Thursday

Steve Payne

Steve Payne's last name is very fitting as he ended his career prematurely and in a lot of pain.

Payne, a big left winger with the Minnesota North Stars from 1978 through 1988, blew out his knee during the 1985-86 season. The final three seasons of his solid career were filled with surgeries, re-injuries to the knee, and frustration.

Steve was big at 6'2" and 205lbs. He was a bit like John Leclair, although he was criticized for underachieving. He broke through in his sophomore season in 1979-80 with a 42 goal campaign and a strong playoff with 14 points in 15 games. But he reached his true zenith in the playoffs of 1980-81. After a setback in the regular season with "just" 30 goals, he exploded with 17 goals and 29 points in 19 playoff games as he helped lead the Stars to a Cinderella appearance against the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals.

After seeing Payne play so masterfully at such a high level throughout the playoffs, great expectations were placed on his shoulders. If he could have played that way consistently over a full season, there'd be no doubt he'd be an all star and perhaps the game's best LW at that time.

But Steve failed to live up to the lofty expectations. He had a good but not great year in 1981-82 with 33 goals and 78 points. Come playoff time he again found the magic switch to turn his game up an extra notch. He scored 4 goals in 4 games, but unfortunately the North Stars came back to reality and were eliminated early in the playoffs.

Payne's production continued at the 30 goal level until his knee injury felled him.

Despite the injury, Payne tried very hard to return to the NHL. At one time he was as strong a skater as there was, though lacked agility. The knee injury all but removed what speed and agility he had. He remained strong on his skates, but checkers could knock him off the puck much easier.

Steve, who was at times lazy defensively, was never a great physical player despite his size. With the tremendous agony of the injury he became even more shy of contact, thus making him a perimeter player.

Steve also battled through a serious abdominal injury, but the worst injury of all came in a game against Washington on Nov. 14, 1987. Payne was hit from behind, suffering a neck injury that would only become more serious with time. The injury caused bone spurs to develop, and these spurs grew into his spinal cord. Doctors warned Payne That if he continued to play he would need career-ending spinal fusion surgery to repair the problem. Wisely, he retired rather than risk further damage

Payne could be compared to Claude Lemieux or a Trevor Linden. All three players found an extra gear come playoff time and were great playoff warriors. But in the regular season they generally played at a level below, thus for some leaving something to be desired.

4 comments:

Anonymous,  October 7, 2010 at 8:02 PM  

He was a great hockey player and is my cousin. Kim

Anonymous,  October 13, 2010 at 11:48 PM  

Hey Kim.
I'm from England and met Steve in Northfield, Minn at Jesse James' Week in early 80's. Still remember him being a great player. Ask him if he remembers the coin game I taught him called "Spoof", guessing combined hands of coins. Wish him well for me. Regards, Martin King.

Anonymous,  October 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM  

great playoff numbers for Steve Payne. I grew up with his son who is a great kid and despite the obvious professional stature of his dad, you would never have guessed that his dad was a former NHL player. very humble and would not bring up his dad's hockey career unless he was asked about it and he was never one to brag and didn't have a "big head" because his dad played in the NHL. great family overall.
BW

cardthrilla April 30, 2012 at 4:17 AM  

Hello Kim,
My name is Kevin Reeves I worked with Steve in The commercial real estate business. We became golf buddies. He was a fav of mine b4 i knew him! People should know he was a scratch golfer and one of the smartest and witty persons I ever met. He was an absolute riot. an avid outdoorsman he gave me Elk, Antelope, grouse and venison weekly. we lost touch when he went back to Canada..I would sure love to reconnnect.If you could tell him to leave word at Tom Reids bar...Thanks

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