Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

The Best of the Rest

NHL unknowns

Millions of kids dream of making it to the big show. The frozen fingers fumbling to tie skates, the exhausting dawn practices, the red-faced coaches—the NHL makes it all worthwhile. But those talented enough to get there rarely end up with their jersey numbers hanging from the rafters. Stepping out onto pristine NHL ice does not an icon make, as aptly demonstrated by the journeymen players presented here. Without these guys, and hundreds like them, however, the puck couldn’t drop. Say hello to the Maisonneuve Hockey All-Stars.


b. Ottawa, Ontario, May 7, 1900
d. unknown

Mackey is right up there near the top of the wacky and completely trivial list of most career games played without a goal. He played thirty-four times for the Rangers in ’26–’27 without bulging ye olde twine even once. It was the defenceman’s only NHL time in a short minor-league career.


b. Scarborough, Ontario, February 10, 1961

For fifteen years Konroyd played in the NHL, the consummate unsung hero, the man no one noticed or paid attention to except when he was checking the opposing team’s top players. He played for six teams and came closest to the Cup in 1989 and ’90, when Chicago made it to the semifinals in successive years. He retired early in the ’94–’95 season and began a career in broadcasting that continues to this day, providing TV colour commentary for San Jose and Columbus.


b. unknown  d. unknown

Perhaps the most obscure player ever to appear in the NHL, Jacobs was a North American Indian who appeared in five games for the Toronto Arenas in 1918–19—January 7, 14, 21, 31, and February 4, 1919. He was also an excellent lacrosse player.


b. Petersburg, Ontario, August 29, 1934

Four games with Montreal during the ’56–’57 Cup season that featured eleven future Hall of Famers in the Habs lineup. Not a chance Cressman would crack this lineup at centre ice. Better than Béliveau? Move the Rocket to the bench? More tenacious than Boom Boom or more reliable than Tom Johnson? Nuh-uh. It was the minors for him.


(“The Italian Stallion”/”Broadway Joe”/”Go Go”)
b. Galt, Ontario, January 29, 1957

In 1977–78, Contini was the lowest-paid player in the league, hauling in $30,000 a year playing for an outfit called the Colorado Rockies. Fresh off a decent tournament at the World Juniors and drafted a lowly 126th overall, Contini was long on nicknames but short on staying power. Two half-seasons in Denver led to a free agent contract with Minnesota, and this translated to one final game in the Liga Nationala.


b. Falmouth, Massachusetts, December 28, 1954
d. Falmouth, Massachusetts, June 3, 1985

Dead at thirty under the most bizarre of circumstances. He and his wife were sleeping at home when a bolt of lighting hit the metal frame of their bed, killing Wheldon. He had been out of hockey since 1977 and had played two games with the Blues three years earlier.


b. Tillsonburg, Ontario, April 18, 1900
d. Port Hope, Ontario, July 26, 1992

Where he came from and where he went to—nobody knows. As obscure an NHLer as they come. A vapour, a ghost, a comet, a mere sighting with Philadelphia when they were Quakers, not Flyers, back in 1930. As far as anyone knows, he never played anywhere else.


b. St. Paul, Minnesota, August 15, 1956

One itty-bitty game, one brief fling with NHL glory, one tiny skate on sacred pro ice, one small, quick night sharing dressing room humour with Bobby Clarke and his Flyers mates, one tiny taste test of rarefied NHL spring water, one chance to sing anthems in a big arena with thousands of fans. Just one, but one is better than none.


Excerpted from Players: The Ultimate A–Z Guide of Everyone Who Has Ever Played in the NHL by Andrew Podnieks. Text ©Andrew Podnieks 2003. Published by Doubleday Canada. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.