Prince Edward Island may be Canada’s smallest province, but over the decades it has made big contributions to the National Hockey League. In honor of the province hosting ScotiaBank Hockey Day in Canada on February 11, here’s a look at the players, coaches and general managers with connections to the Island.
Brad Richards. The Island’s most well-known player and biggest star, the pride of Murray Harbour, PEI, has earned numerous individual awards at various levels throughout his playing career. His best NHL season came in 2003-04, winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup. He also earned the Lady Byng award for sportsmanship that season. Having spent most of his NHL career split between Tampa Bay and the Dallas Stars, Richards last summer signed a multi-year deal with the NY Rangers. Though his numbers are down this season, Richards is still considered among the league’s top playmakers.
Al MacAdam. Before Brad Richards hit the NHL, the best Island-born player was MacAdam, who had 591 career regular season points in 864 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, California Golden Seals, Minnesota North Stars and Vancouver Canucks. It was with the North Stars that MacAdam had his best seasons, including a 42-goal, 93-point performance in 1979-80, which also garnered him the Masterton trophy that season for perseverance. MacAdam was also a member of the 1974 Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers. Following his playing career, MacAdam coached at the college, junior and AHL level, and was for four seasons an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s currently employed as a scout with the Buffalo Sabres, and was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Rick Vaive. Though born in Ottawa, Vaive and his family moved to Charlottetown when he was 11, where he went on to make a name for himself in Island Junior hockey. Drafted fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1979 entry draft, it was with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he spent over seven years, that Vaive would have his best seasons. In 1981-82, he became the first Maple Leaf to score 50 goals, and the 54 he potted that season still stands as a Leafs record for most in a season by a player. Vaive followed that up with two more 50-plus goal seasons, and was often the sole bright spot on those dismal Leafs teams of the early 1980s, serving as team captain for four seasons. He finished his NHL career with 441 goals and 788 points in 876 regular season games. He coached in the ECHL and AHL for several seasons, serves as a show host on Leafs TV, and is active in the Leafs alumni association. He was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
Gerard Gallant. A native of Summerside, “Turk” played eleven seasons in the NHL, nine with the Detroit Red Wings from 1984-85 to 1992-93. He had four consecutive 30-plus goal seasons with the Red Wings, including a 39-goal, 93-point performance in 1988-89, playing alongside team captain Steve Yzerman. He finished his NHL career with 211 goals and 480 points in 615 games. He went on to serve with the Columbus Blue Jackets as both an assistant and head coach, and is today head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs, who won the Memorial Cup in 2011 under his guidance. Gallant was inducted into the PEI Sports Hoall of Fame in 2001.
Billy and Bobby MacMillan. The Charlottetown-born MacMillans had successful careers in the NHL. Billy, the eldest, reached the big league at age 27 after a lengthy, successful junior career, scoring 22 goals as a rookie with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1970-71. It was as a coach, however, that he achieved his biggest success, winning a Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the NY Islanders in 1980. Billy was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.
Bobby, nearly nine years Billy’s junior, had greater on-ice success in the NHL. Drafted 15th overall by the NY Rangers in the 1972 entry draft, he had nine seasons with forty or more points with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Rockies and New Jersey Devils, including a 37-goal, 108-point performance with the Flames in 1977-78. The following season, he won the Lady Byng trophy as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player. Following his playing career he went on to serve for several years in the PEI legislature. Bobby was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.
Doug MacLean. A Summerside native, MacLean became the most notable Islander to coach and manage in the NHL. He began coaching in Canadian college hockey, moved on to the AHL and eventually the NHL in assistant coaching roles, before becoming head coach of the Florida Panthers in 1995-96, coaching the upstart team to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, falling in four games to a powerhouse Colorado Avalanche team. After three season coaching the Panthers, he moved on to the Columbus Blue Jackets as a general manager for seven seasons, and for two seasons, interim coach. He’s currently an analyst on Sportsnet TV and radio. MacLean was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Jake Milford. Before MacLean, Milford was the most notable Island-born individual to become an NHL general manager. Having built the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 1960s into a Western hockey powerhouse, Milford became general manager of the LA Kings in 1973, holding that role until 1977, building the Kings into a perennial playoff contender, including a franchise-record 105 point season in 1974-75. He then moved on to become GM of the Vancouver Canucks from 1977 until 1982, when the Canucks marched to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. He was promoted to Canucks senior vice-president, a role he held until his sudden death in 1985. In 1984, he was inducted as a builder into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and in 2008 was posthumously inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame.
