Saturday

Ken Linseman

Ken Linseman was a real effective hockey player, but he was not much of a finisher. I mean that two ways. Though a good offensive presence, he was not a goal scorer. And secondly, he was real shit disturber with a reputation for causing a lot of trouble that he rarely stuck around to see the end.

Yes, Linseman's reputation will always be that of a dirty hockey player. He was a physical player in all zones of the ice, but at 5'11" and 175lbs he was anything but a heavy hitter. He did hit hard though, often taking a couple more strides than he should have, and often using his arms and elbows to hit high. In a pre-obstruction crackdown NHL he was well versed in other uses for the hockey stick. He would slash, cross check, and spear an opponent, and he was a clutch and grab specialist.

Making it even worse was Linseman's mouth. He was so yappy on the ice that he drove many an opponent crazy listening to him. He was like your little brother or sister who would tease you into a fury until you got in trouble for throwing the first punch. Linsemen drew many penalties by being a super pest.

Linseman was down right dirty at times. In fact, not many people remember that in junior hockey he was charged and convicted of assault for kicking an opponent in the forehead with his skate.

It's actually too bad that Linseman chose to play this way, because he was actually quite a decent hockey player. He was an excellent defensive player and face-off expert, and as such he was given important responsibilities late in games. He would doggedly pursuing the puck to no end, but he had good anticipation and vision to make the job much easier.

Though he lacked great straight ahead speed, Linseman was a wonderful skater. He had tremendous lateral movement. He was as shifty a player as I've ever seen, and with a single step he could change direction and never be out of the play. He skated with very bent over, which led to his nickname "The Rat," not his antagonistic style.

Offensively he was a nice presence. He was a good stickhandler and a solid playmaking pivot. Blessed with excellent vision, he could feed pucks to teammates at the same time holes opened up.

As mentioned previously, Linseman was not a goal scorer. He did not possess an especially accurate or powerful shot. Instead he relied on crashing the slot looking for deflections and rebounds.

In 1978 Linseman joined the Philadelphia Flyers organization, and was being groomed to be Bobby Clarke's replacement on the ice. In many ways he was similar to Clarke though not nearly as good offensively or even defensively. He would spend 4 seasons on the Rat Patrol line with Paul Holmgren and Brian Propp but would wear out his welcome.

Linseman joined the Edmonton Oilers in 1982-83, forming an effective line with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson. Linseman was part of the Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup championship.

The following year, Linseman was traded to Boston where he put in more than five seasons. By the turn of the decade he had lost some of his steam. He would round out his career with brief return appearances in Philadelphia and Edmonton as well as Toronto.

Linseman's reputation may forever be as a super pest, but his greatest legacy will be for his role in redefining the draft.

When Linseman was starring in junior hockey with the Kingston Canadiens, he attempted to sign as an under-aged player with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA. At the time both the NHL and WHA excluded anyone under the age of 20 from the draft and from playing. But Linseman figured at 18 he was old enough to vote and go to war, so why couldn't he earn a living?

The attempt unexpectedly exploded into a full-blown legal bout that was eventually settled only when Linseman secured an injunction against the WHA and was allowed to join the Bulls.

Linseman's successful bid created quite the groundswell, and changed hockey forever. Soon the WHA was raiding junior hockey of many top young players, including Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. The NHL came on board too, dropping the draft age to 18.

The lowering of the draft age has made drafting future NHL players a very uncertain task. Suddenly grade 12 kids, many of whom were rushed into junior hockey and away from their family's home that much earlier, faced a lot of pressure to perform. Aside from the elite talents, many kids are not able to live up to expectations.

8 comments:

Anonymous,  6:22 PM  

Kenny Linseman is an asshole...Many of us townies wish he would move back to canada. He picked up surfing and his "trademark" incessant yapping is annoying in the surfing lineup. His other "trademark" of not backing up his mouth is also displayed in the water. At 50 years old, you would think a level of maturity would be attained.

locaste 5:05 PM  

Many differences of opinion about Linseman but it's hard to deny that:

1) He was good enough to play in the NHL.

2} He was good snough to have his name on the Stanley Cup.

3) He was good enough to score the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime.

Super-pest, pain-in-the-ass might also apply but these were valuable parts of his game, a game I found interesting.

Locaste
Babylon, NY

Armon 5:05 PM  

I agree with locaste. Ken Linseman was another Terry Oreilly type player, not the best at anything, but worked his butt off an was great to watch. A very entertaining hockey player! One which many teams look for this time of year heading into the playoffs.
He will never end up in the hall of fame. Bad numbers, played on great teams, etc...

