Obscure Athletes

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Category Archives: NHL

Things to Consider: Thrashers Moving North


In about 15 minutes, an announcement is going to be made that the Atlanta Thrashers will be sold off, and moved to

Haven't you had just about enough of this rubbish?

Winnepeg. Here are some things to consider about this now-imminent move:

-Atlanta might be the worst sports city in North America. They’re the only city in the history of the continent to have a major sporting franchise leave their city in favor of greener pastures…in Canada. Except now it’s happening  for the second time. The first was the loss of the Flames to Calgary in 1980. Whose idea was it to give those schmucks in Atlanta another chance at an NHL franchise?

-A team that plays in a league that, by all recent accounts, is more popular than the NBA, is moving. So I went to CBS Sportsline, SI, and the Worldwide Leader, to see what appears on their headlines this morning. Not a single headline mentions the sale and/or relocation of the Thrashers. Some headlines that DO appear on these sites:

  • Andy Murray in French Open Quarterfinals (I love tennis, and I know it’s a major tournament. But C’monn, man.)
  • Feldman: Next Coach for Milwaukee Bucks? (This will surely make me subscribe to ESPN Insider to read that whole story.)
  • Morning Jolt: NFL Team Moving to Toronto? (We get it, the Bills are the worst franchise in football and have been considering moving to Toronto. This hasn’t been a newsworthy headline since 2006)
  • Blatter rejects crisis talk as FIFA scandal widens (WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?)
  • Briggs powers UVA to NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Title (Not even a sports story. Lacrosse is not, nor has it ever been, a sport.  And one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century agrees with me.)   Just a few more reasons to hate the sports media.
-Many speculate that the team may be rebranded in addition to being relocated. They may well end up being renamed the Winnipeg Jets– the team that left the city in 1996, looking for an unforgiving desert climate and one of the worst fanbases in the universe. They found all of those things in Phoenix as the Coyotes.

So Thrashers Fan(s), please take a moment, or even 15 minutes if you want, to reflect on the years of complete futility and overall embarrassment that your franchise has brought to the NHL, and the complete waste of time, money, energy, natural resources,  and space, that your team has represented over the past 13 years, and take a deep breath knowing that it’s all gonna end in mere minutes. And one of the worst markets in sports history–Atlanta, will only be burdened with three bottom-feeding franchises.

Garbage Goals- Draft Busts #3: Brian Lawton


Future NHL superstar Brian Lawton in his first moments as a pro.

By Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson

In 1983 Brian Lawton became the first US-born player to be drafted first overall in the history of the NHL. This was sure to go down as a great moment for the doomed North Stars and, in a larger sense, for United States hockey. He was selected before Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine (3rd overall, NY Islanders) and Steve Yzerman (4th overall, Detroit Red Wings). Naturally the Whalers blew it too at second overall, but Sylvain Turgeon did amass almost 500 points in his career. Some believe that Brian Lawton failed because he flew too close to the sun by wearing number 98 (he was the only player ballsy enough to do it), some believe he sealed his sub-par career when he was drafted by the lowly North Stars. I, however, maintain that he failed just because he is from New Jersey.

In Lawton’s illustrious career, he found himself playing 483 games over the course of seven NHL seasons. His highest NHL point total came in his sophomore season, which is never a very good time to “peak”, with 44 points. Lawton played for five teams after leaving Minnesota in 1988 until retiring in 1993 in Minnesota to go back where his shortcomings began.

Lawton has since gone on to become an agent but more notably the Tampa Bay Lightning’s GM until he was succeeded by, you can’t make this up, Steve Yzerman. Tampa Bay was one of the league’s worth teams under Lawton’s rule, sinking to 66 points in 2008-2009, but under Yzerman’s guidance they’re on pace for 104 points. Maybe it has something to do with all that talent they stacked up from the high draft picks. Or better yet, maybe Yzerman has spent his entire existence trying to one-up Lawton for getting drafted before him. Either way, Stevie Y has owned Lawton as both a player and a GM.

Scary Fact: Lawton is considered a huge draft bust, but he had more points in his rookie season (35) than Tyler Seguin is on pace for (29). Wuh oh!

Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson are weekly columnists for Obscure Athletes and our resident hockey experts. They can be reached at Ben@obscureathletes.com or Josh@obscureathletes.com

Garbage Goals: Draft Busts #4: Chad Kilger


By Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson

When your team hasn’t made the playoffs in five seasons (currently second only to the consistently “on the bubble”

This basically sums up Kilger's attitude toward being moved to the Panthers.

Florida Panthers’ nine season drought), you’d expect to see an interesting cast of characters play for said team.  The Toronto Maple Leafs in recent years have became more of an island of misfit hockey players than a playoff contender, ripe with obscure athlete gold. We’re looking at you Andrew Raycroft, Bates Battaglia, Jason Blake, and Kyle Wellwood.  One unfortunate soul from the post-lockout Leafs is the topic of today’s Garbage Goals – Draft Busts series.  At number four, we give you Chad Kilger.

