Al Iafrate is one of the more interesting characters to play in the National Hockey League. His passion for hockey was matched by his joy for heavy metal music, and perhaps exceeded by his love of Harley Davidson motorcycles. He often showed up for practice and games on his hog while wearing the full Harley leather gear!
Iafrate was one of hockey's best prospects. Drafted 4th overall by the Toronto Maples Leafs in 1984 after spending the year with the USA National and Olympic teams, Big Al had scouts drooling over his skill package. Huge at 6'3" and over 220lbs, he was a strong skater for a big man. He had a booming shot that would rival Al MacInnis' shot at All Star skills competitions. He had great offensive instincts. His one downfall was his defense, primarily because he never used his size to his advantage. He was great at rushing the puck out of the defensive zone, but was never an elite breakout passer.
"Wild Thing" had a very good career cut short by serious knee injuries. It took 3 years before Iafrate finally blossomed, but once he did he erupted with 22 goals and 52 points. He would slip a bit in 1988-89 but returned to the 20 goal, 60 point level in 1989-90.
The Leafs grew tired of the enigmatic blueliner who was a handful off the ice as well, and traded him to Washington where he fit right into the Capitals love of offensive defensemen. Al would score 17 goals and 51 points in 1991-92, his first full season with the Caps. And in 1992-93 he had his best season ever - scoring 25 goals and 66 points while being named to the Second All Star Team. He was even able to shake the notion that he wasn't a strong playoff performer. While the Caps were ousted in round one, this defenseman could not be blamed. He scored 6 goals in 6 games! Amazing!
Al slowed somewhat in 1993-94 when he had 10 goals after 67 games. At that point the Caps traded him to Boston in exchange for the highly skilled Joey Juneau. Iafrate finished the season strongly with 5 goals and 13 points in 12 games, but was relatively quite in the playoffs with 3 goals and 1 assists in 13 playoff matches.
Al's career effectively came to a halt at the conclusion of that season. Like most hockey players, Iafrate was badly injured and he finally had to give in to get himself patched up. In the summer of 1994 Al had to go through surgeries to correct injuries in his back and both knees. It took 2 full seasons for him to recover.
The San Jose Sharks took their chances on Iafrate when they acquired his rights in a June 1996 trade. Al Played in 59 games over the next two seasons, but he was never fully recovered from injuries and was not to be counted on to play on any given night.
Despite his history of injuries, the Carolina Hurricanes offered Al an incentive-laden contract in the summer of 1998. However Iafrate had to announce his retirement before training camp ever began, and he forsook his contract by not attempting to play.