October 03, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Craig Redmond

Dawson Creek, BC, born Craig Redmond (cousin to 1970s NHL standouts Dick or Mickey) was a very promising offensive defenseman in the the 1984 Entry Draft. So much so that the Los Angeles Kings snapped up the the 5'11" 190lb defenseman with the 6th overall pick, selecting him ahead of the likes of Shayne Corson, Gary Roberts, Doug Bodger and Kevin Hatcher.

Craig resisted jumping to major junior hockey in order to get a chance to earn an all expense paid scholarship from a major US hockey college. After two strong seasons with the BCJHL Abbortsford Flyers, the scholarship offers came pouring in for the 1982-83 season. Redmond finally decided to head to the University of Denver of the WCHA.

Redmond had an incredible rookie season in Denver, turning many heads - especially those of National Hockey League scouts. He had a 16 goals, 38 assists and 54 points in 34 collegiate showdowns. He showed great offensive ability, suggesting to some that he could become one of the elite offensive rearguards down the road.

After the Kings drafted Redmond so high, he decided to put school on the backburner and give a professional hockey career a full shot. He dropped out of school in order to skate with Dave King's Canadian national team. Not only was it a great opportunity because it was an Olympic year, but it was a great chance to improve his game. King was notorious for his defensive hockey, something Redmond was not known for. Redmond and the Kings felt it would best if he apprenticed under King's watchful eye for the year.

Redmond had a decent year and made the Olympic team. He scored twice in 7 games in Sarajevo, but the Canadians failed to medal.

 "I like to play international hockey. So far, I've had a lot more fun playing the international game than I did in the NHL. For some people, it's the be-all. There's nothing wrong with that for them, but so far, I haven't found any satisfaction in playing in the NHL," he said many years later.
Redmond made the jump to the NHL in 1984-85. He had a nice rookie season, scoring 6 goals and 39 points. He was by no means dominant but for a NHL rookie defenseman he was a serviceable player, particularly on a bad Kings team.

But he was small, and, worse yet, had no physical game at all. It was a bad combination for a NHL defenseman.

"There are some teams where you can get away with playing the way I do because you have strong forwards. In L.A., we struggled all around. The way I played didn't fit in with what they needed at all. You can't avoid physical play on defence," he said. "I think if I had to do it all over again, I would try to play forward. With my size and my abilities to handle the puck, I think I would be more successful there.
However Redmond's career would turn downwards in his sophomore season in 1985-86. Craig had a real tough year that year, collecting just 24 points but also struggling defensively, finishing with a bad -34. The LA Kings failed to make the playoffs, and Craig used the opportunity to return to the international game, playing 10 games for Canada in the World Championships.

1986-87 was even worse for Craig. Because of a serious knee injury, Craig only appeared in 16 contests. He looked better in those games than he had in the previous year, scoring 1 goal and 8 points and improving his +/- to -1. However the knee injury took a lot out of Redmond.

1987-88 was a weird year for Craig. Obviously relations between Craig and the Kings had soured. Craig had recovered from his knee injury and started his comeback. But after just two games, the Kings wanted to demote Craig to the minor leagues, which was a move Redmond was not prepared to do. The Monarchs were forced to suspend Redmond when he refused to report to New Haven. Redmond instead demanded a trade.

The trade never came all season long.  He returned to the Canadian national team, in what seemed like a great fit.

"He was just 17 or 18 when we had him the first time. He was a good player for us. I'm very surprised we got him back. I thought he'd played in the NHL on a regular basis," said coach Dave King.

But as the Olympics neared Redmond faced another setback. He was cut from the Olympic team NHL veteran - and 1980 Olympian - Tim Watters was loaned to the Canadian Olympic team. That was the first year the International Olympic Committee allowed pros to join Olympic teams. Canada took the opportunity to bolster it's roster, but it cost other player's their spots, including Redmond.

Craig's trade came in the summer of 1988. He was traded from Los Angeles to Edmonton just two days after the two teams got together to make the biggest trade in NHL history - sending the great Wayne Gretzky to Hollywood. Essentially Redmond was part of the package that came to Edmonton in exchange for Gretzky, even though it took a couple of days later for the two to come to terms. The Oilers agreed to send John Miner, a minor league defensemen, to LA on August 10 1988.

Redmond did play in Edmonton for 21 games in the 1988-89 season, but it was a round about arrival to the Alberta capital. After training camp, the Oilers had to expose Redmond in the pre-season waiver draft, and the New York Rangers quickly grabbed the smooth skater. He was immediately sent to the minor leagues, and he did report. He spent the month of October playing 10 games back in Denver, with the IHL Rangers, and picked up 13 points, all assists.

After the quick start, the Rangers recalled Redmond at the end of the month as an emergency injury replacement, except he never did get into a game. Once the injury situation eased up the Rangers had to put Redmond on waivers again in order for him to go back to Denver. The Oilers took the opportunity to grab him back.

The Oilers, looking for a true offensive defenseman ever since the departure of Paul Coffey, gave Redmond a good look. In 21 games Redmond was given some good power play time, scoring 3 times and adding 10 points. However he was, as always, an adventure at even strength as his -10 attests. The Oilers demoted Redmond to their farm team in Cape Breton for the second half of the year, where Craig played well.

Frustrated with the way his career had been going and the way NHL teams had dismissed him, Craig walked away from the game before the 1989-90 season started. Perhaps looking for some closure, Craig made a comeback 5 years later, spending the 1995-96 season split between the AHL Cape Breton Oilers and the IHL Atlanta Knights.

All said, Craig was a first round draft bust who played in 191 games, scoring 16 goals, 68 assists and 84 points. He got into only 3 playoff games, scoring 1 goal.

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