Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dan Hodgson, Once a prospect

With the Vancouver Canucks calling up prized prospect Cody Hodgson this week, I am reminded of a time long ago and another top prospect by the name of Hodgson. Dan Hodgson was only a 5th round draftee in 1983 by Toronto but it was after his draft that he developed into a real blue-chip prospect. While he had scored 130 points in his draft year with the Prince Albert Raiders, he exploded for back-to-back seasons of 181 and 182 points. He would play twice for Canada in the World Junior tourney and collected 14 points in 5 games at the 1985 Memorial Cup.

During his rookie pro season of 1985/86 Hodgson split time between the AHL's St. Catherines Saints and the big club. His season was late to start after a broken nose and cheekbone suffered in training camp. He had 29 points in 22 minor league games and a respectable 13 goals, 25 points in 40 games for the Leafs. Things were looking up for the youngster.

The next season, John Brophy took over the Leaf coaching reigns from Dan Maloney and brought a "defense first" style to the club. Dan Hodgson did not play Brophy's style and was dispatched to the farm team, now based in Newmarket. This is where I personally got to see him play in each and every home game. As the team-appointed video camera operator, I was able to immerse myself into watching the Maple Leaf up-and-comers. Hodgson certainly impressed my young eyes, and I was bewildered when on Dec. 2, 1986 when I arrived in the press-box for work to find out Hodgson had been traded. He and fellow Brophy outcast Jim Benning had been dealt to Vancouver for defenseman Rick Lanz.

"Jim and I were doing cartwheels in the Newmarket dressing room, we were so happy about the deal," Hodgson told the Canadian Press after the trade. He added, "My style didn't fit in with his (Brophy's) ideas, especially after Ken Yaremchuk and Mike Allison came to Toronto in trades. Personally, I don't think I got a fair shake." His new coach, Canucks Tom Watt said, "Hodgson is tricky with the biscuit and has nice hands." He would definitely get a 'fair shake' on the West coast.

He played the remainder of the season with Vancouver and put up similar numbers to his rookie campaign with 22 points in 43 games. He began the next year 87/88 by tearing up the AHL with the Fredricton Express with 26 points in 13 games. He continued his hot pace with the Canucks and produced 10 points in his first 4 games including a 5 point night against Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. Unfortunately for Hodgson, his season came to an abrupt end a few weeks later on Nov.25 when he broke his left leg in a collision with Calgary's Brad McCrimmon.

1988/89 saw Hodgson once again ripping up the minors with 82 points in 47 games with the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals. During two different stints with Vancouver he scored 17 points in 23 games. That would however be the end of Hodgson's NHL career at age 23. He played the next 15 seasons in various leagues in Austria, Germany and mainly Switzerland. He retired in 2005 at the age of 39 after more than 500 games in Europe and 74 points in 114 NHL games.

1 comment:

Mike Zaparaniuk said...

Great write up. I agree with everything you said. I watched him play every game in Prince Abert and travelled to Saskatoon when he would play against the Blades. I believe he was the best Raider of all time not Mike Modano.

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