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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Like father, like son - NHL family affairs

One of the benefits of over 100 years of NHL hockey is that there are almost four generations of pro hockey players, meaning there are lots of family connections when examining people who have played the game. Everyone is familiar with the story of the Sutter family; six brothers who played in the NHL during the 80s and 90s, and now with six second generation players, three of which have played in the NHL.

When examining players from the 1990s, there are many instances where those players' sons are now involved in the professional game, either as long established NHLers, or youngsters at the start of their career.

Below are 10 father-duos (or trios) that have played over 1000 combined NHL games, counting only the father's 1990s NHL experience and the son(s)' total NHL experience. Two of the father portions of those duos (Dave Gagner and Thomas Steen) are featured in this post:

  1. Foligno (Mike and Nick & Marcus): 1758 games, 758 points.

  2. Gagner (Dave and Sam): 1547 games, 991 points.

  3. Steen (Thomas and Alex): 1354 combined games, 931 points.

  4. Stastny (Peter and Paul & Yan): 1320 games, 951 points.

  5. Sutter (Brent and Brandon): 1270 combined games, 571 points.

  6. Murphy (Gord and Connor): 1164 combined games, 341 points.

  7. Manson (Dave and Josh): 1135 combined games, 383 points.

  8. Tkachuk (Keith and Matthew & Brady): 1122 games, 952 points.

  9. Lowry (Dave and Adam): 1086 games, 357 points.

  10. Domi (Tie and Max): 1055 games, 416 points.

The Foligno family sits on top, with both Marcus and Nick very much active in the NHL. The Gagner and Steen families are well-balanced, with both father-son duos contributing equally to the family totals. Over the next several years expect to see the Tkachuk family rise up the list in terms of games played, with Matthew and Brady both burgeoning stars on the Flames and Senators respectively. By the end of the 2021-2022 season they should also surpass the Gagner's for most points, provided Paul Stastny doesn't go on a tear in the last few years of his career.

Card 179 - Rick Vaive

A right winger, Vaive was drafted fifth overall by Vancouver in the 1979 draft, but elected to sign as an underage player with Birmingham of the WHA. He spent the 78-79 season with the Bulls, scoring 26 goals and 59 points while leading the league in penalty minutes with 248.

The WHA would fold after Vaive’s rookie season and he would begin play with the Canucks in 79-80. After 47 games in Vancouver, he would be traded to Toronto with Bill Derlago for Tiger Williams and Jerry Butler. Vaive would score 22 goals and 37 points in his rookie season between the two cities.

Beginning with the 1981-82 season, Vaive would score 50+ goals in three straight seasons, becoming the first Maple Leaf to ever score 50 in a single season. During that time he would play in three all-star games, and captain the team from 1982-86 before being stripped of his captaincy for missing a practice. In seven full seasons in Toronto Vaive would score 30+ goals each season, but the Leafs would never advance beyond the division final come playoff time.

Prior to the start of the 1987-88 season Vaive would be traded to Chicago with Steve Thomas and Bob McGill in exchange for Al Secord and Ed Olcyzk. In his one full season with the Hawks he would score 43 goals and 69 points.

In December 1988 Vaive would be traded to Buffalo for Adam Creighton, and would score 25+ goals each of the next two seasons. In 1991-92 he would play only 20 games with the Sabres, scoring a single goal, playing some of the season in the AHL. In 1992-93 he would sign back with his original NHL team, Vancouver, playing only 38 games for Hamilton in the AHL before retiring.

In 13 NHL seasons Vaive would play in 876 games, scoring 441 goals and 788 points. From 1993 to 1998 he was head coach of South Carolina in the ECHL before coming back to Canada to coach in the OHL. His one season behind the bench for Don Cherry’s Mississauga Ice Dogs in 2000-01 set a record for futility in the OHL, recording the fewest wins in a season with three. From 2001-05 Vaive either played or coached the Dundas Real McCoys in the Ontario men’s senior hockey league.

YouTube clip: highlights from his time in as a Maple Leaf.

Card 180 - Dave Gagner

A centre, Gagner was drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers in 1983. He would split the 1983-84 season between the OHL and the Canadian National Team, playing in the 1984 Olympics. Between 1985 and 1987 he would play 80 games with the Rangers over three seasons, spending the majority of his time in the AHL.