Kilger was drafted fourth overall back in 1995 by the Anaheim Mighty (fuck off Disney for taking the “Mighty” out of it) Ducks, where he played 45 games before being packaged to Winnipeg in order to obtain Teemu Selanne.  Kilger was then passed around like a hot potato, seeing playing time with Phoenix, Chicago, and Edmonton in the span of two years, all without much success.  After a few years of lackluster production with Edmonton, Kilger was traded to Montreal.  He played four seasons there, the most time he spent with a single team in his career.  However, in 2003 he worked his way into then Canadiens coach Claude Julien’s doghouse after he registered only 4 points in 36 games, and was sent down to their AHL affiliate in Hamilton.  He was then traded to the Leafs, appearing in five games with the team.

After the lockout, Kilger enjoyed his best offensive years with back-to-back 28-point seasons.  Yes, those were his highest point totals.  He also somehow managed to pencil himself in to the hockey record books by registering the hardest slap shot ever recorded at the time on Dec. 3rd, 2006.  His shot clocked in at 106.6 mph, and held up for three years before Sheldon Souray bombed a 106.7 mph shot in the 2009 skills competition.

Kilger letting one GO at over 106 MPH.

Although the Leafs were undoubtedly appreciative of Kilger’s stellar numbers, they felt it was time to say good-bye when they traded him to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick at the 2008 deadline.  Chad was somewhat less appreciative.  He immediately requested a leave of absence from the Panthers, which the team allowed.  However, he didn’t report back to the team at the time the Panthers requested, and was fined without pay.  Kilger later refused to report to camp, feeling that his talents were too superior to be playing on a team like the Panthers, and officially retired.

Chad must have a flare for controversy, because the puck doesn’t stop here.  Instead of playing in Europe like most borderline NHL players past their prime do, Kilger decided to go back to his home in Cornwall, Ontario, where his father was the mayor.  He became a fire fighter ahead of 146 other candidates.  Many felt that he was getting preferential treatment, with one city counselor saying that the circumstances “stink big-time”.  We applaud you Chad Kilger, for never living up to your potential, throwing a hissy-fit because you were traded to the Panthers, screwing over 146 hard-working Canadians, and of course, living out a mediocre career that we at Obscure Athletes can enjoy.

 

Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson are weekly columnists for Obscure Athletes and our resident hockey experts. They can be reached at Ben@obscureathletes.com or Josh@obscureathletes.com

Garbage Goals: Draft Busts #5: Todd Warriner


By Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson

For the next few installments of Garbage Goals, we’re going to take a look at our favorite draft picks of all time: the top five biggest draft busts. Let the countdown of mediocrity begin! We’ll start the list with number 5, the legendary Todd Warriner.

 

Todd Warriner, the pride of the Manitoba Mooses! ...Moose? Yeah, Moose.

Todd Warriner was drafted fourth overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1992 NHL entry draft, although he never actually laced up for Quebec. Before getting a crack at the NHL, Warriner was traded, a recurring trend throughout his 11-year tenure in the league, to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs received Warriner, Mats Sundin, Garth Burcher, and a 1994 first round draft pick for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefevbre, Landon Wilson, and another 1994 first round pick. Warriner spent 6 years with the Maple Leafs, the most of any team he played for. The left-winger put up rather pedestrian numbers, with his best season in the NHL coming in 1997, where he played 75 games (the most he’d ever played in a season), with a whopping 33 points.

 

The highlight of Todd Warriner’s career came on February 20, 1999. In the very first game at the new Air Canada Centre, Warriner potted the first goal at the new arena, permanently leaving his mark of mediocrity on the Leafs. Possibly because Toronto couldn’t deal with their tarnished reputation, they traded Todd to Tampa Bay for a third round pick, used to draft equally obscure athlete Mikael Tellqvist. Here comes the fun part. From 2001 – 2003, Warriner played for five different teams. Tampa Bay traded him to Phoenix for Juha Ylonen (note: not even Obscure Athletes remembers this guy), and he was involved in a multiplayer deal with Vancouver the same year. He was traded the next year to Philadelphia for “future considerations”, probably because they didn’t know how he could possibly have less trade value than Juha Ylonen, and was later waived and claimed by Nashville, the last team he would ever play for. Todd finished with an unremarkable 154 points in 453 games and finished his career with a -37 rating, yet somehow managed to stay in the league for 11 years. If you’re wondering what ever happened to Todd Warriner, you obviously don’t live in Canada.

Warriner was recently on the Canadian equivalent of “Dancing With the Stars”, which pairs figure skaters with former NHL “stars”. The show’s called “Battle of the Blades”, and Warriner was prancing around with the likes of obscure athletes P.J. Stock, Valeri Bure, Georges Laraque, with Bure taking home the win for season two, undoubtedly his greatest achievement. Here’s a video for your viewing pleasure. He seems pretty graceful, though we’re not figure skating experts. Maybe this was what Todd wanted to do all along? Oh well, see you next week with our fourth greatest draft bust!

