Friday

Tom Reid

Tom Reid was a defensive defenseman who's play always went unnoticed among the fans, but his coaches always appreciated his work. 

The Fort Erie native was developed in the Chicago Black Hawks system and played for the St.Catherines Black Hawks in the juniors (OHA) between 1964-67. He made his debut in the NHL during the 1967-68 season and played two seasons with Chicago, earning his first point when he assisted on one of the patented Bobby Hull slapshots. Tommy was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in February 1969 together with Bill Orban for Andre Boudrias and Mike McMahon.

Tommy enjoyed almost 10 years of stellar play in the Twin Cities. He only scored 17 goals in 701 regular season games and had 130 points. One of his goals came on a penalty shot against Montreal's Ken Dryden. It was so rare that Tommy was in the offensive zone that he tried to fake an injury so he didn't have to take the penalty shot. Referee Bruce Hood didn't buy it and Tommy had to  take the shot. He burried the penalty shot on a 20-foot slapper that beat Dryden. His goal scoring may have been low but it was his play along the boards and in front of  his own goal that was Tommy's strengths. He always kept things simple and never tried to be fancy and do something beyond his capacity which kept the amount of errors and giveaways at a minimum. Tommy had a great sense of humour and was keeping his teammates laughing for many years.


Reid retired because he became allergic to his equipment. I'll let Reid himself explain.

"In the mid-seventies, a number of players in the NHL had problems with allergies as related to the equipment. The perspiration and the friction actually removed the skin. It started out very small but after three years, getting up to the '77-78 season, I had some terrible problems with it I was spending a lot of time with doctors, trying to combat this thing and it was getting progressively worse. When I finally had to quite playing in 1977, I had no skin basically from my neck to my waist."

He later added - "But fortunately also, I'm not the only one who had to retire because of it. There was about 40 players in the NHL over the course of about three years that were affected Rick Vaive....Lou Nanne, Dennis Hextall.... and I think Jacques Lemaire had it as well. There were players all around the league who were experiencing it."

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Tuesday

Charlie Burns

Charlie Burns was an excellent penalty killer and strong defensive forward. Versatility was his trademark, as was his cumbersome-looking helmet. In an era where almost no one wore a helmet, Burns was forced to because of a nearly head injury in junior hockey that left him with a metal plate in his head.

A spectacular skater with a fantastic intellect for the game, Burns really benefited from expansion in 1967. Though he had spent previous several seasons playing (and coaching!) in San Francisco of the Western League, he had plenty of Original Six experience, too.

Burns stepped right into the NHL after 2 seasons of senior hockey in Whitby, Ontario. He never apprenticed in the minors at all, as the Detroit Red Wings found a home for him, playing in all 70 games. He was quite the story that year, as he became the first Red Wings player who was actually born in Detroit! But Burns and his family moved to Toronto when he was still a youngster. He grew up as a Maple Leafs fan.

After that rookie NHL season in 1958-59, Burns moved on to Boston where he played with the Bruins for four more complete seasons. He never scored more than 15 goals or 41 points in a season, but was a valuable if underrated third line role player.

The Bruins sent him to their WHL farm team in San Francisco to play but also coach. He loved playing in San Francisco and always believed the NHL should have based the expansion Seals franchise in SF instead of Oakland.

Nonetheless, when the Seals did arrive on the NHL scene in 1967, Burns reappeared as well. It lasted two long seasons. The team was not very good, yet Burns was devastated when he learned he would have to leave the Bay Area to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks to an intra-league draft prior to the 1968-69 season.

Burns would only play one season with the Pens, enjoying his best offensive season with 51 points. Then he joined the Minnesota North Stars for four seasons. In his first season in Minny he actually played and coached, making him the last man in NHL history to play and coach the team at the same time.

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Sunday

Keith Acton

From his very first NHL game right through to his 1023rd and final contest, Keith Acton played the same way - all out.

Acton was an energetic checking forward. He was hard working and honest, yet aggressive and feisty and almost always yapping his mouth at the opposition. Throughout his career he was often compared to Ken Linseman.