Early in the 1987-88 season he would be traded to the Minnesota North Stars with Jay Caufield for Jari Gronstrand and Paul Boutilier. Gagner would start the season in the IHL, scoring 16 goals in 14 games before earning a call up to the big club; in 51 games he would score eight goals and 19 points.

1989-90 would be the first of six straight seasons that Gagner would score 30+ goals, including back-to-back 40 goal seasons in 1989-90 and 1990-91. 90-91 would see Gagner score a career-high 82 points, play in the all-star game and help lead Minnesota to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring 27 points in 25 playoff games.

After transferring with the franchise to Dallas, Gagner’s scoring would decline and in 1995-96 he would be traded to Toronto with a draft pick for Benoit Hogue and Randy Wood. He would play 28 games with the Leafs before an off-season trade to Calgary.

In one season in Calgary Gagner would score 27 goals and 60 points, leaving to sign with Florida for the 1997-98 season. There he would score 20 goals, the ninth and final time he would reach that mark. Partway through the 1998-99 season Gagner would be sent to Vancouver as part of the package that landed the Panthers Pavel Bure. He would finish the season with the Canucks and then retire.

In a 15 season NHL career Gagner would play in 946 games, scoring 318 goals and 719 points. From 2006-2008 he was an assistant coach with London in the OHL and from 2008-2013 was the director of player development with Vancouver. He son Sam has played 872 games in the NHL, and famously scored 8 points in a 2012 game versus Chicago while playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

YouTube clip: opening the scoring in Game 3 of the 1991 Cup Finals against Pittsburgh. The North Stars would gone on to win the game 3-1 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Card 181 - Thomas Steen

The centre was drafted 103rd overall by Winnipeg in 1979. Steen, who had been playing pro hockey in his native Sweden since he was 16, would make his NHL debut in 1981-82, scoring 15 goals and 44 points. He would set career-highs for goals (30) in 1984-85 and points (88) in 1988-89.

Through his first eight seasons with the Jets, Steen was a model of consistency, appearing in no less than 73 games each season. Injuries would begin to take their toll starting in 1989, as he would play in only 53, 58 and 38 games over the next three seasons, scoring at a point-per-game pace during that time.

In 1992-93 Steen would play a full season for the first time in four seasons, eclipsing the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career (22) and scoring 72 points. 1994-95 would be his final season in the NHL, appearing in 31 games. From 1995-1999 Steen would play in Germany before retiring.

In 14 NHL seasons Steen would play in 950 games, scoring 264 goals and 817 points. From 1999-2004 he coached junior pro teams in Sweden and from 2000-07 was a scout with Minnesota. In 2019-20 he was a scout for Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba. Steen’s son, Alex, played over 1000 games in the NHL for Toronto and St. Louis, winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019.

Card 182 - Esa Tikkanen

A left winger, Tikkanen was drafted 80th overall by Edmonton in 1983. The Finnish native played part of the 1981-82 season in Regina, but returned to his home country to play pro hockey from 1982 until 1985. He would make his NHL debut in the 1985 Stanley Cup Finals, playing three games and winning his first Cup as the Oilers would defeat Philadelphia in five games.

Tikkanen would split 1985-86 between the NHL and AHL, becoming a full time NHLer the following season, scoring a career high 34 goals and 78 points, and winning his second Cup.

From 1987 to 1991 he would score 30+ goals twice, and three times finish as a finalist for the Selke Trophy. During that time he would win an additional two Cups, and during the playoffs would shed his defensive reputation and become a scorer. In the 1988 playoffs he scored 10 goals and 27 points and in 1990 scored 13 goals and 24 points.

Tikkanen would miss half of the 1991-92 season due to injury and would be traded to the New York Rangers in March 1993 for prospect Doug Weight. In 1993-94 he would break the 20 goal barrier for the final time in his career (scoring 22) and winning his fifth Stanley Cup.

The 1994 off-season would see Tikkanen traded to St. Louis with Doug Lidster in exchange for Petr Nedved. In his only full season with the Blues he would finish as runner up for the Selke Trophy, four points behind winner Ron Francis. In 1995-96 he would be traded twice for draft picks, first to New Jersey (lasting nine games) and then to Vancouver.

