Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ciccarelli, DiDomenico....Friends of the fractured femur.

The Voltigeurs of Drummondville pulled off a slight upset by beating the Windsor Spitfires in overtime 3-2 on Saturday night. The winner was tallied by Maxime Frenette who spent most of the playoffs as the 13th forward on the Volts, that is until Drummondville’s star Chris DiDomenico was injured. DiDomenico suffered a broken femur in the Quebec League final against Shawinigan and was at benchside sitting in a wheelchair for Frenette’s dramatic winner. Frenette had only played the last four games of the final and scored one goal after tallying 19 points in 52 regular season games.

Back to DiDomenico, even with his unfortunate injury (on an icing chase for the puck) he led the league with 31 playoff assists in 15 games. The Maple Leaf 6th round pick in 2007 had recently signed a three year entry level contract with the big club. As well, he had a terrific run with team Canada winning a World Junior gold medal while playing on a line with John Tavares. The Leafs had big future plans for DiDomenico which will be put on hold for perhaps 12 months. This is the same injury suffered last year by Kurtis Foster of the Minnesota Wild on a similar play no less. Foster was out for almost a full year, returning at the end of this year in seemingly full health to score six points in ten games.

DiDomenico’s injury also recalls the trials of Dino Ciccarelli some thirty years previous.
Dino had just completed the 1977/78 season for the London Knights with 72 goals, besting the likes of both Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Smith. He was still a year away from the draft and was rumoured to be joining his London teammates Rob Ramage and Pat Riggin as a baby Bull with Birmingham of the WHA. Ciccarelli would instead have a 16 inch metal rod inserted into his upper leg after tripping over a broken stick in practice and breaking his femur. After months of painful rehab, Dino was able to return to the Knights for the end of the78/79 season, but hardly impressed scouts for the upcoming draft. He scored a mortal 8 goals and 19 points in 30 games. Not surprisingly, the scouts ignored him. “Nobody was going to take a chance on a cripple,” Ciccarelli commented. However, Lou Nanne general manager of the North Stars took that chance a few months later. He signed Dino as a free agent just prior to his final year of junior. The gamble obviously paid off, as Ciccarelli would score 50 goals and 103 points in 62 games with London, in addition he scored 5 goals in 5 games with team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He would finish the 79/80 season skating with the Oklahoma City Stars of the CHL, scoring 5 points in 6 games. 48 games and 32 goals into the next season, Ciccarelli was finally called up to Minnesota and Nanne’s gamble finally paid dividends. Dino notched 18 goals and 30 points in the final 32 games and added 14 goals and 21 points in 19 playoff games as the North Stars made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dino Ciccarelli would of course go on to play 19 seasons in the NHL scoring 608 goals, Chris DiDomenico and the Leafs would be ecstatic with a career even half as good.

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