February 6, 2013, Brandon, MB (ISN) – When veteran defenceman Wade Redden takes to the ice Thursday night in St. Louis as the Blues play host to the Detroit Red Wings, the former Brandon Wheat Kings’ all star will be joining some pretty select company.
The 35-year old Hillmond, Saskatchewan product will be playing in his 1,000 career National Hockey League game, becoming not only the 280th player in National Hockey League history to reach that milestone, but the first former Wheat King to do it since Bryan McCabe surpassed the mark as a member of the Florida Panthers during the 2009-10 campaign.
Redden, who was chosen second overall by the New York Islanders in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, is poised to become only the sixth ex-Wheat King to reach the 1,000 game plateau.
Besides McCabe, who also played in the Western Hockey League with Medicine Hat and Spokane, other former Wheat Kings to reach the milestone were Laurie Boschman (1,009), Brian Propp (1,016), Brad McCrimmon (1,222) and Ray Ferraro (1,258). McCabe finished his NHL career with a total of 1,136.
Of those five, only McCrimmon, Propp and Boschman played their entire junior careers in Brandon. Ferraro, who set the WHL record by scoring 108 goals during the 1983-84 season, spent two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks before being traded to the Wheat Kings.
The second player chosen in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, Redden had hoped to do this two years ago but in September, 2010, the New York Rangers waived the former all star and sent him to the American Hockey League’s Connecticut Whale. There, he stayed for the next two seasons, before becoming a free man again last month with the end of the NHL lockout.
With Redden available, a number of teams were interested but it was Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues that landed the former Ottawa Senator.
“I coached him in the World Cup (of Hockey in 2004) and (the 2006) Olympics and I coached against him a lot when he was in Ottawa,” says Hitchcock “so I knew him really well. I go back to junior and he was a calm player there for the Wheat Kings. He’s in a different place in his life now. Wade plays for the right priorities.”
Since arriving in St. Louis, where he is teammate of another ex-Wheat King – Ryan Reaves – Redden has been excellent, scoring twice in his first five games as he moves closer to 1,000 game plateau. Of the 999 games Redden has played, 838 were played in an Ottawa uniform.
“I had a lot of good years in Ottawa,” Redden recently told Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen. “Obviously in New York, I had some challenges. But I’ve been very fortunate to stick around for 1,000 games. The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind…with everything else that’s been happening, the game is taking a bit of a back seat but it’s something I’m very proud of.”
“In my head I was always hoping I was going to get another chance,” he went on to say. “I did, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
While getting sent down would have been enough for many athletes – especially those that have tasted the success that he had – to pack it in, his family, friends and former teammates convinced him to stay. In addition to Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson, Wade leaned on Wheat Kings’ general manager and owner Kelly McCrimmon.
McCrimmon will be in St. Louis Thursday night for Redden’s 1,000 game, helping to celebrate the milestone with Wade’s father Gord, wife Danica, brother Bart and his sister Nikki.
“Even though he was tremendously well compensated by the Rangers, it was a difficult situation for a guy who had never played a game in the minors,” McCrimmon told the Ottawa Citizen last week. “This isn’t the story of a guy who was injured and is finally coming back or a guy who spent lots of years in the minors and is finally getting a chance. This is a unique situation he was in and I’m sure there were some days when he was wondering if he’d ever get back….so this is probably even more satisfying for him.”
Chosen by the Wheat Kings in the first round (2nd overall) in the 1992 WHL Bantam Draft, Redden enjoyed three outstanding seasons in Brandon. After scoring four goals and 39 points (a club record at the time for 16-year old blueliners) in 1993-94, he scored career highs in goals (14), assists (46) and points (60) during his sophomore year. Injuries cost him 21 games during his final year in Brandon but the highly touted defenceman still managed to average more than a point per game with nine goals and 54 points as he helped lead the Wheat Kings to their last League Title in 1996.
While he becomes the sixth former Wheat King to reach the 1,000 game plateau, he is one of only a handful of Brandon players to participate in back to back Memorial Cups – 1995 in Kamloops and ’96 in Peterborough.
“The Wheat King organization is tremendously proud of Wade’s career and this accomplishment. He was a great player, played in two Memorial Cups and two world junior tournaments as a Wheat King,” McCrimmon added. “More importantly, he is a great person, and he remains a proud member of our organization today.”
“There are few people happier or prouder than me to see him reach this milestone,” Brandon’s GM and owner said this week.
Entering Thursday’s game against Jordin Tootoo and the Red Wings, Redden has career totals of 108 goals, 456 points and 631 penalty minutes.
“I’m so thankful and happy the Blues have given me another chance,” says Redden, who was chosen Best Defenceman at the 2005 IIHF World Championship. “While it was tough to initially go down there (AHL), I understood the situation…but I didn’t want it to end that way. I had something to prove to myself and to everyone else.”
As a member of a young and exciting team in St. Louis, you never know – you could see the former Wheat King great playing a lot more games when the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around in April.