Status: Former NHL center for the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers from 1983-98. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. Member of 1984 U.S. Olympic Team.
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 180 pounds
DOB: Feb. 22, 1965 In: St. Louis
Hockey Inspirations: “Guy Lafleur, Gilbert Perreault were my two idols. My father (John) was a huge influence in my career. And my brother (John Jr.).”
First Hockey Memory: “First skating memory I was three years old, in Kirkwood, Missouri. I went on the ice and it was an outdoor rink. And everybody made it look easy. I remember being on double-runners and falling down all the time. I got so frustrated that I remember skating over the boards and taking the skates off. They made it look easy. It wasn’t until a year later that somebody encouraged me to go back on again.
I had a great experience and my dad took my hand and spun me like a windmill around the ice. (I thought) this is the greatest feeling in the world. Feeling the wind in your hair, in your face. I said I want to learn how to skate. And I fell in love with it.
My first hockey experience was when I was five. And the McCoy family who ran the outdoor rink in Kirkwood – we would get up, my dad, my brother at five o’clock in the morning, turn on the lights, resurface it, we’d play shinny ‘til seven in the morning every Saturday and Sunday when I was five. That’s how I really started loving hockey.
My dad was transferred through Chrysler to Michigan. A rink went up a mile from our house – Lakeland Arena – and we lived on Williams Lake. I spent countless hours on the lake. So those were my earliest hockey memories.”
Hobbies/Leisure Activities: “I love architecture. I love site development. Reading and collecting wine. Coaching my son’s team now. Golf’s a fun sport to play.”
Nicknames: “Laffer, Cujo – I used to get these rings under my eyes because I had these bad allergies. Frenchy.”
Favorite Movies: “Shawshank Redemption.“
Last Book Read: “Well, I wrote a book. You should have asked about the last book I wrote (smiles). The Beach House by Patterson. We have a beach house in Montauk, so it’s about a beach house.”
Favorite TV Show: “I like House.”
Musical Tastes: “Big time old ‘70s fan; it could be Clapton, Van Morrison, Stones, Elton John, all the great bands of the ‘70s.”
First Job: “Delivered papers – Oakland County Press. And I swept locker rooms, sharpened skates, did all that. Raised enough money to get a go-cart. So I used to drive around a go-cart and deliver papers.”
First Car: “Believe it or not, my dad – I was packing my bags to go to Montreal to play hockey at 17 – he let me take a Dodge Mirada (blue). So that’s what I drove to Montreal.”
Current Car: “I have an Escalade (navy blue).”
Greatest Sports Moment: “That’s a tough one. Obviously, everyone talks about ‘The Easter Epic,’ scoring a goal in four overtimes (’87). Being drafted. Probably being inducted into the Hall of Fame (’03). Winning the World Cup with the U.S. team (’96). Playing my whole career in New York State with some great teams and organizations. So all of those. Those were all special.”
Most Painful Moment: “Oh, probably head injuries; concussions. Retiring. Having my knee reconstructed.”
Favorite Uniforms: “I would say I kind of love the Buffalo Sabres home jersey the best, the white one. Classic. I love tradition. The Rangers’ jersey was great, the Islanders’ jersey was great. If I had to pick one, I’d say the home Sabres jersey. I just liked the look of it.”
Favorite Arena: “Well, The Forum when it was there. Loved the Montreal Forum. Old Boston Garden. The old Chicago Stadium.”
Closest NHL Friends: “Donald Audette. Trotts (Bryan Trottier) I see a lot. I just have a lot of good, fun acquaintances. It’s a tight fraternity. Michael Peca comes down and helps with my golf outing. You know, Trotts has been great, he kind of took me under his wing and helped me out as a 19-year-old. I still talk to him today. He’s still that kind of player, very supportive, takes you under his wing, even after all these years. Comes down and supports my golf outing. Just a great guy.
But I have a lot of friendships, acquaintances, it’s a fraternity. The nice thing – we just had a golf outing, we honored Brian Leetch. Leetch came and Mess (Mark Messier) came. Glenn Anderson helps out a lot with my Foundation (Companions In Courage Foundation). So I think you learn to respect and appreciate the guys even more so when you retire. Because we all have foundations, we all do different things with our lives. And now – you always had this competitive fire against each other – now you support each other. You’re part of a great fraternity.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Oh geez, Joe Reekie was a funny guy. Randy Moller. Those two come to mind right off the bat because they were always talking, telling stories in the locker room – and joking around. Lindy Ruff – the stories and the pranks he used to pull. I used to like to pull pranks myself. Those are just a few of the guys that pop into my head. There are always characters. Hockey players are characters. There’s one or two on every team. (Ruff memory?) One night we got back to the airport late, around one. Back from the road trip. We were getting our cars in the lot. And he had changed everyone’s keys. So he drives away and we all get in our cars and find our keys don’t work. It took everybody like 20 minutes to get our keys back.”
Toughest Competitors: “A lot. You go into New Jersey – Scott Stevens. You go to Edmonton – (Jeff) Beukeboom. I just remember guys who would hit me, I was sore. Ray Bourque. Cam Neely. Goaltender-wise, I always remember Grant Fuhr. Amazing. Dominik Hasek. Lots of great competitors.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “Flats (Pat Flatley) is going to hate me for this. One time we played the Russians during Christmas break. Flats got a penalty shot at the start of the third period. So the ice was still wet. And he literally comes down to make a move and the puck sticks to the ice and he steps on it. He falls and he crashes into the boards. On a penalty shot!”
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “Dale Henry, as a great guy and teammate, he sat next to me and was scratched for the game. He left his jersey next to me. We were running late to go out – it was after warmups. He got scratched. We’re running late, the guys were like, ‘come on! We’re on the ice!’ I put his jersey on. We’re skating around for the start of the game with No. 20 Henry. And one of the guys finally tapped me – you’re wearing the wrong jersey. So I had to go back in and put my jersey on.”
Most Memorable Goal: “I’d have to probably say the ‘Easter Epic’ goal. I’m reminded of that, where people were at two o’clock in the morning. I’d say your first goal and probably that goal. Couple big playoff goals I’d put right up there.”
Strangest Game: It has to be the ‘Easter Epic,’ too. Because I’ll never forget, it’s two o’clock in the morning. Jim Pickard took a water bottle, squeezed it down the back of my neck, he said, ‘Pop, you’re gonna get one.’ He called me Pop. And I looked up in the stands, the organist was playing Twilight Zone music. I look up, there are people sleeping: two o’clock in the morning. Shots were 57-75. Seven periods. Is this really happening? Then we scored and won the game. So it was pretty special.”
Personality Qualities Most Admired: “Honesty. Trustworthy. Loyal. People who have basic principles. Respect. Respect for themselves, respect for the game, how you treat people.”
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