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For some NHLers, the lifelong dream stops after one game. These are their stories.
The dream for every hockey player growing up is to skate in the NHL. For some players though, a brief glimpse of NHL ice is the highlight of their career. HockeyDB has 333 players listed as one-game wonders, the most famous of whom is probably Don Cherry.
In their history the Islanders have had just 16 such players. Not surprisingly, a large number of these players came following the 1995-96 NHL season.
Only one of these one-game wonders had a point in his appearance with the Islanders. In the league overall, only 21 players have ever recorded a point during their lone NHL game appearance. Even more rare is the one-game wonder with a goal: Three players have scored a goal in their one game appearance, the last being Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brad Fast in 2003-04. Fast is somewhat notable to Isles fans, as he was traded from the Canes to the Predators for Eric Fichaud.
There are a lot of good stories about these blink-of-an-eye appearances in Islanders history, and some of them get more interesting as we move closer to the present.. From Vic Teal to Jeff Libby to one who's likely to play a second game if the 2012-13 season ever starts, we'll tackle them all. But today, we start with the '70s and '80s. The '90s will follow tomorrow.
1973-74: Vic Teal
In their second NHL season and first under Al Arbour, the Islanders went 19-41-18, a seven-win improvement over their inaugural season. It was also the first time a one-game wonder played for the team. Teal was a 4th-round and 42nd overall pick of the St Louis Blues in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft (the old style drafts). He had an impressive OHA Jr career, posting 176 points in 152 games. His most impressive play was in the old CHL, racking up 199 games over 3 seasons and 153 points.
The Islanders called him up during his stint with the CHL Fort Worth Wings during his most successful minor season, seeing him post 76 points in 72 games. With 4 shots on net in his one game he has the most shots of any of the one-game wonders, and double the number of second place. After his moment of glory he would play three more seasons, in the CHL, NAHL and OHA Sr league before retiring at 27 following the 1976-77 season.
His brother Skipper Teal was actually a one-game NHL wonder too.
1981-82: Neil Hawryliw
In the midst of the Islanders dynasty, defenseman Neil Hawryliw played one game. Hawryliw was an undrafted free agent following a WHL (then known as the WCJHL) career that saw him improve every season. The Islanders signed him after he had 69 points in 75 games for the Muskegon Mohawks during his second season in the third incarnation of the IHL. He was transferred to the Islanders' CHL affiliates, playing first for the Fort Worth Texans and then Indianapolis Checkers.
He improved every season until hitting his highest professional point total with 79 points in 80 games during his third CHL season. Following his NHL appearance, he played five more pro seasons, largely back in the IHL except for a 2 game stint in the CHL. He retired following the 1986-87 season at 31 years old.
1984-85: Vern Smith
Vern Smith is the first player on this list that was actually drafted by the Islanders. A defenseman, he was taken as the last pick (42nd overall) of the 2nd round in the 1982 NHL Draft. He had a solid career in the WHL, having his best season as a 19-year-old for the New Westminster Bruins. That year he had 57 points in 69 games, although that total might have been somewhat inflated from playing with a 17-year-old Cliff Ronning who had 136 points that year.
Following his junior career he finished out the season playing in the CHL for the Indianapolis Checkers. He was one of three Islander prospects who only played in the playoffs for the Checkers that year, along with follow defenseman (and 83 1st round pick) Gerald Diduck and Dale Henry.
The Islanders probably had high hopes for Smith as he had a cup of tea at the NHL level during the 1984-85 season. While he never again played in the NHL, Smith was a cornerstone of the Islanders AHL affiliate Springfield Indians. He played with them for five straight seasons, not suffering the constant bouncing around that most minor league players have to deal with.
Between 1989-90 and 1991-92 though he played for 6 different teams between the IHL, ECHL and AHL. He finished his career in 1991-92 pretty much as it started, playing 17 games in the AHL for the Capital District Islanders.
Come back tomorrow for more in this series, including one heart-breaking tale.