Former NHL players hit the ice in Kodiak
KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — When Garrick Schauff arrived at the Baranoff Park ice rink Saturday morning, he didn’t expect to be facing former NHL players in a penalty shootout.
But there he was, 10 hours after arriving at Kodiak’s outside rink, in goalie pads staring down John Wensink and Jim Campbell, two of the five former NHL pros in attendance at the three-day Kodiak Cup.
Wensink, an enforcer during his playing days who once challenged the entire Minnesota North Stars team to a fight in 1977, was first to take aim at Schauff. He fired a slap shot into the net before Schauff flinched.
Up next was Campbell, a second-round pick of the Montreal Canadians in 1991 who scored 61 career goals in 285 games. He faked a shot, and then went around the fallen Schauff and deposited the puck into the net.
A smile emerged from behind Schauff’s mask.
“I knew they were going to be hard shots and I didn’t know if they were going to juke me out,” said Schauff, an eighth-grader at Kodiak Middle School. “The first guy took a shot and the second guy juked me out pretty good.”
Wensink, Campbell, Terry Yake, Al Pedersen and Dennis Polonich were on hand for the first-of-a-kind event to come to the island — The Kodiak Cup, the brainchild of Kodiak orthopedic surgeon Russell DeGroote.
DeGroote, who arrived in Kodiak in December, created the Kodiak Cup — a three-day clinic and adult and youth tournament — to help generate funds for a locker room at rink.
His NHL buddies, who he met through his time in the medical field and playing days, were more than willing to make a trip to Kodiak, even if some didn’t know where they were going.
“I didn’t have any idea where it (Kodiak) was, so I quickly checked the atlas and Googled it,” said Polonich, a beloved Detroit Red Wings player from the 1970s. “Yeah, I wouldn’t buy a ticket to come here, but now that I’m here; my God what a beautiful little community you have, and gorgeous scenery.”
Polonich, a 5-foot-6 enforcer during his playing career, makes his home in Calgary and does clinics year-round. DeGroote invited Polonich to Kodiak because he was successful in the NHL despite his lack of size. That was one of Polinich’s messages to Kodiak’s youth players.
“Life is not easy, and if you want to make your way, you have to find a way to make it happen,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate in life with a tremendous heart, passion and work ethic.”
Polonich spent his entire NHL career with the Red Wings. He was involved in a scuffle with Wilf Paiement of the Colorado Rockies — not the baseball team — in 1978 that altered his career and his face.
Paiement slashed Polonich’s face with his stick that resulted in severe facial lacerations and a broken nose that required reconstructive surgery. Paiement got a 15-game suspension — a tremendous amount back then — and Polonich missed 18 games recovering from the injury.
Polonich filed a lawsuit against Paiement and was awarded an $850,000 settlement. He was one of the first players to sue another player.
“I was never the same player after that,” said Polonich, who was out of the league in 1982.
Hunter Blair, a senior at Kodiak High School, was unfamiliar with the visiting players until a Google search — he was impressed with what he found and walked away from Friday’s clinic a better player.
“It was really interesting to see the difference in the playing style and the rawness of the older hockey — it is pretty cool,” Blair said.
Polonich was a fan favorite at the camp, signing autographs on photos, hockey sticks and gloves. He spent Saturday decked in his Red Wings No. 8 jersey and a team cap.
For somebody who has conquered a lot in his career, he enjoyed being on a remote island far from home.
“You can’t really plan a trip like this, it just happens,” he said. “I have done a lot of neat things in my life . and this ranks rights up there with all of them.”
While here, the group toured the island via float plane, traversed to Saltery Cove and encountered a bear while fishing.
“We saw one bear from afar, but Campbell has an awesome picture with a fish and the bear right behind him,” said Pedersen.
Pedersen played in 428 games with the Boston Bruins, Minnesota North Stars and Harford Whalers during his eight-year NHL career. He was purely a defensive guy, scoring only five goals and going an NHL record 273 games between finding the net.
He was impressed with the local talent, especially with Kodiak High School sophomore Carly Glover, a member of the Alaska All-Stars 19U team based in Anchorage.
“She was schooling us,” Pedersen said. “She was putting on a clinic for the pros.”
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com