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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Fun Facts: Part 1

When writing these blogs, one of my favourite things is finding the bizarre connections that can occur between players featured in a post. It often leads down rabbit holes that can produce content for the introduction that occurs before we get into the player profiles. While this process is fun, it can be aggravating when those connections do not manifest themselves into coherent content.

The result of that lack of coherence this month is my first entry of Fun Facts, appropriately entitled Fun Facts Part 1 of ?:

  • Pat LaFontaine is the only player in NHL history to have the three New York state teams (Sabres, Rangers and Islanders) be the only teams he ever played for in the NHL.

  • Keith Primeau fought his younger brother Wayne during an April 1997 game between Keith's Whalers and Wayne's Sabres.

  • Primeau was twice traded away from teams in exchange for players that would become key players to his former team's success. He was traded to Hartford in exchange for Brendan Shanahan, who would help lead the Wings to three Stanley Cups (97, 98 and 02). Primeau was then shipped to Philadelphia in exchange for Rod Brind'Amour. Brind'Amour would lead the Hurricanes to the Cup Finals in 2002 (against Detroit no less) and their first Cup victory in 2006. Brind'Amour remains with the Hurricanes to this day as their head coach.

  • Mike Liut shares with Richard Brodeur the distinction of being the goalies to allow the most goals to Wayne Gretzky over his career, tied at 29.

  • Steve Larmer owns the sixth longest consecutive games streak in NHL history at 884. The streak lasted from October 6, 1982 to April 15, 1993.

Card 253 - Pat LaFontaine

A centre, LaFontaine was drafted third overall by the New York Islanders in 1983. Born and raised in St. Louis, he played one season of major junior in Verdun, scoring 104 goals and 234 points (the third highest total in QMJHL history) and winning the CHL Player of the Year.

Lafontaine started the 1983-84 season with the US National Team, playing in the 1984 Olympics. He turned pro later in the season, scoring an incredible 13 goals in 15 regular season games. Lafontaine joined the Isles just at the end of their unprecedented dynasty, scoring 9 points in 16 playoff games as the Islanders lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals.

After coming hot out of the gate to start his career, Lafontaine required an adjustment period to the NHL, scoring only 54 and 53 points in his first two full seasons. In 1986-87 he would score 37 goals, a harbinger of things to come over the next six seasons, which included:

  • Scoring 40+ goals each season, including 54 in 1989-90 and 52 in 1992-93;

  • Scoring 100+ points twice, including 148 in 1992-93, good for second in the league;

  • Being named to the second all-star team and a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 1992-93;

  • Twice being named a finalist for the Byng Trophy.

During that above noted stretch, Lafontaine turned down a contract offer from the Islanders and early in the 1991-92 season was traded to Buffalo in a seven-player swap that saw Pierre Turgeon go to Long Island. Coming off a career-season in 1993-94, Lafontaine would suffer a concussion and play only 16 games. He returned in the shortened 1994-95 season, playing in 22 games, scoring 27 points and winning the Masterton Trophy.

Lafontaine had a healthy season in 1995-96, scoring 40 goals and 91 points with the Sabres, but the following season would play in only 13 games due to more concussions. During that season Sabres' team doctors recommended that Lafontaine not return to play due to his concussions; Lafontaine disagreed and a trade to the New York Rangers was arranged, with draft picks and future considerations going to the Sabres in exchange for their captain.

Lafontaine played only one season on Broadway, scoring 23 goals and 62 points in 67 games. In March 1998 he sustained yet another concussion after colliding with a teammate; in October 1999 Lafontaine officially announced his retirement.

In a 15 year NHL career he played in 865 games, scoring 458 goals and 1013 points. Lafontaine played in five all-star games and ranks 16th all-time in points-per-game at 1.17. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

From 2008 to 2012 he coached elite youth hockey in Long Island before joining Buffalo as the president of hockey operations for the 2013-14 season, but lasted only three months before resigning. This was not Lafontaine’s first quick exit from a front office position, as in 2006 he was hired as a senior advisor to the owner of the New York Islanders, but quit after six weeks in protest of the firing of GM Neil Smith.

YouTube clip: Lafontaine’s highlight video from being named one of the NHL’s Top 100 players video. The video includes the quadruple overtime game winner from Game 7 of the 1987 Patrick Division Semi-Finals versus Washington.

Card 254 - Adam Creighton

Creighton, a centre, was drafted 11th overall by Buffalo in 1983. The two seasons following his draft were split between Ottawa in the OHL, winning a Memorial Cup and being named tournament MVP in 1984, and 37 games with the Sabres. Creighton became a full-time pro in 1985-86, splitting the season with Rochester in the AHL and Buffalo.

His second pro season saw Creighton play the majority of the season in the NHL (56 games), scoring 18 goals and 40 points. The following season, Boxing Day 1988 to be precise, he was traded to Chicago straight-up for an aging Rick Vaive. Creighton came into his own in the playoffs with the Hawks, scoring 11 points in 15 games as the team made the Campbell Conference Finals. He followed up his playoff performance by scoring career-highs in goals (34) and points (70) while playing in 80 games in 1990-91.

Early in the 1991-92 season Creighton was traded to the New York Islanders in a four player swap. He lasted 66 games with the Isles before being claimed by Tampa Bay in the 1992 expansion draft. Creighton played two seasons for the Lightning, scoring 19 goals in their inaugural season, before being traded to St. Louis in October 1994. Two seasons in St. Louis and a return to Chicago for the 1996-97 rounded out Creighton’s NHL career.

In a 14 season NHL career that was marked by injuries, Creighton played in 708 games, scoring 187 goals and 403 points. From 1997 to 1999 he played pro hockey in Germany before retiring for good; since 2001 Creighton has been a pro scout with the Boston Bruins.

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner against Montreal during a October 1990 regular season game.

Card 257 - Steve Larmer

A right winger, Larmer was drafted 120th overall by Chicago in the 1980 draft. He played one additional season of junior and one season in the AHL (winning a Calder Cup with New Brunswick) before becoming a full-time NHLer in the 1982-83 season. In his rookie year Larmer scored 43 goals and 90 points, was named to the all-rookie team and won the Calder Trophy. This was also the start of 10 straight seasons playing 80 games or more for Larmer.

Best known for his consistency, Larmer would score a career-high 45 goals in the 1984-85 season. As proof of that consistency, during 13 seasons with the Blackhawks organization, he scored 30+ goals nine times and 80+ points seven times. In 1990-91 Larmer reached new statistical highs, scoring 101 points, finishing third in Selke Trophy voting and fifth in Hart Trophy voting.

An assistant captain from 1989 to 1992, Larmer elevated his game during the playoffs, scoring 45 goals and 111 points in 107 playoff games. The Hawks made five Campbell Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Finals in his time with the team. Early in the 1993-94 season, Larmer was traded to the New York Rangers in a three-way trade with Hartford that saw seven players swapped.

In his first season as a Ranger, Larmer scored 60 points in the regular season, adding 9 goals and 16 points in the playoffs as the Rangers would win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. Larmer would play one final season with New York in 1994-95 before retiring. Over 15 NHL seasons he played in 1006 games, scoring 441 goals and 1012 points. He also played in two all-star games (1990 & 91).

YouTube clip: the rare slapshot penalty shot goal, scored against his long-time team, Chicago, no less:

Card 258 - Keith Primeau

A big centreman, Primeau was drafted third overall by Detroit in 1990. He turned pro immediately, playing 58 games with the Red Wings, scoring 15 points, and spending time in the AHL with Adirondack. Primeau continued splitting time between the two leagues in 1991-92, before breaking into the NHL full-time for the 1992-93 season. His first full NHL season came with an offensive breakthrough, scoring 31 goals and 73 points, along with 173 penalty minutes, a career-high.

Primeau played three more seasons in Detroit before a trade prior to the start of the 1996-97 sent him, Paul Coffey and a first round pick to Hartford for Brendan Shanahan and Brian Glynn. He played one season in Hartford and two in Carolina, scoring 20+ goals each season and making his first all-star game appearance in 1999.

Primeau’s time with the Hurricanes would end during the 1999-2000 season due to a contract dispute followed by a trade to Philadelphia in January 2000 for Rod Brind’Amour and a swap of draft picks. He appeared in 23 games with the Flyers that season, and in his first full season in Philly scored a career-high 34 goals and matched his career high of 73 points. The 2001 playoffs were also memorable, with Primeau scoring 13 points including the quintuple overtime winner against Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The Flyers would ultimately lose in the Conference Finals to New Jersey in seven games.

The following two seasons would see Primeau score only 19 goals per season, and in 2003-04 he appeared in only 54 games, but would play in his second all-star game. In the 2004 playoffs, the Flyers again fall short of the Cup Finals, losing to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games; Primeau led the team in playoff scoring with nine goals and 16 points.

Following the 2004-05 lockout, Primeau played in only nine games in the 2005-06 season before suffering a concussion that led to his eventual retirement due to post concussion syndrome. In 15 NHL seasons, Primeau scored 266 goals and 619 points. He was captain with Carolina in the 1998-99 season, and with Philadelphia from 2001 to his retirement.

Primeau has stayed active in hockey in retirement, working as the director of player development with Las Vegas in the ECHL from 2009-13. Since 2014 he has been involved in high level junior hockey in the United States, working as the president of hockey operations for Youngstown in the USHL and Maryland in the NAHL since 2018.

YouTube clip: scoring the quintuple overtime winner against Pittsburgh in 2000. Bonus clip: fighting his brother Wayne in April 1997 matchup between Hartford and Buffalo

Card 259 - Mike Liut

Goaltender Liut was drafted 56th overall by St. Louis in the 1976 amateur draft. He played two seasons of college hockey with Bowling Green before turning pro with the rival WHA, playing two seasons with the Cincinnati Stingers.

When the WHA folded following the 1978-79 season, Liut joined the Blues and led the league in wins with 32 in his rookie NHL season. For a sophomore follow up, Liut would post a 33-14-13 record, be named a first team all-star, win the Pearson Trophy and finish runner up to Wayne Gretzky for the Hart Trophy.

Life got busier for Liut over the next two seasons, leading the league in games played (64 & 68) as well as minutes. Despite Liut’s individual efforts, the Blues did not taste playoff success, and in February 1985 he was traded to Hartford in a four-player swap that saw the Blues acquire goalie Greg Millen.

Liut continued his stellar play with the Whalers, winning 25+ games each of the next three seasons, and in 1986-87 leading the league in shutouts (4), being named a second team all-star, and finishing runner up by five votes to Ron Hextall for the Vezina Trophy. During the 1988-89 season he played only 35 games for the Whalers, and the following season was traded to Washington for Yvon Corriveau. Despite the mid-season trade, Liut would win 19 games, and lead the league with a 2.53 goals against average and four shutouts. He played his final two NHL seasons as Don Beaupre’s backup with the Capitals, retiring after the 1991-92 season.

In 13 NHL seasons, Liut posted a 293-271-74 record, 3.49 goals against average and .883 save percentage. He played in the 1981 all-star game, winning the game MVP.

From 1995-98 he was an assistant coach with Western Michigan, earning his law degree during that time. He is currently the managing director with Octagon Sports Management, and includes Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Miller and Alexander Georgiev as his clients.

YouTube clip: taking a Glenn Anderson slapper to the side of the head:

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