Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New IceCats Part 2: Ballot Stuffing, Mosquitoes, and BJ's

As promised a few days ago, here are the other three players I picked up the other day to add to my 97-98 IceCats team progress. Semi interesting stories for 2 of the 3 guys, and the 3rd card is pretty rare so I'm especially happy to have it too!

The first player is a guy some of you may have heard of before, but not for his time with the IceCats. His name is Rory Fitzpatrick, and his Topps Finest card is well protected!
Now Fitzpatrick had a decent career, with 18 seasons of hockey split across the OHL, AHL, IHL, and NHL (287 games there). What Fitzpatrick became well known for, however, was his 2006-07 season with the Vancouver Canucks. The season itself was one of Fitzpatrick's personal bests, including 7 points, a +12 +/- in 58 games. But it became immortalized that year thanks to a 22 year old fan named Steve Schmid who started a "Vote for Rory" campaign for the All Star Game. Seizing the opportunity from the NHL to vote as many times as one wanted, Schmid created videos and t-shirts and got all sorts of people to join him in the fight to get Fitzpatrick written in to the All Star Game. One such video included this "attack" on Nicklas Lidstrom, which is pretty funny:

When preliminary results were announced that year, Fitzpatrick was 2nd in the vote for a defenseman starting spot, and people were stunned. Some folks thought it was awesome - Fitzpatrick was scrappy as heck and this vote rewarded an unsung guy (he had 0 points at the time in 18 games) for putting in the hours on the game he loved. Other folks, including Wayne Gretzky, thought the idea was a crock that tarnished the game and took the spot away from more deserving guys.

When the votes were finally tallied up, Fitzpatrick finished 3rd behind Niklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer, much to the chagrin of many fans. Fitzpatrick was only 23,000 votes behind Lidstrom, which led many to believe that the NHL altered the final vote to ensure Lidstrom would beat Fitzpatrick. Regardless of the reasoning for the third place finish, it meant no All Star Game for Fitzpatrick, as only the top two defensemen are guaranteed appearances with the rest of the roster filled out by the league. So unfortunately Fitzpatrick had to watch the game from home like many players (And to add further insult to injury, #1 vote getter Scott Niedermayer didn't even play in the game).

But alas, Fitzpatrick still got a good story out of it to go along with his solid career. That long career actually included 4 seasons with the IceCats, including 30 points, 111 penalty minutes and a -3 +/- rating over 62 games in 1997-98. Due likely to those solid contributions , Fitzpatrick is another one of the Cats who I still remember today, and I was happy to see that he had some good times after leaving the minor leagues.

The next card belongs to Erich Goldmann, and mentions his turn of the century time with the Essen Mosquitoes of the German Hockey League:
Now first of all, that's an awesome team name - who ever thought of mosquitoes as a macsot? And their logo is even better:
Sadly, the Mosquitoes were only around the German League for 3 seasons before falling into debt. They existed for a while before and after in lesser leagues, but I guess they just didn't have the capital to stay in a big league for a long time. Which is a shame, because that logo is just way too cool!

Goldmann was with the Mosquitoes for their 2nd and 3rd (final) years of existence. More importantly to me though, he was with the Cats in 97-98! And it actually shows up on his card, which is fantastic:
His card actually acts as a decent snapshot of Goldmann's stateside career, which included 3 97-98 games with the ECHL Dayton Bombers, one season with the IceCats, and stops with 2 other AHL teams and 3 IHL teams. It also included one game in the 99-00 season with the Ottawa Senators, representing Goldmann's lone experience at the NHL level. The next season Goldmann was back in the DEL with the Mosquitoes, and Goldmann never made it back to America, retiring in 2007-08 after 8 years in Germany.

His IceCats stats included 2 assists, 40 PIM, and a -9 +/- in 31 games. Nothing superb, but Goldmann was still a solid 3rd line defenseman for those 97-98 Cats.

The final card of this post belongs to Billy-Jay Johnston, who is better known as BJ Johnston in most places. With only 5 cards, I figured it would be nearly impossible to find one of Johnston's cards. But an OHL team issue was available on Beckett, and now it's mine!
The 67's got their name from 1967, which was the first year of their existence. In case you were wondering, because i know I was!

Johnston actually lit it up when he was with the 67's, scoring 55 points in just 47 games. He continued this success the following year with the Baton Rogue Kingfish, with 49 points in 61 games. He then played 3 stat-less games with the IceCats before two more productive seasons with the Kingfish and a decent 15 game stint with the 1999-00 Flint Generals. And then Johnston was out of hockey - bizarre since he was very productive at ECHL and OHL levels, but not unexpected given the way minor league careers go across all sports.
I'll finish this post with the back of Johnston's card, which could explain some of the reasoning behind Johnston's short career. As the card back says, Johnston was an "overager" in the OHl, as his excellent 1996 season came at the age of 21. While this isn't exactly ancient, it was old for that league, which could mean Johnston was sort of a "quad-A" player in baseball terms, excelling at the minors especially on his 3rd and 4th go around, but without the skills to cut it at the AHL/NHL level. Since he was never given any opportunities above 3 games with the 1997-98 IceCats, we'll never truly know what Johnston could have done. But he ended up with 5 sports cards to his name in the end, so hopefully that was pretty exciting for him!

1 comment:

  1. BJ Johnston's career was cut short by an attack while playing with the Flint Generals. He was unable to walk and unable to talk following this attack.


    "Ciccarelli implemented a charity night in support of OHL graduate B.J. Johnston, who suffered brain damage in an on-ice collision during a United Hockey League game earlier this season. The event raised over $14,000 for the injured player."