Saturday, 11 February 2012

Hockey Day In Canada

It's a big day in the Great White North as Hockey Day In Canada grips the nation, and all seven Canadian NHL teams are in action today! Having been to one Hockey Day In Canada in my lifetime, I can certainly say that it's an event that captivates fans of all ages as there's a ton of stuff to do. I was lucky enough to be a part of the event in Winkler, Manitoba in 2008 when it was frigidly cold, but the people of Winkler certainly made one feel at home with their warmth that day. From meeting Mr. Mike Bolt, the keeper of the Stanley Cup, and seeing hockey's greatest prize to interacting with the CBC Crew to meeting and speaking to Dustin Penner's mom, the entire day was incredible. This year's Hockey Day In Canada is hosted by Charlottetown and Summerside, Price Edward Island, and I'm entirely confident that the people of PEI will have an incredible time!

What makes today additionally special for me is that it is the first Hockey Day In Canada to have seven Canadian NHL teams playing! The Winnipeg Jets will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins to give Canada's newest team an opportunity to join the fun. In the other games, the Oilers visit the Senators, the Canadiens visit the Maple Leafs, and the Canucks visit the Flames! Seven teams, ten hours of hockey, and a ton of fun from PEI!

In looking at PEI, there are 26 players who have made it to the NHL from Canada's smallest province. Five are still active - the Rangers' Brad Richards, Dallas' Steve Ott, Boston's Adam McQuaid, Toronto's Darryl Boyce, and Winnipeg's Mark Flood. Ironically, there are three former Manitoba Moose players on the list as Mark Flood, defenceman Nathan McIver, and goaltender Drew MacIntyre suited up for the former AHL team during their career. Brad Richards is, by far, the highest scoring PEI-born player to date, but there are some other players who should be noted.

Al MacAdam may not be a very familiar name to hockey fans, but MacAdam was a pretty good player for the Minnesota North Stars in the early-1980s. MacAdam was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1972 out of the University of Prince Edward Island. MacAdam earned himself a Stanley Cup ring with the Flyers despite appearing in only six games with the club. He appeared in Game Six of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final that saw the Flyers win the series over the Bruins 4-2 on a 1-0 victory. Because he appeared in the Final, he earned a Stanley Cup ring, but his name does not appear on the Stanley Cup.

The right winger was dealt to the California Golden Seals in the trade that sent Reggie Leach to the Flyers. He represented the Seals at the 1976 NHL All-Star Game and was named as the last team MVP for the Seals before they moved to Cleveland. He was Cleveland's first NHL All-Star as he continued his strong play in the club's first season on Lake Erie, and he was named the Barons' captain for the 1977-78 season. He remained with the team when the Barons merged with the North Stars, marking his fourth team despite only being associated with two franchises.

In 1980, playing alongside Bobby Smith, MacAdam had his best NHL season as he scored 42 goals and assisted on 51 others. He was nominated for and won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as a member of the North Stars. MacAdam is the only North Star to have won the trophy named for the late Bill Masterton, himself a North Star. MacAdam's career would wind down in 1984, leaving him with 240 goals, 351 assists, and 509 penalty minutes in 864 NHL games. I'd say that's a pretty good career!

If MacAdam was one of PEI's best forwards, we need to find the man who could be considered PEI's best defenceman. Statistically, that man would be Bob Stewart, but it appears that Stewart's career would be defined by another statistic that may lead one to believe that his stats aren't all that spectacular.

Stewart was a rugged defender with the OHA's Oshawa Generals, and this led the Bruins to draft Stewart 13th overall in the 1970 NHL Entry Draft. Stewart was Boston's fourth pick of the first round, though, so he may not have been selected as high as he was had it not been for Boston stocking up on first-round picks. Stewart would only play eight games for the Bruins in his career before Boston traded him, Reggie Leach, and Rick Smith to the California Golden Seals for Carol Vadnais and Don O'Donoghue.

Stewart's career in California was where his defining statistic began. He never scored more than 21 points, but his plus/minus numbers were dreadful to say the least. In 269 games with the Seals, Stewart amassed 69 points and an unfathomable plus/minus of -151. Twice, he cracked the -40 mark - a reflection of simply how bad the Seals were. Stewart went with the franchise when they moved to Cleveland, so there was hope that a new city may bring new opportunity.

Cleveland, however, was no better for Stewart. He played in 145 games with the Barons, notching 30 points with a plus/minus of -56. He was claimed by Minnesota in the Cleveland-Minnesota merger, but was traded the same day to St. Louis for a second-round pick in the 1981 Entry Draft. In just a little more than a season with St. Louis, Stewart saw action in 88 games, scoring 19 points and posting a plus/minus of -29. There was improvement, but St. Louis swapped him to Pittsburgh for Blair Chapman. In 65 games with the Penguins, Stewart scored another 10 points while recording a plus/minus of -27.

Stewart retired after his one season with Pittsburgh in 1980. His career stats of 27 goals and 101 assists in 575 games isn't bad, but it is overshadowed by his career plus/minus of -260. In fact, Stewart's career -260 is the lowest total in NHL history since the NHL began tracking the statistic. I'm not sure that record will ever be broken!

There aren't a lot of netminders from PEI as the only two men to make it to the NHL thus far are Drew MacIntyre and Gary Simmons. Simmons is the clear leader in terms of games played in the NHL, so we'll focus on his career.

Gary Simmons bounced around the minor leagues for a while before landing in the Western Hockey League's Phoenix Roadrunners franchise in 1973. He played one season there before the WHA dropped a franchise into Phoenix, and the WHA Roadrunners decided to sell Simmons to the California Golden Seals on October 1, 1974. Simmons would share the goaltending duties in California with Gilles Meloche while wearing his familiar cobra mask, identifying him every time he stepped on the ice.

Playing alongside Meloche in California, Simmons posted some rather unspectacular stats in the 74 games he appeared in: 25 wins, 40 losses, eight ties, four shutouts, and a 3.50 GAA. The two men packed their bags for Cleveland when the franchise moved, and Simmons only made it through half the season when the Barons dealt him and Jim Moxey to Los Angeles for Gary Edwards and Juha Widing. This platooned him alongside a pretty good goalie in Rogie Vachon, and Simmons wouldn't get the same ice-time he had had while with the Seals/Barons franchise.

Simmons would only play 18 games in two seasons with the Kings. He would play five additional games with the AHL's Springfield Indians, but it was clear that he didn't have the same drive he once did. Simmons would retire having played 107 NHL games, posting a record of 30-57-15 with five shutouts and a 3.56 GAA.

What I find most remarkable about these three players is that they all played together on the Seals and Barons! How remarkable is it that three of the 26 players from PEI ended up playing on the same team at the same time! If the NHL is a close-knit group, this only reinforces that fact!

There are other players such as former Red Wings Gerald Gallant and John Chabot, Canadian World Junior coach Dave Cameron, and longtime Atlanta and Calgary Flame Bob MacMillan that have represented the province of Prince Edward Island well, but the combination of Al MacAdam, Bob Stewart, and Gary Simmons turned out to be a major component of the Seals/Barons franchise! And with players such as Stanley Cup winners Brad Richards and Adam McQuaid continuing to pave the way, Canada's smallest province should remain strong in producing top-notch hockey players in the future!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the California Golden Seals were among the worst in the league, and a 3.5GAA is actually remarkable when they were often facing 70 shots a game.