Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chris Joseph

Chris Joseph's parents must have giggled like Tigger when they named their son Robin Christopher. Well the Winnie the Pooh references end right about there. He went by Chris and soon became the talk of the hockey world.

Joseph was a big, mobile defenseman out of Burnaby, BC who went on to star with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Scouts drooled over him. He was drafted 5th overall by the Penguins in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.

He made his NHL debut for the Penguins during the 1987–88 NHL season but was quickly traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the same season. The deal saw Joseph, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Craig Simpson move to the Oilers with Paul Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp moving to Pittsburgh. Hey, if you have a chance to land Paul Coffey in his prime, you do it even if it costs you a blue chip prospect like Joseph.

Unfortunately there were a lot of high expectations placed on Joseph after that trade. He never met those expectations. That was unfortunate, as the expectations were unrealistic. Joseph might have been replacing Paul Coffey in the minds of many, but Paul Coffey he was not.

After seven seasons as an Oiler, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then soon began a second spell at Pittsburgh. Joseph's vagabond days were really setting in by then. After two seasons though he was claimed off waivers by Vancouver. He then signed with Philadelphia for two seasons before returning to  Vancouver. He also played briefly with the Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers.

In total, Joseph played 510 regular season games, scoring 39 goals with 112 assists for 151 points and collecting 567 penalty minutes. Joseph also played 31 playoff games, scoring 3 goals with 4 assists for 7 points, collecting 24 penalty minutes.

In 2001, he moved to Europe to play in Finland's SM-liiga for TPS, before spending 3 seasons in Germany for the Mannheim Eagles. He also played in Italy for HC Milano before retiring.

Since retiring Joseph became a City of Edmonton Fire Fighter in early 2007. He also remains active in hockey with his own hockey school.

Lowell MacDonald

When Lowell MacDonald finally caught on in the NHL, you couldn't help but feel good for him. His story was one ups and downs. Everyone cheered for him when formed an excellent line with Syl Apps Jr. and Jean Pronovost with the Penguins in the 1970s.

MacDonald, a good scorer but the most complete two way player of the three, had bounced around a lot in his career. The New Glasgow, Nova Scotia resident was Memorial Cup scoring hero in Hamilton while being groomed in the Red Wings system. He later broke into the big leagues with Detroit in the 1960s. 

For three seasons he was a bit of a yo-yo, up and down between Detroit and the farm team ironically located in Pittsburgh. These were still the days of the Original Six when NHL jobs were hard to get. He soon found himself as part of a blockbuster trade with Toronto. The Maple Leafs got him, Marcel Pronovost, Eddie Joyal, Larry Jeffrey and Aut Erickson for Andy Bathgate, Billy Harris and Gary Jarrett on May 20th 1965. While the Leafs would win another Stanley Cup in 1967, MacDonald spent a couple more seasons with Tulsa in the minors, his days in the NHL seemingly fading away fast. 

NHL expansion in 1967 rekindled MacDonald's NHL dream. He was picked up by the Los Angeles Kings and scored 21 goals for them in their inaugural season. But in season two his numbers slipped a bit, and the Kings even had the gall to send him back to the minor leagues, even if it was for only 9 games.

Still the move irked MacDonald, who openly talked about his love of hockey but his dislike of the business.

"I've been booted around a bit more than is right. It's not satisfying when you are being traded from team to team, sent all around two countries. You begin to feel unsettled. And it is a difficult life for a family. I'm a family sort of guy. I want to be with my wife. I want to see my kids grow up and I want to be there to help them when I'm needed. I don't want to keep moving them around and I also don't want them to sit in one place when I'm traded so I'll be apart from them." 

MacDonald, who was known as a studious and literate fellow interested in pursuing post-secondary education, went on to talk about how expansion saved his hockey career.

"Expansion came just in time for me. It was overdue, really. Limiting a major league to six teams and around 120 or so players was unrealistic. Expansion opened up a reasonable number of jobs at the top for players capable of playing at the top. I was on the verge of retiring. And if I can't make it in the majors, I will retire. You simply can't make a satisfactory living in the minors. I have other interests beside hockey. There are other things I can do."