Forbes Kennedy. Born in New Brunswick, Kennedy’s family moved to Charlottetown when he was an infant. Not a big player (5-8, 150 lbs in his playing days), Kennedy used tenacity, courage and toughness to make his way to the NHL, playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs in a career stretching from 1956 to 1969, including several stops with minor league teams along the way. He scored 178 career points and 888 career PIMs in the NHL. His last game, with the Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins in the 1969 playoffs, was a violent affair, in which he set a single game NHL playoff record for most penalties (8) by one player. He went on to coach throughout junior and semi-pro hockey, where his teams earned a reputation for playing tough hockey. Kennedy was inducted in 1968 into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame, and was recently honored by the Summerside Western Capitals for his contributions as coach from 2004 to 2007. “Forbie” remains a colourful legend on PEI.
Errol Thompson. Another Summerside native, Thompson was spotted by former Toronto Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower during a scouting trip of PEI. That led to Thompson being drafted by the Leafs in 1970. He’d go on to play 6 1/2 seasons with the Leafs, becoming only the second player in Leafs history to score over 40 goals in a season, netting 43 in 1975-76 playing on a line with future Hall of Famers Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald. Sadly, Thompson’s offensive style ran afoul of then-coach Roger Nielsen’s defensive-minded style, and he was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings midway through the 1977-78 season, where he would play for 3 1/2 seasons, becoming their co-captain. Thompson finished his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1980-81. He was inducted in 1983 into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame.
Bob Stewart: A Charlottetown native, Stewart was selected 13th overall in the 1970 entry draft by the Boston Bruins. A bruising defenseman, Stewart played 576 NHL games, netting 128 points and 809 PIMs with the Bruins, California Seals, Cleveland Barons, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins before retiring in 1980. His career plus-minus of -260 is the lowest total by one player ever recorded, though that is more the result of playing for some very poor teams with the Seals, Barons and Penguins than a reflection of his defensive game. Stewart went on to become an instructor at hockey schools in Canada and throughout Europe, and was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Adam McQuaid. The 25-year-old native of Cornwall, PEI has only been in the NHL for three seasons, but at 6-4, 220 lbs, he’s quickly earned a reputation with the Boston Bruins as a physical, stay-at-home defenseman, and an invaluable part of their blueline. McQuaid was a key component of the Bruins Stanley Cup championship in 2011, earning a three-year contract extension for his efforts.
Steve Ott. Born in Summerside, Ott would grow up near Windsor, Ontario, where he made a name for himself as a pesky scoring forward with the Windsor Spitfires. Drafted 25th overall in 2000 by the Dallas Stars, he joined them in 2002-03, and to date has played his entire NHL career with the Stars, earning a reputation as a tough center with a decent scoring touch.
Gary Simmons. “Cobra” was born in Charlottetown, but raised in Western Canada, playing his junior hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the early 1960s. Simmons spent several years playing minor pro from Alberta to Newfoundland to Phoenix and San Diego before joining the California Seals in 1974-75. His NHL career lasted four seasons with the Seals, Cleveland Barons and LA Kings. His distinctive face mask is on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame. “Cobra” is now comfortably retired near Phoenix with his wife, Whysperss.
Hillard Graves. A native of Saint John, New Brunswick, Graves would play two seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders of the PEI Junior League before signing with the California Golden Seals in 1970-71. He would play nine NHL season with the Seals, Atlanta Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets, earning a reputation for his tough style of play, which included a devastating hip check. He retired in 1981.
Alain Vigneault. Prior to becoming head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the Quebec City-born Vigneault was head coach of the PEI Rocket for their first two seasons, where in their first season in Charlottetown (2003-04), they finished third in the Atlantic Division with a team record 91 points. He was hired by the Canucks in 2005 to coach their then-AHL affiliate in Manitoba, before going on to join the Canucks as their head coach in 2006.
Pavol Demitra. The Czech star began his North American professional career with the Ottawa Senators, spending his first three seasons (1993-94 to 1995-96) split between Ottawa and their then-AHL farm team, the PEI Senators (located in Charlottetown), helping them finish first in the Atlantic Division for two straight seasons. Demitra went on to a productive sixteen-year NHL career, with 308 goals and 768 points in 847 NHL games. Tragically, Demitra died with his Lokomotiv teammates last September in an plane crash in Russia.
Joel Ward. A native of North York, Ontario, Ward spent four years in the OHL but was undrafted by NHL teams. He subsequently spent four seasons with the UPEI Panthers, earning rookie of the year honors and named team MVP for three more seasons, earning a degree in sociology. Through his hard work and determination, he landed a tryout with the Minnesota Wild in 2005, earning a two-year professional contract. He went on to play with the Wild and Nashville Predators, and is currently with the Washington Capitals.