Anonymous,  7:31 PM  

I think Kenny is a great guy and an amazing hockey player with a big heart

Anonymous,  11:51 PM  

One of the most despicable players ever. A total and complete chickenshit stick boy. I dont want to hear size being an excuse. Garry Howatt and Dennis Polonich were smaller than him and they went out and fought, backed up their dirty play with their fists. Randy Holt was only a little bigger and he was tough as nails. Linseman was a disgrace and he deserves to be ostracized for it. Comparing him to a heart and soul, gutsy guy like O'Reilly is absurd.

maltie48 4:09 PM  

Kenny Linesman was the reason to live on Thursday nights to watch a more than boring KENNY, my daughter & I had the privledge of meeting Kenny & his wife Pam who appreciated their fans & who took the time to have a relationship with us & took pictures with us. Because of those years we have remained loyal to the Bruins & even tho I'm in Tennessee I still root for my team, just wish to see Kenny play again. We love KENNY LINESMAN!!

Anonymous,  8:57 PM  

I grew up in Kingston and I remember Kenny winning the mvp at the Wrigley tournament in Midget.

A few days afterward, I saw him in person for the first time. I stood in the lobby of Cooks Community Centre for a few minutes with my Father. My Dad and I ... and all my teammates watched with awe as Kenny and his team practiced. I didn't even know which one he was out there at first. I remember saying to my Dad, "Who is the guy with the really long hair"? He answered, "That's Ken Linseman". The Wrigley tournament made him tuck his hair in the back of his sweater...so I didn't realize it was Kenny when I saw him this time. From that moment on...I was the biggest Ken Linseman fan on the planet!!!!!

You should have seen him skate and stick handle!!! He was brilliant!!! ...and my God I mean brilliant!!! By far...the smoothest and fastest skater I've ever seen!! ... and ...I've played Major Junior A myself.

In the days when I was growing up in K-town my Dad would take me to the Kingston Canadian's practices on Saturday mornings. And...we would always be at the games on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons when I wasn't playing myself.

I remember the days where Kenny would walk through any team at any given moment ...coast to coast. He was quite literally, a league above the rest!!! He was magical!!!!!

I kept a scrapbook of Kenny and he was certainly my hockey hero. He carried the team on his back...and I couldn't wait for every moment he would step on that ice. I filled a couple of books that all highlighted Linseman scoring 5 goals in a game and the like.

He played for the Birmingham Bulls at age 17. That's pretty special!! He had a great NHL career!!

If there was one thing I could change it would be his attitude sometimes. I love Kenny...and he is still my biggest hockey hero!!!! He will always be!!!! I still to this day hate to hear people talk bad about him. I hoped and prayed many times as a kid....especially after the Geiger incident....that he would grow and learn .... and get past that negative stuff. Somehow, he really never did. That has always saddened me.

The Kenny Linseman I knew and loved and looked up to as a kid... was the most skilled player I'd ever seen. ...But ...there was something more than that. He inspired me...with his passion and tenacity as well as his superior skills, vision, playmaking and game sense. WOW!!!!! As kids learn through modelling and imitation, I took these things into my own game and my own life. They have made me a better person and I am grateful to Kenny for that.

I am a Teacher and have been coaching hockey and baseball in education and the community for almost 30 years now. Again, I thank Kenny for instilling a passion and great love of the game in me.

I actually played Jr. hockey with Mike, against Steve, John and Teddy ... all Kenny's brothers. And...Sheila, his sister was an amazing figure skater!! I played hockey at Queen's with her husband before he passed.

I will always relish the memories!!! I am also very grateful for getting the opportunity to skate in the summer with Kenny in Kingston as all the pro's and Jr. players trained together. I brought my scrap books and had him sign them one of the summers. I since then ran into Sheila ...as we are both in education ... and I asked her to pass my books along to Kenny. I haven't heard from him on those...but I do hope he likes them!!! And ...can see what an impact a person can have on another.

If I had a wish for Kenny...it would have been that he would have just stuck to hockey...in his extremely talented way. If he had to have done that...he would have been as big as Gretzky, Crosby and Giroux and be on his way to the Hall!!!!

Hoping you are well Kenny!!! Thanks for the memories and the inspiration!!! I miss watching you play ... and hope your life is full of joy and happiness today!!!!!

Anonymous,  4:46 PM  

I'm from Boston and the guy was hilarious to watch! He would piss off opponents and visiting fans alike. He put some comedy into it, and man could he skate! Pete

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