MacDonald would make it in the big leagues, but first he faced a huge test of his love of the game. From 1970 through 1972 he played just 24 games in 3 seasons - 10 in the NHL and 14 in the minors - thanks to a horrific knee injury. He had six operations before the knee was finally fixed.

Somehow MacDonald persevered through that 3 year long ordeal and kept his dream alive. He returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1972-73, switched from right wing to left wing, and exploded for 34 goals and 75 points. He was rewarded for all his years of obstacles by winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy that season.

MacDonald, who also had to overcome a fear of flying with the help of a psychiatrist, proved it was no fluke in subsequent seasons. Playing along centre Syl Apps Jr. and firstly Al McDonough and then Jean Pronovost on right wing, MacDonald seasons of 43 goals (82 points), 27 goals (60 points) and 30 goals (73 points). Coach Ken Schinkel called him the Penguins best all-around player.

Disaster struck MacDonald in 1976 however. MacDonald would miss the vast majority of the next two seasons thanks to a shoulder injury that eventually forced him into retirement.

Lowell MacDonald played in 506 NHL regular season games. He scored 180 goals, 210 assists and 390 points. He added another 11 goals and 22 points in 30 playoff games.

Lowell MacDonald is also the father of Lane MacDonald, the 1989 Hobey Baker winner with Harvard University and 1988 US Olympian. His hockey career came to a crashing halt before he even had a chance to play in the NHL thanks to concussions.

Jean Pronovost

Jean Pronovost was the 11th of 12 children. Older brothers Claude and Marcel also played in the National Hockey League.

Claude was a goaltender who only had a cup of coffee in the NHL. But Marcel was a Hall of Fame defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs dynasties in the 1950s and 1960s. You'd think he'd be young Jean's idol. Well he was, although perhaps for a different reason.

"My idol used to be Gordie Howe," he said. "Because Gordie used to play with my brother Marcel, and he brother Gordie to our home one time. And to meet that man, my eyes were as big as balloons. I idolized that guy."

Jean Pronovost was no slouch either. He played 998 NHL regular season games, scoring 391 goals including 52 in 1975-76 with Pittsburgh.

It was with the Penguins that Pronovost enjoyed his best seasons. He was a nice piece on one of the top lines of the 1970s along side center Syl Apps Jr. and left winger Lowell McDonald.

"All three of us had our own expertise," recalled Pronovost for The Hockey News back in 2007. "Syl was the passer. I was the scorer. Lowell balanced out the line with his defensive expertise."

Despite some personal success in Pittsburgh, the Penguins were going nowhere fast in the 1970s. The losing wore on Pronovost. By 1978 he requested a trade, leaving as the franchise's all time leader in goals and points.

Pronovost was traded to the Atlanta Flames, hardly a contender by any means. Two years later he moved on to Washington, winding down his career with the Capitals.

Pronovost quietly retired in 1981 with 391 goals, 383 assists for 774 career points in 998 NHL games.

Pronovost became a long time coach with McGill University in Montreal, and also spent a few seasons coaching in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He later retired and took a job driving a school bus.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ville Siren

Ville Siren was one of those NHL defensemen that you hardly noticed. He played within his limitations, trying not to be too fancy. Ville was always a solid defenseman positionally. He learned to play hockey in his Finnish hometown of Tampere where hockey always have been popular.

Ville was made a good impression with his steady play at the 1983 World Junior Championships. Scouts liked what they saw in the Finn. Hartford picked him in the 3rd round, 23rd overall in 1983. Ville stayed in Finland and Tampere for a couple of more seasons to get some more experience. He played for Ilves Tampere of the Finnish elite league and also participated in his second World junior tournament in 1984,helping Finland win the Silver medals. In 1985 he played for Finland in the World championships (seniors).

