Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pat Peake

Drafted by the Washington Capitals in the first round (14th overall) in 1991, Peake was destined to be a star. Two years later he would even be named the Canadian junior player of the year, scoring 136 points (58 goals) in just 46 games.

He was quickly on his way to NHL stardom. In his first year with Washington, he scored 29 points in 49 games. Two years later he had 36 points in 62 games.

But as quickly as the accolades came, so did the bad luck. Peake endured a variety of injuries to his ankles, shoulders, kidney and knees. He even suffered a concussion in a car accident, had mononucleosis and broke cartilage in his thyroid.

He figured the thyroid injury would go down as the NHL's strangest injury. Then, in a playoff game against Pittsburgh in 1996, Peake was chasing a puck trying to prevent a routine icing call. He crashed against the boards, shattering his right heel.

It was the beginning of the end for Peake, who spent most of the rest of his career trying to rehabilitate the injury. After 5 operations and two years, Peake finally tried to make a comeback attempt. He was sent to the Capitals' minor league team in Portland, Maine, on a conditioning stint. He was back in good enough form to play in a home game on Nov. 8, but his foot hurt immensely afterward. A few days later, an MRI exam showed dangerously torn ligaments. His season was ended just like that.

When the season ended with a four-game sweep of the Capitals by Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals, Peake's contract ended, too. In August he met with the Capitals' doctors, and he was not surprised when they told him there was little to be done. His career was over.

"He endured a lot of pain; it's the dark side of our sport that people don't see," Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. "There aren't players that have the gift he had that come along that often. He was one of those natural players that had instincts and hands you can't develop."

Obviously it was difficult for Peake to accept that he could no longer play hockey.

"That’s the hardest part, at least mentally. It was taken from me. I didn’t go out on my own terms and that’s very hard."

But at least Peake has always been able to laugh about it.

"If I had kept playing I could have made a lot, lot, lot more money obviously, but I have to thank the Caps, because they could have bought me out two years ago," he said "I made $500,000 the last two years, and I played five games – I'm the highest-paid player per game in the league!"

Peake continues to deal with injury to this day. He recently had his 16th operation on the heel, and said "I'm trapped in a 93 year old body. Now you limp and your back hurts and this and that."

Peake remained in the game, first trying his hand at coaching, then scouting, first for agents and then for NHL Central Scouting.


Anonymous said...

way to go cuz ur awesome.. to this day everyone i know that watches hockey still talks about you.

Anonymous said...

A legend. Both on and off the ice, Peaker is in every person he meet's "can do no wrong book." Stay the coaching course, the kids will learn so much, even if they don't have a clue how hard it was to achieve what you did.

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