Thursday, August 22, 2013

Danton Cole

The Winnipeg Jets drafted Danton in 1985 with their 6th choice, 123rd overall. At the time Cole had just graduated high school and was headed to play university hockey, so the Jets knew it would be a while before he would ever crack a professional lineup. Cole played admirably for the Michigan State Spartans for 4 years (1985-89). He scored 69 goals and 163 points in 180 games. He was the team's scoring leader in both his junior and senior years.

Attending university can be either good or bad as far as pursuing NHL opportunities later on. While the player has more time to develop his skills and mature as both a hockey player and a person, you also turn pro relatively late, often at the age of 23 or 24. At that age you don't have a whole lot of time to prove you can play at the NHL level before you get labeled.

Perhaps that is exactly what happened to Danton. After learning the pro game with a solid rookie season in the AHL, Cole played parts of 2 seasons with the Jets. For the most part Cole was used as a 4th line checker despite his background as a goal scorer. Cole became labeled as an expendable winger.

The Jets dumped Cole on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 1992. It was a good move for Danton as he had the opportunity to play with the expansion franchise. He responded reasonably well, even recording a 20 goal season in 1993-94.

Cole became somewhat of a hockey ping-pong ball after that season. Traded in the next season to New Jersey, he became a spare part there to finish the season. He signed as a free agent with the New york Islanders in 1995 but spent most of his time in the minors before being traded to Chicago, where he also spent of his time in the minors. He only played 10 games for NY, and 2 for Chicago.

The minors became Cole's permanent home after his 2 game sniff in the Windy City. He also spent part of a season in Germany.

A good skater, Cole is a good example of how a scoring prospect doesn't always translate in the NHL. A good scorer in college, he had trouble performing where the pace was quicker, the hits were harder and the play was just better. While he played in excess of 300 games, he was pretty much an expendable 3rd or 4th line winger who benefited from 1990s expansion.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ron Loustel

This is Ron Loustel. He played only one game in the NHL, and as a result of that one game he holds an unkind distinction in NHL history.

Loustel made 41 saves in his only NHL game. Unfortunately the Vancouver Canucks took 51 shots that night. Yep. The Canucks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 10-2 on March 27th, 1981.

As a result Loustel, who 20 days earlier had just turned 19, holds the record for the highest goals against average of all time among goalies who played only one full game! That's right - he never played in the NHL again.

Loustel was just a junior fill in from Saskatoon. He returned to the Blades for 2 seasons and played with the Brandon Wheat Kings for another season after that. He would only go on to play two more professional games ever before hanging up the pads for good.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Don Spring

At first glance you'd have to think defensive defenseman Don Spring had at least one NHL scoring record - highest scoring player born in Venezuela. His birthplace certainly stands out first and foremost, but Rick Chartraw was also born in the South American country. Chartraw would play significantly more games and that allowed him to pick up more points.

Spring was born in Venezuela because his Canadian father was working there as an engineer. When Don was four years old the family returned to northern Alberta. He was the star athlete - on the ice as well as the volleyball court and swimming pool - in the small town of Edson.

Spring was never on the NHL radar until 1980. He had been playing with the University of Alberta Golden Bears while earning a bachelor of commerce degree. But he left school in 1979 to try out with Father Bauer's Canadian national team. Spring was drawn to the program by Bauer and by the fact that it was an Olympic season.

The steady defender ended up making the Canadian Olympic team that competed at Lake Placid in 1980. He only picked up an assist, but he also picked up the interest of the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets would sign Spring to a free agent contract right after the Olympics.

Spring would play four solid seasons in Winnipeg, scoring just 1 goal and 55 points in a career that lasted 259 NHL games. He would also play a season of professional hockey in Germany before hanging up the blades in 1985.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Teppo Numminen


Despite 20-plus seasons in the NHL and a storied international career somehow Teppo Numminen always remained one of the NHL's best kept secrets.

The underrated defenseman - best known for playing with Winnipeg/Phoenix - was a low-maintenance, high-efficiency defenceman who provided steady hockey night in and night out.

But he never wanted the spotlight.

“I'm just who I am and I just play. That's about it,” said the unassuming Numminen. “It’s tough to evaluate yourself. I just do my job and hopefully do a good job. What keeps me going? Maybe the way I play. I work hard and I keep in shape in the off-season. Not much more than that.”

Teppo Numminen always had hockey in his blood.

His father coached Finland’s Olympic team in 1980 in Lake Placid. Numminen, who as a kid grew up skating with the national team, always said the game when the Americans defeated Finland to clinch the Olympic gold medal as the game that had the biggest impact on his life.

Eight years later, Numminen was playing on the national team for real and was participating in his own Olympics. He was a key part of a team that won a silver medal for Finland’s first Olympic hockey medal in 1988 in Calgary - arguably the greatest moment in Finnish hockey at that point in history.

A member of the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, Numminen would go on to play in four Olympics (winning three medals), four IIHF World Championships, and another four Canada Cup/World Cup events.

Numminen was drafted 29th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1986.  By the time he retired, in 2009, he had played 1,372 regular-season games in the NHL, more than any other European player.

The square-jawed reliable positional defender who always played against the team's top forwards. He had the skating skills, the strength and the hockey sense to excel as a defensive stalwart. His offensive game was very much underrated. He never put up spectacular numbers but for much of his career he was a fixture on the power play. He was a minute munching stalwart who every coach in the league wished they had on their team.

Numminen seemingly was forced off the ice in 2007 thanks to emergency heart surgery to repair a faulty valve. He finally got doctor's clearance to play hockey in time for the final game of the 2007-08 season. He called that game "the most important game of my life, and I'll never forget it.

In 2013 Teppo Numminen joined his father Kalevi as the first father-son inductee in IIHF Hall of Fame history.

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