In the span of 11 hours, Florida Panthers winger Rocco Grimaldi played in two games in different leagues, covered 1,350 miles on a three-hour flight, crossed over an entire time zone, and suited up for his fifth career NHL game. Not a bad Tuesday for the 21-year-old prospect.
It all began at 10:30 a.m. (8:30 PST) in San Antonio as the Rampage, Florida’s American League affiliate, hosted the Oklahoma City Barons for their fifth annual Cool School Day. The game, which begins early and serves to host kids from around the region, would be the saving grace for the Panthers and allow Grimaldi to take part in both an AHL and NHL game in the same day.
Sometime around the middle of San Antonio’s contest, the Panthers were informed that Aleksander Barkov would be unable to play on Tuesday night due to an illness. They needed to bring someone up from the AHL, and Grimaldi was going to get the call.
That’s why, early in the third period, Grimaldi left the bench and did not return. According to the AHL, the initial thought was that the 2011 second-round pick had either sustained and injury or was dealing with an equipment issue. In fact, it was neither. Grimaldi had been called up to the Panthers and was rushing out of his equipment to catch a flight.
And so, Grimaldi’s odyssey began. He boarded a plane in San Antonio and headed for the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Panthers were getting ready to face-off against the Kings at 7:30 p.m. PST. A native of Rossmoor, Calif., Grimaldi ended up playing in front of a handful of family and friends, including his mother, who Grimaldi said had also been there to watch him play in San Antonio.
Grimaldi’s trek is unique in that at the time he was called up, the Panthers weren’t even sure he would be able to play in both games under league rules. According to Panthers beat writer Harry Fialkov, they were checking roster rules around the time he was called up.
By playing in two games in two leagues in one day, Grimaldi joins a host of other NHL oddities. Below are five of our favourites:
5. Kris Draper gets traded for one dollar
Draper was a fixture on the Red Wings for four Stanley Cups and won a Selke Trophy during his time in Detroit, but he actually started his career in Winnipeg. On June 30, 1993, the Jets traded their third-round pick from the 1989 draft, Draper, to the Red Wings but the sum of what Winnipeg received back was one dollar.
4. Scottie Upshall records assist with zero ice time
This oddity comes from a strange technicality. During a Nov. 21, 2005 contest between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench due to cardiac arrest. Fischer would be revived after six minutes, but the game would be postponed due to the injury.
By the time the game was to be replayed, on Jan. 23, 2006, Upshall was out of the Predators lineup. The thing is, however, he had registered an assist on a Greg Johnson goal before the game was postponed. When the teams met in January, they played a full 60-minute game with the Predators leading 1-0 before the puck was dropped. Upshall’s assist stood as a secondary marker even though he did not play in the game.
3. Bill Guerin and Rem Murray play 85 game seasons
Both Jimmy Carson and Bob Kudelski hold the NHL record for games played in a single season with 86, but those were the days of the 84 game season. So, while impressive, both players really only played two games more than many of their counterparts. In fact, when Kudelski hit the 86 game mark in 1993-94, three other players suited up for 85.
However, in 2000-01 and 2002-03, Bill Guerin and Rem Murray, respectively, accomplished an unmatched feat by playing three games more than a full regular season slate. Both men played 85 games during an 82 game season. Guerin’s occurred when a trade sent him from Edmonton, where he played 21 games, to Boston, where he tacked on another 64. Murray’s 85 came from 32 with the New York Rangers, followed by 53 with the Nashville Predators.
2. Nathan Horton scores in a game he doesn’t play in
Horton’s goal happened in much the same way as Upshall’s assist. Dallas Stars center Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench before being revived and it led to the postponement of the Stars game against the Columbus Blue Jackets – one in which Horton had already notched a goal.
When the game was played at a later date, Horton was still given credit for the goal and Columbus began with a 1-0 lead, but a full 60-minute game was played and Horton was out of the lineup with an injury.
1. Larry Skinner leads Senators training camp in scoring
Skinner, who at the time was working for the Ottawa Sun, attended Ottawa Senators training camp in 1992-93 to make a first-hand account of what it was like to be on the ice with the then-expansion franchise. Having played 47 games in the NHL in which he registered 10 goals and 22 points, Skinner wasn’t an entirely fresh face, but he had been retired for a decade when he took the ice. A historically bad team, the Senators training camp would be led in scoring by the 36-year-old Skinner. He did not make the team. The Senators would play to a 10-70-4 record.