Acton and Linseman played very similar roles, although Acton never had the same offensive contributions as Kenny. Acton did have a great sophomore season in Montreal when he scored a career high 36 goals and 88 points but otherwise he was cast as a third line utility center - a role he excelled at.

Acton was small at just 5'8" but he played a physical game. He was very willing to hit and be hit, and never shied away from traffic. He was also very liberal with his stick, often using it to distract opponents more than to score goals. Blessed with great straight-ahead speed, Acton was great at jumping into openings all over the ice. And you can bet that if you tried to hook him back when he did surprisingly jump ahead of you, he'd dive with the perfect touch of embellishment, thus drawing the referees attention and more often than not got his team a power play.

Besides good foot speed, Acton had a nice package of finesse skills. He had good hands and was creative enough to set up his wingers, however he lacked a good shot at the NHL level. Thus most of his goals came from banging at loose pucks near the net. Acton did have good hockey sense, particularly in his defensive role. His persistent puck pursuit and excellence on face-offs also made him a mainstay on the penalty killing units.

Acton was originally a late round pick of the Montreal Canadiens. Despite back to back 120+ point seasons with the strong junior organization Peterborough Petes, Acton wasn't selected until 103rd overall in 1978 as questions about his size underrated him. After a couple of years in the Habs farm system, Keith made the big jump to the NHL in 1980-81 in a limited role, playing 61 games with 15 goals and 39 points.

As mentioned earlier, Acton exploded for his 88 point season in year two, but because of the Habs strong depth at center ice he was relegated to third line duty in 1982-83.

After a strong start to the 1983-84 season (10 points in the first 9 games), Acton was traded to Minnesota as a key part of package that landed big center Bobby Smith in Montreal. Smith went on to record several strong seasons in Montreal. Acton failed to put up the offensive numbers that were hoped for, but he was a valuable member of an often weak Stars team. Acton was a strong leader on the team.

The Stars moved the speedster to Edmonton during the 1987-88 season in exchange for Moe Mantha. Acton played with a yeoman's effort as he helped the Oilers capture the 1988 Stanley Cup.

Part way through the 1988-89 season Acton was moved to Philadelphia where he would play for the following 4 years. He spent the 1993-94 season, his last in the NHL, with Washington and NY Islanders.

Keith Acton, always a popular leader in any dressing room he was part of, turned to the world of coaching after his playing days were over.

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Wednesday

Brian Bellows


Heading into the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, a young winger named Brian Bellows was the talk of the draft. The Kitchener Rangers forward was the complete package. He was a clutch scorer and a power play specialist. He was a hungry and courageous leader, setting the tone for his team by playing bigger than he actually was. yes, Brian Bellows did it all - heck, while injured he even filled in as head coach when coach Joe Crozier was suspended! And he became a junior hockey legend when he lead Kitchener to a Memorial Cup championship in 1982.

Teams lined up to acquire the right to draft Bellows back in the summer of 1982. But it was a bit of a surprise when Boston landed the top pick. Minnesota so badly wanted Bellows that they acquired the 2nd overall pick from Detroit and then they traded defenseman Brad Palmer to the Bruins to ensure that Bellows was not selected. The Bruins selected WHL defenseman Gord Kluzak. Bellows, who had controversially announced he did not want to play in Canada because of high taxes, went second overall to Minnesota.

He would become one of the top players in North Stars history, but never received much of the expected fan fare around the rest of the league. He was a solid, consistent two way player but he failed to put up superstar numbers like Mike Bossy or Jari Kurri or Brett Hull. Bellows was a consistent 35 goal threat who was instrumental in getting the North Stars into the Stanley Cup final in 1991, but somehow he was never revered like one would have expected him to be.

Part of that was due to the weak North Stars teams. When Bellows was drafted the North Stars were just a year removed from challenging the New York Islanders for the Stanley Cup. But the franchise fell on hard times over much of the rest of the decade. Without veteran leadership the young stars like Bellows, Neal Broten, and Dino Ciccarelli were doomed to falter. The team and many of its better players became almost irrelevant in that time period. Even the surprised Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1991 was not enough to salvage their various legacies.

