 67s. Like his father before him (in 1953-54) Pat won the Pinkney Trophy as the top junior goaltender in Ontario in 1977.

The NHL had a 20-year old draft back then, so many top junior stars jumped to the World Hockey Association in order to earn paychecks. Riggin started his career in the World Hockey Association as one of the youngsters on the Birmingham Baby Bulls.

The Atlanta Flames drafted Riggin 33rd overal in 1979. He moved with the franchise to Calgary, playing three full seasons with the Flames. He would never find the consistency at that young age to establish himself as a bonafide number one NHL goalie. The Flames also had too many goalies, with Dan Bouchard and Reggie Lemelin joining Riggin in the crowded crease.

The Flames traded Riggin to Washington in 1982. Riggin is best remembered as a Capitals netminder, playing three full seasons and sharing the Jennings trophy with back up Al Jensen in 1984. Riggin was named to the NHL's second All Star Team that year after setting several single season records for Washington goalies.

Most of those records were quickly bettered by the man Riggin would be traded for early in the 1985-86 season. Riggin was moved to Boston in exchange for goaltender Pete Peeters. Some believe the Capitals were forced to make the move after Riggin criticized American hockey players in general, alienating some of his teammates.The Capitals at the time had the most American players in the league, including key players like Rod Langway, Dave Christian and Bobby Carpenter.

While Peeters was strong upon his debut in Washington, Riggin briefly in Boston before another brief tenure with Pittsburgh.

Riggin retired after the 1987-88 season. In 350 career NHL game he posted a 153-120-52 record with 15 shutouts.

No comments: