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Islander of the Day: Dale Henry

He ended up playing more games for the Islanders AHL affiliate in Springfield than he did for the big club.

Anger On Ice
This is literally the only picture of Dale Henry in our entire photo library.
Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

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.

Dale Henry set up possibly the most important screen in Islanders history.

In the wee hours of April 19, 1987, in the fourth overtime of Game 7 in a first round playoff series between the Islanders and Washington Capitals, Henry maneuvered in front of Capitals goalie Bob Mason and turned to face the blueline. At about the same time at the same blueline, center Pat LaFontaine spun towards the net and laid into a slapshot, launched in Mason’s direction. With Henry screening him, Mason, who had made 54 saves to that point, never saw the puck as it bounced off the post and behind him.

Game over, series over. Easter Epic over.

(Fun Fact: That’s the only video on my YouTube channel)

LaFontaine gets credit for the goal, but he was quick to credit Henry with that all important distraction.

“I just turned and hit the thing,” LaFontaine said. “I was just hoping it would hit somebody in front of the net and be a shot on goal. Dale Henry screened {Capitals goalie} Bob Mason, and I could see the puck hit the post.”

Defenseman Gord Dineen, who tried for a wraparound goal just before LaFontaine scored, also said Henry was crucial to the play.

“I had a second wind coming off the bench, so I went in behind the net and came out the other side and tried to score myself, but it was blocked out in front. The puck went right out to Patty, who was covering my point. But nobody ever mentions Dale Henry as our guy out front. He did a great job of screening. Mason never even saw the puck.”

Even Islanders goalie Kelly Hrudey, standing way down at the other end of the ice and no doubt delirious from having made 75 saves of his own, saw the work Henry was putting in.

”Dale was creating havoc as much as he could, trying to screen Mason and maybe get a deflection or something,” Hrudey recalled.

Did Henry actually get a piece of that puck as it made it’s way past Mason? If he did, it doesn’t seem like he’s said anything over the last 33 years. It certainly would have been the biggest and most remarkable goal of a career spent entirely with the Islanders at the NHL level and on a million minor league teams across the globe.

His NHL numbers are pretty middling. An eighth round pick of the Islanders in the 1983 NHL Draft, the winger spent parts of six seasons in blue and orange, all post-dynasty. Like Alan Kerr, Henry was probably expected to continue the franchise’s winning ways, but it didn’t turn out that way. He had a 41-goal, 77 point season for the Saskatoon Blades a year after being drafted and probably seemed like a steal. But he ended up playing more games for the Islanders AHL affiliate in Springfield over the six seasons than he did for the big club.

His first three seasons featured cups of coffee and a handful of goals, and also the aforementioned Easter Epic. The next season, 1987-88, was his longest and most productive NHL run, with 48 games played for the Islanders, five goals and 15 assists. He scored his only NHL playoff goal in that spring’s first round series against the Devils. After that, Henry played just 42 combined games in the NHL in the next two seasons.

He definitely wasn’t shy about throwing hands, with multiple seasons over the years topping 100 PIMs. Here’s he and Jay Wells of the Kings feeding each other a bunch of fists.

Starting in 1990-91, Henry’s hockey career was strictly off-Broadway, playing for teams like the ill-fated Albany Choppers, Muskegon Lumberjacks, San Antonio Iguanas and Shreveport Mudbugs (there were a couple of jaunts in Holland in there, too). His stats were really consistent throughout his many minor league stops and he ended up having most of his highest-scoring seasons between the ages of 30 and 37. Being an ex-NHLer playing in the Western Professional Hockey League probably had something to do with it, too.

(He also played a season in Roller Hockey International, suiting up for the 1995 Oklahoma Coyotes. Shout out to the Long Island Jawz.)

As befitting all true minor league legends, Henry acted as both a player and coach at the same time. Twice. He took over as head coach of the Iguanas half way through the 1996-97 season, but couldn’t lead them out of last place of the Central Hockey League’s Western Conference. In 2000-01, he was a player and assistant coach for the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. Henry was head coach of the CHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays in 2001-02 before retiring from hockey for good.

Dale Henry spent the better part of 20 years playing minor league hockey. You can’t knock the man’s dedication to the sport. He might not have had had the most distinguished NHL career, but sometimes just knowing where to be at the right time is all you need.