In 1992 Minnesota traded Bellows to Montreal in exchange for Russ Courtnall. Bellows never balked to play for Les Canadiens.

"I was shocked but I'm excited about the new change," Bellows said at the time. "My idol was Ken Dryden. It's every kid's dream to play for the Canadiens. They're a first class organization.

It turned out to be a great move for Bellows. He put up his last great NHL season, scoring 40 goals in the regular season and then helped the Habs win the Stanley Cup in 1993.

Bellows wound up with 485 career goals, including 9 30-goal seasons, 4 40-goal seasons and a 50goal season. Impressive numbers, unless you compare them to dynamic superstars of the 1980s. Given the hype when he entered the league, there was always a hint of unexplained love lost for Bellows. For some reason I can not quite pin point much of the league just never warmed to this very special hockey player. He will go down in history not as a superstar but an underrated hockey player.

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Tuesday

Darcy Wakaluk



A lot of people of my generation will always remember Ron Hextall becoming the first NHL goalie to actually score a goal by shooting the puck the length of the ice into an open net.

But I always remember three days earlier Rochester Americans (AHL) goaltender Darcy Wakaluk accomplished the feat first.

On December 5th, 1987 Wakaluk shot the puck into the Utica Devils vacant net with just 1 second left in the game. In doing so Wakaluk became the first goaltender in AHL history to score a goal, and only the third goalie in North American pro hockey history to do so (Michel Plasse of the CHL and Billy Smith of the NHL).

Wakaluk had an even better chance to score a goal about a month later. On the night of January 10th, 1988, Waklauk skated in a game against Nova Scotia as a forward! The Amerks were down to just 11 skaters due to injuries and NHL call ups. Coach John Van Boxmeer dressed the 21 year old goalie as a winger with the idea that he would be parked on the bench and never see the ice. But in the third period Wakaluk did skate, and he even had a shot on goal.

"He (Wakaluk) had as much business being out there as anybody else," said Van Boxmeer after the game. "At least he had a scoring chance. Some guys go five games without a chance."

Wakaluk returned to the nets after that game, determined to play in the NHL. But that would not happen in the Sabres organization. He would get into 22 games with the Sabres, but otherwise was stuck in the minor leagues for 5 seasons.

Wakaluk was traded to Minnesota in 1991 almost as an after-thought. The Sabres only got an 8th round draft pick in return. In a steal the North Stars got themselves a NHL calibre goaltender.

"In my mind, I've always thought I could play in the NHL but there have been a lot of questions in other people's minds," Wakaluk said. "I think if I didn't feel I could play in the NHL, I'd quit. Hockey is a hard grind in the minors."

Wakaluk's first full season in the NHL came with Dallas in 1991-92. He played 36 games, finishing ith a respectable 13-19-1 record while proving to be a more-than-capable back up to Jon Casey.

"I'm grateful to the North Stars for giving me the opportunity. All I ever wanted was a chance. It's not easy to feel part of a team when you're called up (from the minors) and you know you'll probably get sent back. When you're here, there's a snowball effect. You play with more confidence, you're more relaxed and the better you feel, the better you play and more confidence you have."

Wakaluk parlayed that strong season into 5 more seasons in the NHL - four more with Minnesota/Dallas Stars and another with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Wakaluk's career came to a sudden end on January 3rd, 1997. In a game against the Washington Capitals Wakaluk suffered a seemingly routine knee injury. Unfortunately, Wakaluk never returned to play another game as multiple surgeries could not strengthen his knee.

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Wednesday

Ron Zanussi

Ron Zanussi (no relation to Joe Zanussi) was a hard working, physical winger for nearly 300 NHL games. He played four seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and two more with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Zanussi scored 52 goals and 135 points in that time, but it was his spirited physical play that earned him applause.

"What I like about Zanussi," said Minnesota coach Ted Harris "is that he goes up and down his wing the same on the road as he does in the home games. He can score and takes the body.

Initially the North Stars demoted Zanussi to apprentice in the minor leagues with Fort Wayne.

