With Dallas recently welcoming back Jamie Langenbrunner after an almost nine year absence, and now Colorado possibly rolling out the red carpet for the third time for Peter Forsberg, here’s a look at ten players who became established with one team, then left town only to make their eventual return.
NEAL BROTEN – Nobody represents Minnesota hockey better than Neal LaMoy Broten. Born in Roseau Minnesota, he scored the championship winning goal in 1979 for the NCAA’s Minnesota Golden Gophers, and he was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars that summer. In 1980 he was a part of that gold medal winning U.S. Olympic team, and made his NHL debut that season as well, playing in three games for the North Stars. In his first full season, he made an immediate impact with the club scoring 30 goals and an amazing 98 points as a rookie. Broten would become an offensive catalyst for the North Stars and became the first ever American born player to record 100 points in a season as he scored 105 in 1985-86. He was instrumental in the North Stars surprising Cup run in 1991, scoring 22 points in 23 games. Sadly, Broten would have to pack up and leave his home state as his Minnesota North Stars would be relocated to the state of Texas in 1993, but Broten would embrace his new hometown fans and they would certainly embrace he and the Stars. Then, just seventeen games into the following season, he was dealt to New Jersey. He would be a huge part of the Devil’s first ever Championship in the spring and after parts of three seasons with the Devils and a brief stint with the Kings, Broten returned to the Stars for the final twenty games of the 1996-97 season and two in the playoffs before retiring.
WENDEL CLARK – For his first stint in Toronto, the 1st overall pick in 1985 played nine injury filled seasons but would become one of the all-time favourites ever to wear the Maple Leaf. They loved his rugged style, his guts, and his ability to put the puck in the net. And he could fight with the best of them. Only once did he manage to play at least 70 games during those nine seasons, playing 80 in 1986-87. But his best season was in 1993-94 when he scored 46 goals and 76 points in just 64 games. He was dealt to Quebec in the off season along with Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson, and a 1st round draft pick for Mats Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner, and a first round pick that Quebec previously aquired from Philadelphia in the Eric Lindros deal. He spent the better part of the next two seasons with Quebec and Long Island before returning to the Leafs in 1996. He would leave Toronto again in 1998 for Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Chicago, before playing the final twenty games of the 1999-2000 season and the final twenty games of his career back where he belonged, in a Maple Leafs sweater.
PETER FORSBERG – Once considered the world’s ” best player not in the NHL” , Forsberg would soon flirt with erasing the “not in the NHL” part of that title. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers 6th overall in the 1991 Entry Draft but was traded to the Nordiques a year later in the Lindros deal. He made his debut in 1994 and made an immediate impact, winning the Calder Trophy. After nine amazing yet injury filled seasons with the Nordique/Avalanche franchise, he signed as a free agent with the Flyers. After one and a half seasons in Philadelphia, he played the final seventeen games of the 2006-07 season with Nashville. After sitting out most of the 07-08 season, he signed with Colorado as a free agent and played the final nine regular season games plus seven playoff games with the franchise he started with. He won the Hart and the Art Ross in 2002-03 and to put it into perspective, he has a higher points per game average in both the regular season and the playoffs than teammate Joe Sakic while they played together in Quebec/Colorado.
RON FRANCIS – Without a doubt the greatest player ever to wear the Whaler/Hurricane uniform. Francis is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played ( 1,118 ) goals ( 372 ) assists ( 773 ) and points ( 1,144 ). He was drafted fourth overall by the Whalers in 1981 behind Dale Hawerchuk, Doug Smith, and Bobby Carpenter. The Whalers would not enjoy much success in his first go-round but Francis would prove to be one of the NHL’s all-stars. He was dealt to the Penguins in a six player deal on March 4th, 1991 and would go on to win back-to-back Cups in Pittsburgh. After a seven year absence, he would return to the franchise in 1998 one year after it was relocated to Carolina and play there until 2004 where he would play the last twelve games of his career as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Francis is 4th on the NHL’s all-time points list behind Gretzky, Messier, and Howe, and 3rd on the all-time games played list behind just Messier and Howe.
RON HEXTALL – What a start for Ron Hextall. The 1986-97 season saw Hextall go from an unknown rookie, to a Vezina Trophy winner, a First Team NHL All Star, and just the third player in NHL history to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy on the runner-up team. He was traded to Quebec in 1992 in the Eric Lindros trade ( is there a theme here ? ) where he would play just one full season. He spent the next season with the Islanders and made his return to Philadelphia in 1994. He helped the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final ten years after his first amazing run, but fell short once again. He retired in 1999 after five years in his second stint with the Flyers.
