Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dino Ciccarelli Scores Last Goal, and Enters NHL Hall of Fame

Growing up, I had been a massive NHL fan. I was lucky to follow a team in the North Stars that was fun to watch, and was a strong winner. I was also lucky to see the game in its heyday, with Wayne Gretzky and the great Edmonton teams, Mario Lemieux, and rivalries that the league hasn't seen in a couple of decades. I was so addicted to the sport that my buddies and I cobbled together our precious just-out-of-college funds and acquired season tickets that were split among us. I was truly fortunate to see so many fantastic players, and to see them live.

Of all the great players the North Stars had (Bobby Smith, Neil Broten, Mike Modano, Craig Hartsburg, Brian Bellows, etc.), nobody could score goals like Dino Ciccarelli. Despite his diminutive size, Dino was a fixture in front of the net, instigating contact and tipping in shots and rebounds left and right. He had an agitator's attitude, and drew the ire of many an opponent. His scrapes with Chicago Blackhawks' tough guy Al Secord were renown.

Dino was tough, hard working, and more than anything else, had a real nose for goal scoring. He ultimately finished his career with 278 power play goals (8th all time!) and still owns the record for most playoff goals scored by a rookie at 14 during the incredible '80-'81 run in which the Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup finals against the juggernaut New York Islanders.

Granted, Dino had some on and off-ice issues. He's likely not the guy you want teaching an anger management class or coaching your kid's hockey team. It is likely those things are likely what has kept him from the Hall of Fame all these years. I will grant you all of that. However, if the team is down a goal, there's 45 seconds left, the home goalie is pulled, and the game is on the line, there was never a better Minnesota player other than Ciccarelli that you wanted to see camped in front of the opponent's goalie.

Congratulations Dino, and thanks for the thrills you provided a broke but fanatical hockey fan all those years ago.

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