"I loved that Texas weather, but (the NHL) is a better place to be," he said. "No, I didn't expect such a quick call-up. I was told when I got back that the team needed more aggressiveness on the wings. I feel that's a strong point in my game."

Enthusiasm and aggressiveness were key words for Zanussi. But he played generally with in the rules. Never did he outrage any with ludicrous penalty minute totals. In fact he had "just" 373 in his NHL career.

In 3 of his 4 seasons in Minnesota he challenged the 15 goal and 30 point mark, topping out with 45 points in 1979-80. But by 1980-81 Zanussi's playing time had been cut and he wanted to try to rejuvenate his career with another team.

Zanussi, the former London Knights junior star, became the first player in Toronto Maple Leafs history with his last name starting with the letter "Z." The trade from Minnesota was interesting in that Zanussi's agent was Brent Imlach, the son of Leafs general manager Punch Imlach. The trade deadline deal for a draft pick is an otherwise unnoteworthy transaction. Zanussi scored 3 goals in 58 games with the Leafs before finishing his carer in the minor leagues.

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Sunday

Brian MacLellan

When one plays over 600 games in the National Hockey League, it is unfair to question his love of the game. But like many oversized players, MacLellan was labeled as enigmatic. Many accused him of going through the motions, when in fact he was very intense in his own right.

MacLellan had some great talents. He was absolutely huge at 6'3" and 215 pounds of chisled muscle. He was as strong as an oak tree, immovable in front of the net. He wasn't a fast or graceful skater, but had power and balance in his stride to make up for that. And he possesed excellent puck skills, most notably his shot. He had an overpowering wrist and slap shot, which he got off with great quickness and accuracy.

When he was fired up, Brian had the capability of dominating a single game. Problem was he rarely seemed to get fired up. He had the strength and the talent, but he lacked the intensity and consistency to truly become one of the league's top left wingers in the 1980s. Despite his size he wasn't an overly physical player by nature. And defensively he was a liability - partly because of his lack of speed but also do the sheer laziness and poor positional play.

As a result of his frustrating label, Brian was a well traveled NHLer, playing with 5 organizations in 10 years. He started out with the LA Kings, and enjoyed his best season statistically in 1984-85 when he scored 31 goals and a career high 54 assists and 85 points. However early in the 1985-86 season he was traded to New York and the following season to Minnesota. Late in 1988-89, he was traded to Calgary and played a minor role in their first Stanley Cup championship. He spent 2 more years in Calgary before playing one final season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1991-92.

No one should question Brian's work ethic or desire. To play in the NHL as long as he did takes tremendous amounts of both. Brian was more complacent than anything. He could have been a great left winger in the league.

The fact that MacLellan played in the NHL is a miracle in itself. As a child he suffered from a bone disease that left him in a body cast for a year. And when he was 19 he broke his neck. Two times in his young life he almost became permanently paralyzed.

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Gordie Roberts

Gordie Roberts was drafted by Montreal in the 1977 Entry Draft (7th choice, 54th overall) but never played for the Habs. He actually began his pro hockey career in 1975 with the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association. Playing against and later with the likes of Gordie Howe, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull and other superstars in the WHA was a tremendous boost to Roberts development as a player.

"It was a great learning experience" said Roberts, who's father named him after his favorite hockey player - the great Gordie Howe.

Over four seasons with the Whalers before the WHA and NHL merged in 1979-80 Roberts totaled 42 goals, 144 assists and 186 points in 311 games. In back to back seasons, 1977-78 and 1978-79, he led all WHA defensemen in scoring.

The WHA and NHL merged in 1979 and Roberts was claimed by Hartford from Montreal, who still held his NHL rights, in 1979 Expansion Draft.

Gordie played a season and a half with the NHL's version of the Whalers before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars. A rugged and dependable rearguard, Roberts was best known as a North Star as he played 8 years in Minnesota where he was a fan favorite. He was a big part of a young Stars team that went to the Finals in 1981, but couldn't seem to recapture their early success. His best NHL campaign came in 1983-84 when he scored eight goals, 45 assists and 53 points.