Before he had even played a game in the NHL he was traded to Pittsburgh for Pat Boutette on November 16,1984. Ville's transition to North America wasn't easy. He couldn't speak any English at all except for "Beer" and a few vulgarities. It took Ville about three years in North America before he could communicate in English by himself. Once as a rookie (85-86) he tried to order breakfast on his own, leading to this memorable exchange according to his teammates.

" What would you like ?"


"What kind ?"


As a rookie Ville roomed with veteran Moe Mantha who taught him all the nasty words...he learned quick. Beside the language barrier Ville found the physical play a little overwhelming at first but adapted pretty well to the North American style.

Ville enjoyed 3½ steady but unspectacular seasons in Pittsburgh, scoring 56 points (11+45) in 199 games. In 1987 he played in the Canada Cup for Finland. On December 17,1988 he was traded to Minnesota where he played 1½ season (88-89 and 89-90).

That was it for Ville in the NHL. He returned home to Finland for the 1990-91 season where he played for HPK Hameenlina. He continued to represent Finland internationally (Canada Cup 91, Olympics 92 and World Championships 93). In 1991-92 he played for his initial club, Ilves Tampere and then headed for Sweden where he played three seasons between 1992-95,for Lulea and Vasteras. After the 1994-95 season Ville got a lucrative offer from the Swiss club Bern and went on to play there between 1995-98.

Ville was a 5th or 6th career defenseman in the NHL but could have played a lot more seasons in the league. The European style of hockey suited him better.

Pat Neaton

Pat Neaton was an offensive defenseman who had a fine college career. He briefly played with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neaton played four seasons for University of Michigan (CCHA) between 1989-93. He was a 2nd team All-Star in 1991 and a 1st team All-Star in 1993. He picked up a respectable 127 pts (38+89) in 167 games for Michigan.

Pat was picked by Pittsburgh in the 9th rd.,145th overall in 1990. Pat saw his only NHL action when he played 9 games for Pittsburgh, scoring 2 points including 1 goal. The rest of the time Pat played in the IHL for Cleveland, San Diego and Orlando.

Pat had a descent shot and was often used in powerplay situations.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Troy Loney

Junior hockey fans in Lethbridge were lucky to witness the hardest working line in all of hockey. In the early 1980s the Broncos were led by twins Ron and Rich Sutter and linemate Troy Loney. If there was ever a perfect unofficial triplet to play with the Sutter twins, it was Troy Loney.

The native of Bow Island, Alberta played Sutter-like hockey. He was a big boy at 6'3" and 215lbs and he used his advantage effectively. He routinely patrolled his wing by keeping players honest with hard hits and strong puck pursuits. He played with great desire and it earned him a lot of respect. It also earned him a lengthy NHL career (624 games) and 2 Stanley Cup rings.

Loney was physical, but he wisely played within his limitations. Though he answered the call when needed, he was not a great fighter. He also never mistook himself as a finesse player. True, the Penguins of the early 1990s could score at will, and captain Mario Lemieux could make just about any player look like a goal scorer on any given rush. But Loney's longevity in the NHL was due to his fully understanding his role and excelling at it. He scored only 87 goals in his career.

Loney was a very popular player in the community, too. When the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were stocking their roster they recognized Loney's qualities both on and off the ice, and made him not only an original Duck, but the team's first captain.

Loney also played briefly with the New York Islanders and New York Rangers.

Loney went into the insurance sales business in retirement. 

Rod Buskas

Rod Buskas lasted in the NHL far longer than his skills package suggested he should have been able to.

He was an average skater at best, but with time he made up for that with anticipation born from experience. He never showed up much with the puck, in terms of passing or puckhandling. He did have a heavy slapper from the point, though he rarely scored.

No, Rod Buskas was best suited as a 6th defenseman, eating up some minutes while providing some physicality. He had good size and strength which he used nicely to handle players in front of his net and taking out forwards along the boards.

Rod Buskas played in 556 NHL games, scoring 19 goals, 63 assists and 82 points.

Buskas' other love was flying. He obtained his pilot's license while still playing. In retirement he opened his own flight training school in Nevada.

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