TREVOR LINDEN – Things could have been different. Leading up to the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, the Minnesota North Stars were undecided on who they were going to select with the first overall pick. The flashy, dynamic offensive talent in Mike Modano, or a gritty, 2-way player who could also score in Trevor Linden. The North Stars felt Modano was better suited for them so the Canucks, picking second, would take Linden. He would go on to score 30 goals in his rookie season and at least 30 in five of the next seven seasons with the Canucks. One of the seaons he fell short was the shortened 1994-95 season. He was named captain of the Canucks at the age of 21 and would prove to be a bonafied leader and fan favourite. He would will his Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, only to lose to another great leader in Mark Messier and the destined New York Rangers in seven hard fought games. His numbers would eventually dip and in 1998 and he was dealt to the NY Islanders. He would play parts of six seasons with the Islanders, Canadiens, and Capitals, before making his return to Vancouver in 2001. Linden retired after six more seasons in the uniform he always belonged in.
MARK RECCHI – Recchi was drafted 67th overall by the Penguins in 1988 and would play his first fifteen games that season scoring just one goal and one assist. His numbers would jump dramatically the following season, scoring 30 goals and 67 points. But his breakthrough season would be the following year. In 1990-91 he finished fourth in league scoring with 113 points behind just Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, and Adam Oates. He was part of a high powered Penguin team led by Mario Lemieux that would roll their way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title that year. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in a five player deal the following season that saw Rick Tocchet head the other way. After parts of four seasons with the Flyers, five with the Canadiens, and another five with the Flyers, he would return to Pittsburgh to play 101 games from 2006-07. Recchi is currently 13th on the NHL’s all-time points list.
LUC ROBITAILLE – Lucky Luc was always considered too slow for the game, despite proving his uncanny knack of scoring goals over and over again. And despite his amazing 68 goals and 191 points in 63 games in his final year in junior, he wasn’t selected until the Los Angeles Kings made the 171st selection in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. His knack for finding the net led him to 45 goals as a rookie in 1986-87, and Lucky Luc was a bonafied NHL star. Robitaille’s best season was in 1992-93 where he would score 63 goals and 125 points, both records by a left wing at the time. ( Alex Ovechkin has since broken the goals record with 65 ). In 1994, he was traded to the Penguins and after just one year in Pittsburgh, he was traded to the Rangers. In 1997, he would return to the Kings for another three full seasons, but he would sign on with the Red Wings in 2001 where he would win his first Stanley Cup the following spring. Lucky Luc would return to the Kings in 2003 for his third stint in L.A. before retiring in 2006. Only Marcel Dionne has scored more goals or points as a King and Robitaille holds the all-time record for both goals ( 653 ) and points ( 1370 ) by a left winger.
DENIS SAVARD – Drafted 2nd overall by the Hawks in 1980 after the Les Habitants went with Doug Wickenheiser instead with the 1st pick, Savoir Faire was shipped off to his hometown of Montreal in an off-season deal in 1990 that ironically sent Chris Chelios to his hometown of Chicago in return. After three seasons in Montreal, including a Cup in 1993, and one and a half in Tampa, he found his way back to the Blackhawks where he would play another two and a half seasons before retiring in 1997. The little waterbug was like magic on ice throughout his career and has scored some of the fanciest goals you will ever see. He sits 27th on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1338 points in 1196 games. Only Wayne Gretzky, Petr Stastny, Marcel Dionne, and Jari Kurri tallied more points during the 1980′s than Savard.
RICK TOCCHET – Rick “The Rocket” Tocchet burst onto the Philadelphia scene in 1984 and established himself as one of the meanest fighters around. But he would soon prove he could put the puck in the net as well. He scored 21 goals in the 1986-87 season, 31 the following year, and jumped to 45 the next. None of which saw him even reach the seventy game mark, and only the latter saw him sit in the box for less than 250 penalty minutes. He was traded to the Penguins halfway through the 1991-92 season and there he would be intrumental in the Penguins second of back-to-back Stanley Cups. The next season saw him hit career highs with 48 goals and 109 points, but he would spend the next five and a half seasons bouncing from Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, Phoenix, and then back to Philadelphia in the 1999-2000 season. He spent the next two seasons as a Flyer before retiring in 2002.
About the Author
Written by Travis Currie
Im your typical sports fan. Just a little more crazy about it. I live and die for my teams and I drive my girlfriend nuts. I consider myself the world's biggest Stars fan. Ive been a fan since I was a young kid going back to the mid 80's. Favourite Stars player of all-time is of course Mike Modano. Favourite non-Stars player of all-time is Peter Stastny. I love talking sports so please leave a reply to anything you agree or disagree with. If youd like to contact me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org