 

Garbage Goals: The Jonathan Cheechoo Experience


Josh and Ben here, bringing you all things obscure in the NHL every Wednesday. For our

Cheechoo, no doubt waiting for Joe Thornton to feed him the puck

first ever article here at Obscure Athletes, we’d like to examine an NHL player who faded into obscurity faster than any other we know. Seems like a good guy to start with since he’s more recent than most of the other athletes we’ll be looking at. This dude is basically the NHL equivalent of VH1’s Behind the Music: Vanilla Ice. We’re talking, of course, about Jonathan Cheechoo.

Jonathan Cheechoo was born in Moose Factory, Ontario in 1980. You might be wondering where Moose Factory, Ontario is, but unless you’re one of the 2,500 people who live there then you’ll most likely never figure it out. (Fun fact: Moose Factory is so small that their Wikipedia page exclaims that this “NHL star” hails from there. We’d prefer to call him a premiere Obscure Athlete). He made a solid case for the NHL by keeping over a point per game pace through his rookie season in the OHL, and was drafted in the second round in the 1996 draft.

After continuing his strong scoring with a 90-point campaign the following season, he was eventually was called up to the San Jose Sharks during the 2002-2003 season. It was a story made for a movie; he came from nothing and was finally getting his big shot.
However, Cheechoo played horribly, acquiring only 16 points in 66 games. He did rebound, having a 28-goal season for the Sharks in 2003-2004. The upcoming lockout seemed to be perfectly timed for Cheechoo to hit his prime overseas. He played in the Swedish Elite League for the dominant HV71, but he ended up with only 5 points in 20 games as the team missed the playoffs.

What fell faster-- Jonathan Cheechoo's +/- or his annual income?

It seems that Jonathan Cheechoo was appropriately named, as the Cheechoo train absolutely dominated the rest of the NHL in 2005-2006. He wound up with a 56-37-93 line, and was a +23. 56 goals. Seriously. This made him the first First Nations, or Canada’s native population, player to win the Rocket Richard trophy. That’s great and all, but I’m still pulling for Manny Malhotra to be the first player of Native American descent to do something significant at all. After the season was all said and done, Cheechoo held the Sharks franchise records for goals, power play goals, and hat tricks in a season.
I’m not about to turn this article into a Joe Thornton love-fest, but it was painful for a Bruins fan to watch Joe Thornton turn a kid who looked like he’d be a perennial AHLer into a Rocket Richard winner. During Cheechoo’s career year, he managed only 15 points in the teams first 24 games. After Thornton came to town, he exploded with 78 points in 57 games playing on the first line. Thornton had 96 assists that season, 72 of them in San Jose across 58 games, leading the league in points and winning the Hart trophy in the process. After a follow-up year with a 37-goal, all-star season, he was signed to a new, five-year deal worth $15 million.

Cheechoo would soon fade back into obscurity however, seeing his goal totals drop from 37 to 23, then to 12. At this point, the San Jose Sharks were starting to catch on to the fact that Cheechoo’s shot was no longer deadlier than a ride in Dany Heatley’s Ferrari, so they brought in Heatley instead. Cheechoo was shipped to Ottawa along with Milan Michalek to Ottawa for the high scoring winger with a fantastic winning and team first attitude.
Since the trade, Heatley put up another 82-point season with 39 goals. Milan Michalek had his worst statistical season in the NHL, and Cheechoo, was sent to Binghamton and bought out in the off-season.

Earlier this year he had a professional tryout for the Dallas Stars (and was released after just two preseason games) and is having another go at cracking an NHL lineup with a tryout contract for the Worcester Sharks. He’s been playing relatively well with 16 points in 17 games despite a -9 rating. You should go see him in Worcester, MA tonight–word up to $1 hot dogs. Will this hot dog special continue to gain media attention and propel Cheechoo back into the NHL? We kind of hope not, as it’ll make us look like idiots for writing this article. But ‘cmon, how funny would it be to see Cheechoo rise up from the depths of mediocrity and crack the Sharks lineup again?
Josh Wilson and Ben Ricker are weekly columnists for Obscure Athletes, and the resident hockey experts

Hockey Fans, Your Pleads Fall not upon Deaf Ears!


Obscure Hockey fans, I hear you. This I promise. Obscure Athletes is making a pledge to

At least 70% of my hockey knowledge comes from Faceoff 99

involve the NHL just as much as other sports, and with that I’m proud to announce that Obscure Athletes is about to have its first ever weekly columnists. Starting next week, Josh Wilson and Ben Ricker will join us, bringing a wealth of hockey expertise and more of the lame humor you’ve come to expect from Obscure Athletes. And with that, I’ll finally be able to refer to Obscure Athletes as ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and have it be true!

 

That being said, hockey’s gonna have to wait until next week,  today’s obscure spotlight will feature NFL great David Terrell, stay tuned!

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