The small, quick Canadian forward ended his career last month as one of the most recognizable hockey names of the past generation. He put the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks on the map and was a beloved member of Team Canada, both in the junior and national levels.
Kariya was a household name, and played the game with class. Even one of my pro-MLB/NFL anti-hockey friends recently brought up Kariya’s retirement saying, “I don’t know anything about hockey, but I know who Paul Kariya is.”
It’s always unfortunate when such a dynamic player like Kariya has to cut his career short due to injuries. If he had managed to stay healthy, who knows what amount of damage he could have done in the league. Unfortunately, Kariya wasn’t one of the biggest guys in the league and he took some rough treatment; hits that could have led to his earlier-than-desired retirement.
After all was said and done though, Kariya totaled 989 points over 989 games (cool, right?), placing him 79th all-time. That total includes 402 goals, 53 of which were game-winning.
Kariya was also a solid player on the international stage, earning two golds and a silver for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. Playing for the men’s national team at the Olympics, Kariya led Canada to a silver in Lillehammer in 1994 with 12 points, and helped Canada earn its first gold medal in 50 years in 2002 at the Salt Lake games.
I don’t know about you, but Kariya was always one of the first guys I picked when doing a fantasy draft in NHL hockey games. He was fast and had great hands and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
After a solid 15 year career, Kariya will go down in history as many fans’ favorite all time player. He scored goals, won relay competitions on all-star weekend, and was just a hard-working nice guy on the ice. We will miss you, Paul, and the league just got a little less awesome.