Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dino Ciccarelli

Dino Ciccarelli is hockey's version of a sanitation engineer. He has scored over 600 NHL goals, almost all of them by parking himself in front of the net and banging away at rebounds and loose pucks. Meet Dino Ciccarelli - garbage man.

"It's just a matter of getting the puck on the net and getting traffic in front of the goalies. I don't know why more teams don't do it. I still believe 90% of the goals scored are ugly goals, 10% are pretty goals. You won't find many of mine on the highlight films," explains Ciccarelli.

While scoring more than 600 garbage goals may very well land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame, there was a time when it didn't look like any NHL team was willing to take a chance on the high scoring junior star. A badly broken leg in his second year of junior resulted in doctors telling Ciccarelli he'd never be able to play hockey again.

Dino worked through a year and a half of rehabilitation and was determined to prove his doctors wrong. His dream was to play in the NHL, but more disappointment greeted Ciccarelli. Despite working hard to return to the ice, he was not drafted even though he had a great last season of junior.

While he wasn't drafted, the Minnesota North Stars were still interested in the pint sized scoring machine. Lou Nanne signed Ciccarelli with the idea of playing him in the minors to see how his leg would hold up. After just 48 games with Oklahoma City of the CHL (in which Dino scored 32 goals and 57 points), Ciccarelli was called up late in the 1980-81 season.

Dino played in 32 NHL games his first year, scoring 18 goals and 30 points - very solid numbers for an NHL rookie. But the best was yet to come for Dino and the North Stars that year. The Stars went on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals before eventually falling short against the New York Islanders dynasty. The Stars were powered by Dino's 14 goals (and 21 points) in 19 games, setting a record for most playoff goals scored by a freshman.

Ciccarelli would enjoy 10 seasons with the Stars, easily becoming one of the most popular players in Minnesota. Twice Dino scored 50 goals in a season and scored more goals than any other Minnesota North Star in history except for Brian Bellows.

However Ciccarelli was also no angel in his younger days in the NHL. A notable incident happened in Ciccarelli career in 1988. Dino got into a bitter altercation with Toronto Maple Leaf's rookie defenseman Luke Richardson. The battle of words went from pushing and shoving to a fencing competition as Ciccarelli in particular went after the much bigger Richardson with the lumber, including an attempt to hit him in the head. Much controversy arose from the incident which eventually would end up in court as Ciccarelli was charged with assault. Dino's punishment however was just one day in jail - a day which turned out to be a couple of hours spent signing autographs.

While the Richardson incident was the highest profile incident of Ciccarelli's bad boy image, his immature behavior away from the rink eventually wore thin with the North Stars management. At the trading deadline of 1989, Dino and Bob Rouse were sent to Washington in exchange for Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy. Ciccarelli and Gartner were similar in that they were long time goal scorers with their now-former teams. The trade was the first trade in both players careers.

Ciccarelli scored 12 goals in his first 11 Capitals games quickly earning the respect of Caps fans who loved Gartner. Dino would play three seasons in the US Capital. He had 41 and 38 goal campaigns (plus a 21 goal injury-shortened season) before being traded in the summer of 1992.

This time Ciccarelli was off to Detroit. His first season with the Red Wings was statistically the 3rd best of his career, scoring 97 points including 41 goals. However as Ciccarelli aged and with the Wings incredible depth on right wing, Dino saw less and less ice time as his days in the Motor City went on. He scored only 57 points the following year. He put up a solid 43 points in the lock-out shortened season of 1995 but equaled the same point production in the following full season.

Despite being a popular member of the Wings, Ciccarelli was traded before the Wings were able to win the Stanley Cup. The Wings traded him to the lowly Tampa Bay Lightening for future considerations. The Wings had some great prospects at right wing and they wanted to get them some playing time. Ciccarelli, who at the time was 35, was disappointed to leave a contender which would later go on to win Stanley Cups, but at the same time was pleased to go to Tampa where he would also receive more ice time.

Dino responded well to the increased ice time in his first season with the Bolts. He scored 35 goals, returning to the form of 3 seasons earlier. However in his second season, the Bolts struggled through a terrible season and ownership difficulties, Tampa Bay GM Phil Esposito, a big fan of Dino's, was forced to move him and his multi-million dollar salary. Ciccarelli and Jeff Norton were traded to cross-state rival Florida Panthers in a late season deal for Mark Fitzpatrick and Jody Hull.

In Florida Dino has been plagued by injuries, most notably a badly sprained ankle and an ailing back, most likely caused by years of punishment for standing in front of the opposition's net. In 1998-99 the back problem limited Dino to just 14 games. With his contract up at season's end, no team was willing to take a chance on the aging scoring machine with a chronic back problem.

"I would have loved to play another couple of years, but the injury that I got last year is just nagging and it's making me unable to play the way I'd like to. It wasn't worth it."

Dino the Dinosaur retired with 608 goals, 2 shy of Bobby Hull's 610. There is no doubt that Ciccarelli ranks high on the all time goal scoring list. There is also no doubt that Dino belongs among the game's all time best.


~Mark said...

Dino is my childhood hero. I loved his style of play, his shot, and his general feistiness. I wore number 22 because of him.

Anonymous said...

i remember watching Dino play in
Oklahoma City. He would play before
crowds that sometimes didnt even come to 1000. Dino was something
special even then. I was very lucky
to see such a great hockey player!!

Anonymous said...

You left out the off-ice antics that sent him to Detroit. Namely an incident with an under-age girl in a limo in Georgetown.

Anonymous said...

Dino is my all time favortie player! I can remember crying when he broke his leg in Washington, and fans wearing the purple dinasaur suit.

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