After Minnesota, Roberts played part of one season with the Philadelphia Flyers before spending parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Blues. Gordie was then traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1990-91 campaign where he helped the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. Those Cups rank at the top of Gordie's long highlight list. Ironically the 1991 championship came at the expense of the North Stars, who made a Cinderella run to the finals.

Gordie, who followed in the footsteps of older brother Doug to play in the NHL (419 games played), joined the Boston Bruins for two more seasons to round out his playing career. One of the highlights of Roberts' career came in Boston when he became the first U.S.-born player in league history to play in 1,000 games (with Boston on Dec. 9, 1992 at Buffalo).

He attended the San Jose Sharks training camp in 1995 but decided to hang up his blades after posting 1 assist in 7 pre-season games.

In his 16 seasons in the NHL, the steady defenseman recorded 61 goals, 359 assists and 420 points in 1,097 regular season games. Roberts added 57 points in 153 playoff contests. Roberts did play a couple seasons in the minors after his NHL days were done, finishing his career in Minnesota with the IHL Moose. He effectively served as a playing coach and would later go on to various levels of coaching and management. He will be best remembered as a defenseman who played a conservative and reliable positional game. He was never much of an offensive threat in the National Hockey League, despite being a good skater. He preferred to take care of his own end where he was a willing if not a punishing physical presence. He was good at making a quick outlet pass to create a nice transition offense opportunity. He had the coolest set of nerves you'll ever see. He'd hang to the puck calmly no matter who was forechecking hard in on him, and just when you would think it is too late, he'd make a clever little pass.

In addition to the two Stanley Cups, Roberts can proudly claim he represented his native United States in two World Hockey Championships and the 1984 Canada Cup. He is also a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame

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Friday

Bob Whitlock

Bob Whitlock is one of the "one gamers" in the NHL. Players who only played one game in the NHL. He was born in Charlottetown, P.E.I, July 16, 1949. Bob's dad, Roy "Buck" Whitlock was a former star around the Maritime Provinces of Canada

Bob enjoyed a successful junior career in the Nova Scotia junior hockey league and the New Brunswick junior hockey league. Bob was signed by Minnesota North Stars on October 2, 1969 and wound up playing for the farm team Iowa Stars in the CHL. He was called up for his only NHL game that season (1969-70) and played very well in the game, but he was sent down to Iowa again and didn't get any more opportunities in the big league.

Bob's next two seasons as a pro were split between the Cleveland Barons in the AHL and the Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHL. He had a very fine season in the WHL, winning the rookie of the year award in 1971-72 after a productive season that saw him score 79 pts (33+46).

His fine season made the Chicago Cougars of the WHA sign him after they had bought his negotiation rights from Los Angeles Sharks (also of the WHA). He had a surprisingly strong first season getting 51 pts for the Cougars. In the middle of the following season (1973-74) the Sharks got him back. Bob had a couple of more productive seasons with the Indianapolis Racers and scored a total of 179 pts (81+98) in 244 WHA games.

Bob finished his playing career in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and Western International Hockey League (WIHL). In the NAHL he played for Mohawk Valley Comets, Erie Blades and the Johnstown Jets before playing his last season in 1977-78 for the Trail Smoke Eaters in the WIHL.

Bob's biggest asset was without a doubt his shots that were described as cannon blasts. His slapshot was according to a majority of experts as hard as legendary Bobby Hull's blasts. Nobody unloaded the cannon like Bob. In a pre game warm up during the 1972-73 season one of his powerful slapshots broke the plexiglass that surrounded the ice surface in Chicago's International Amphitheatre Arena.

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Monday

Neal Broten

Minnesota is known as "The State of Hockey." With notoriously frigid winters and countless frozen lakes, ponds and streams to play on, hockey was as natural to Minnesotans as it was for Canadians. For the longest time, hockey in the United States was more or less affiliated with Minnesota. The life of smaller towns revolved around the rinks and ponds. High school hockey has as much interest as the pro game. And the college rivalries are as intense as any pro rivalry.

