Monday, December 17, 2012

A Look At The Minor League Lifer

In the course of a week, there has been two different articles talking about players being the "Crash Davis" of minor league hockey. talked about Darren Haydar's time in the AHL, while Adrian Dater was all about Brad Smyth's cross-continent approach when playing.

Haydar has played 23 NHL games over four seasons over an 11-year career and Smyth has 88 over eight seasons over an 18-year career; so I would give an edge to Haydar when it comes to the Crash Davis tag since he has much more of a "cup of coffee" status rather than Smyth.

The idea of having two Crash Davis's confuses me because, much like the Highlander, there must only be one. Aside from the 1980s movie references, it got me thinking who could be the most minor league of minor league players. There has been many lifers in the lower leagues without getting the most notoriety when all is said and done.

You have to go to the record books, obviously, to see who has the most games played and how they go about the minor league approach. The AHL has the types like Willie Marshall, who played in the 50's and 60's where the AHL itself was a very competitive league and had talent almost like the NHL, but were hooped because of the limited amount of teams in the NHL. Marshall did play 33 games with the Maple Leafs over four seasons, his last game during the 1958-59 season and didn't retire until 1971-72, finishing with a record 1,205 games in the AHL.

Harry Pidhirny could be the biggest proponent of the Crash Davis tag, playing only two games in the NHL and 1,071 in the AHL. Fred Glover was in the older era as well, but played 93 games in the NHL and 1,201 in the AHL; as well Mike Nykoluk who played in 1,069 in the AHL and 32 in the NHL. More recently, Jody Gage and Bryan Helmer are over the 1,000-game plateau in the AHL, though Helmer did see 145 NHL games to Gage's 68.

The ECHL has a lot of older soldiers of the minor league lifers, Cam Brown playing 789 ECHL, one NHL game, two IHL seasons, and 15 in the AHL; almost making him very much the lifer of all lifers. That is, until you see Louis Dumont's stat line, having him play 771 in the ECHL and only 10 games above the "AA" league system (5 AHL, 5 IHL) and 318 in the CHL, plus 14 in the British Leagues. Wes Goldie only played 697 games in the ECHL and only two AHL games to show for his career, as well as a stint in the Quebec Semi-Pro League.

On the horizon, Boyd Kane is at 891 games (as of 12.17.12); but probably won't catch the 1,205 of Marshall, but could top the 1,000-game mark. You have Sam Ftorek chasing Brown's ECHL record and only 36 games away from surpassing Goldie's games played, while Randy Rowe would be on the list if he didn't have extended stints in the AHL a couple of times. Tyler Fleck is chasing Travis Clayton's CHL record of 880 games, but Fleck is at 733 and has Scott Wray (646) and Sebastien Thinel (591) on his tail-- though Thinel could be a little more set-up to overtake Clayton as he is a bit younger-- but injuries can halt many things.

There's plenty of lifers in the minors that people don't know about, but all it takes is a lockout and need for news that makes these names come to light and makes people take notice to guys who have led a vibrant career in the minors, but may never get the chance to take NHL ice for a long time, if at all.

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