The New York Islanders - along with every other NHL team and many other businesses - have temporarily suspended operations due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and World Health Organizations have strongly advised the public to practice self-quarantining and avoid close contact and crowds to limit the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean we can’t gather in a virtual space and talk about old hockey players.
As long as the Islanders are on pause, we’ll run this series to give folks a place to chat, reminisce, and generally relieve the stress of the times.
It feels like Alan Kerr should have been a bigger deal. For a franchise with a stable full of folk heroes and flashes in various pans over the decades, a guy who averaged 20 goals and 157 penalty minutes in a three year span sounds like a guy who would be spoken about with at least some degree of reverence.
But Alan Kerr kinda isn’t. His is not a name that pops up a lot online and it doesn’t feel like the Islanders have been searching for “The Next Alan Kerr” for the last 35 years. I myself have absolutely no recognition of him at all, even though his days on Long Island were when I became a fan. I had completely forgotten about him until my friend Kevin tweeted a birthday note about him last weekend.
Maybe that’s because he had the unfortunate luck to miss most of the good stuff. Taken in the fourth round of the 1982 draft, the winger was in junior playing for the Seattle Breakers of the WHL while the Islanders were going through their dynasty phase. Kerr (not relation to Tim, BTW) got two short recalls during the 84-85 and 85-86 seasons, but by the time he was a regular in 86-87, the fun times were more or less over.
Except, of course, for the Easter Epic, in which Kerr played a key role in. He helped set up Bryan Trottier’s late third period game-tying goal, which would lead to Pat LaFontaine’s VERY LATE game-winning goal.
Kerr had seven goals and 10 assists in his first full NHL season, then blossomed in Year Two into a 24-goal, almost 200 PIM force. Here he is during that season fighting Rick Tocchet, the prototype for that kind of scoring/fighting power forward that every team wanted in that era.
And here he is fightingHOLY COW DUDE ARE YOU CRAZY? WHAT THE HELL?
According to internet hockey historian Joe Pelletier (and if you haven’t read Joe’s entries on hockey legends from the last 100 years, well, there’s no time like the present...), Kerr’s game was a simple one. While he was a pretty good skater, it was when he focused on playing straight forward, grind-it-out hockey that he had his most successful scoring periods. When he tried to be someone he wasn’t, or tried to play more of a skill/playmaking style, he wasn’t as productive.
Sadly, that 24 goal season (in which he got Selke Trophy votes) would be the pinnacle of Kerr’s career. He dropped to 20 goals and and 144 PIMs the next season and to 15 goals and 129 PIMs in Year Five.
He started the 1990s with an injury, and spent the majority of 1990-91 at Capital District. Injuries would begin to dog him for years. After that season, he was dealt to Detroit for old defenseman Rick Green (who would play just four games as an Islander). Kerr would play 58 games as a Red Wing and nine in the playoffs (with two goals), then start the next season in the minors before being traded to Winnipeg to complete a previous trade.
Kerr’s final game in the NHL was on December 12, 1993 against the Islanders at the Coliseum. He was just 28 years old when he retired.
For whatever reason, Alan Kerr isn’t the most fondly remembered Islander. He played after the dynasty and was out of the NHL before the ‘93 playoff run. Had he played in a different era, maybe it might have been different. Or maybe not.