Tikkanen would play 100 games for the Canucks from 1995 to 1997 before being traded back to the Rangers with Russ Courtnall for Sergei Nemchinov and Brian Noonan. Playoff Esa would return in the 1997 playoffs, scoring nine goals in 15 playoff games, with the Rangers making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

1997-98 would see Tikkanen sign with Florida, being traded after 28 games to Washington. He would make his sixth Cup Finals appearance that season, but the Caps would be swept by Detroit. Tikkanen’s final season would be in 1998-99, 32 games in his third go round with the Rangers.

In a 14 year NHL career Tikkanen played in 877 games, scoring 244 goals and 630 points. From 1999 to 2001 he would play in Finland and Germany, and during the 2004-05 season he was a player-coach for a Korean club team in the Asian Hockey League. He has also coached in Norway and Finland.

YouTube clip: scoring the OT winner in Game 7 of 1991 division semi-finals versus Flames.

Card 183 - Sean Burke

Goaltender Burke was drafted 24th overall by New Jersey in the 1985 draft. He would spend one season in the OHL and two with the Canadian National Team, including an appearance at the 1988 Olympics, before turning pro.

Burke started his NHL career with a bang, joining the Devils at the end of the 1987-88 season. He would post a 10-1 record, usurping Alain Chevrier and Bob Sauve as the team’s starter as the Devils would make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team would advance as far the Prince of Wales Finals, with Burke posting a 9-8 record. His late season heroics he would even him a third place Hart Trophy vote.

The following season Burke would take over as starter, losing a league high 31 games and allowing 230 goals. He would win 22 games that season and next, but in 1990-91 he would lose playing time to Chris Terreri, playing in 35 games and winning eight.

Burke would sit out the entire 1991-92 season, playing for the Canadian National Team instead, winning a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics. Prior to the start of the 1992-93 season he would be traded to Hartford with Eric Weinrich for Bobby Holik and a second round pick that would turn into Jay Pandolfo. Burke would spend five season as the Whalers starter, recording 28 wins in the 1995-96 season.

Burke would move to Carolina for the 1997-98 season and play 28 games with the Hurricanes before being traded to Vancouver in a five-player swap including fellow tender Kirk McLean. After 16 games as a Canuck Burke would be sent to Philadelphia in exchange for Garth Snow.

In 1998-99 he would sign with the Panthers, spending one season as starter, winning 21 games. In November 1999 he would be sent to Phoenix in exchange for Mikhail Shtalenkov and a draft pick swap. With the Coyotes, Burke’s career would be rejuvenated, winning 25 games in 2000-01 and career-high 33 in 2001-02. 01-02 would see Burke finish as a Vezina Trophy finalist and fourth in Hart Trophy voting. His time in Phoenix would not see any playoff success and in 2003-04 as the franchise was rebuilding he would be sent back to Philadelphia in a four player swap. He would play 15 games, splitting time with Robert Esche

Following the lockout, Burke would sign with Tampa Bay for the 2005-06 season, winning 14 games in a back up role. After spending time in the minors the following season, he would be claimed off waivers by Los Angeles, playing 23 games with the Kings before retiring prior to the 2007-08 season.

In an 18-year career Burke recorded a 324-341-110 record, .902 save percentage and 2.96 goals against average; he also played in three all-star games (1989, 2001 and 2002). In his rookie season he won nine playoff games, and won only three more in the next 17 years of his career.

From 2007 to 2016 Burke worked in the Coyotes organization as a goalie coach and assistant general manager starting in 2011. From 2016 to 2018 Burke was Team Canada’s general manager for men’s international teams and has worked with the Montreal Canadiens since 2016 as a pro scout until his recent promotion to goalie coach for the 2020-21 season.

YouTube clip: Burke was an aggressive tender and not afraid to fight, as evident by his six career dust ups. This clip is from a brawl during his time with the Canucks in which Buffalo switches Dominik Hasek out for Steve Shields, anticipating the brawl. Burke actually records two fighting majors in this case, one versus Shields and once versus enforcer Matthew Barnaby.

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