Like many families in Roseau, Minnesota, hockey was a birthright for the Broten family. Neal and his brothers Aaron and Paul would all be state high school and college stars, and go onto the National Hockey League.

But few would argue that Neal was not the best. In fact, in a state that has produced more hockey superstars than virtually every other state in the country, most consider Neal to be the best player the state has ever produced.

Neal had been skating and playing hockey since as long as he could remember. He grew up playing shinny, mastering his puck handling and skating skills. He went on to become a high school sensation in his hometown of Roseau, just minutes away from the Canadian border. After that he embarked upon one of the most successful college careers in hockey history with the University of Minnesota. He scored 38 goals and 104 assists for 142 points in just 76 career games.

Broten started with the U of M in 1978-79 but took the 1979-80 season off to play with the US National Team. As America's up and coming superstar, Olympic coach Herb Brooks included the 20 year old the now-famous 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic team. Brooks, who coached Broten at the University of Minnesota, was not concerned about his lack of experience or size. He knew that his incredible skill package was undeniably impressive. He called Broten the greatest athlete he ever coached at the University.

The fabulous "Miracle on ice" story is well known to even non-hockey fans. A bunch of upstart US college kids knocked off the might Soviet Union national team, considered by many to be the most powerful hockey team of all time. In a showdown of politics, societies and idealogies as much of sport, the Americans pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in athletic history. Broten contributed nicley with 2 goals and 3 points in 7 Olympic contests.

Neal returned to University the following season. Playing on a line with brother Aaron, Neal was considered the best player in all of college hockey, winning the Hobey Baker award.

At the completion of his school year he immediately joined the NHL's Minnesota North Stars, who drafted him 42nd overall back in 1979. Broten scored twice in three games to finish he season, and then played in 19 playoff games as the North Stars surprisingly made a Cinderella run at the Stanley Cup, only to fall short to the New York Islanders. Broten added speed and creativity to the team, as well as 1 goal and 8 points in the playoffs.

Broten started his official NHL rookie season of 1981-82 by representing the United States in the 1981 Canada Cup tournament. He played well, scoring 3 goals in 6 games. He then went on to have a great rookie season, scoring a career high 38 goals as well as 60 assists for 98 points.

Broten would enjoy 11 more productive seasons in Minnesota, including a career high 76 assists and 105 points in 1985-86. By scoring 100 points, he became the first American born player to score 100 points in National Hockey League history. But never managed to take his game to the next level of superstar point scorer like the Gretzkys, Lemieuxs, Hawerchucks and Yzermans of his day. Other than that unexpected run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1981, the North Stars never really accomplished much during Broten's long tenure either. As such the understated Broten was forever in the shadows of other stars, except in Minny where the whole state revered him.

Another highlight in Broten's storied career in Minnesota came in 1991 as the North Stars again went on a Cinderella-like run at the Stanley Cup, this time to once again fall short to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Broten played exceptionally, scoring 22 points in 23 games..

However 1993 would be a bad year for Minnesota hockey and it's favorite son. The North Stars franchise was moved to Dallas. There was much speculation that Neal, coming off of two sub-par years, would retire and remain in Minnesota. However Neal went south with the rest of his team. By this time Broten was no longer the steady point producer that he was best known for. He was a wily veteran who became more a defensive forward/penalty killer. He spent a season and a half in Dallas before being traded to New Jersey for Corey Millen. He spent a little over a season and a half in Jersey, and picked up a Stanley Cup ring in 1995, allowing him to join Ken Morrow as the only 1980 Olympians to win the Stanley Cup. Broten would briefly join the Los Angeles Kings, but 19 games later he was traded back to the Dallas Stars where he finished his career in 1997.

Broten, a super skater and playmaker, played just one game shy of 1100 in the NHL. He scored 289 times while setting up 634 others for a career total of 923 points. He added another 35 goals and 98 points in 135 playoff games. He retired as the franchise's all time record holder (since broken) for career games, points, goals, assists and playoff games. His jersey #7 retired in 1998 by the Stars. Two years later he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Minnesota's favorite son now lives on a horse farm with his wife Sally in River Falls, Wisconsin.

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