With all apologies to Brooks Laich, the Caps never had another player who got as much bread from the bakery as RW Dino Ciccarelli. The man made a Hall of Fame career out of scoring from five feet in. As the man said himself,
"It's just a matter of getting the puck on the net and getting traffic in front of the goalies. I don't know why more teams don't do it. I still believe 90% of the goals scored are ugly goals, 10% are pretty goals. You won't find many of mine on the highlight films."
Amazingly enough, there was a time that the thought of Dino not even making the NHL could have been entertained. Born in 1960 in the southwestern Ontario town of Sarnia, not far from the Michigan border, he played for the Junior B team at age 15 and put up 88 points in 40 games. Along with Phil Esposito, he is one of two NHL hall of famers to have played for the Sarnia Junior B team. He was drafted by the OHL London Knights and scored 82 points in his rookie year and followed it with a 72 goal 70 assist 142 point sophomore campaign. He was named to the OHL 2nd all star team after the season but this success was followed by a broken leg which took over a year to rehab and limited him to 30 games in his 3rd season in juniors. Back in good health, Dino showed his scoring prowess in his final junior year and scored 50 goals and 102 points and also represented Canada at that year's World Jrs. The Knights would retire his #8 for his contributions at the junior level.
Because of fears regarding his broken leg and his relatively small size (5 ft 10 in, 180 lbs), Ciccarelli went undrafted. Minnesota North Stars GM Lou Nanne, however, decided to sign him and test out his leg for the team's CHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. After playing 48 games for the CHL Stars (and scoring 57 points), Dino was called up to the bigs and scored 30 points in 32 games over the remainder of the NHL season. The North Stars made a Stanley Cup run in Dino's rookie season and he potted 14g 7a 21p in 19 post-season games (at the time an NHL rookie playoff goal record) as Minny eventually fell to the NY Isles in the 1980-81 Final.
His next season was a career year as he potted 55 goals and 106 points in 76 games. Dino was a North Star fan favourite with his gritty play and high goal totals (scoring over 40 goals four times and named an NHL All Star in 1982 & 1983). Dino ranks second all-time for Minnesota North Star goal scoring behind only (fellow ex-Cap) Brian Bellows. Unfortunately Dino wore out his welcome in MInny with some altercations on and off the ice. The most famous incident on the ice was in January 1988 when after a battle of words, he attacked Maple Leafs d-man Luke Richardson in the head with his stick. Ciccarelli was suspended 10 games, charged with assault , fined $1000 and spent a day in jail. Footage of the incident can be found here.
At the 1989 trading deadline the following season. Minnesota and Washington became dance partners and the Caps obtained Dino and hard nosed blueliner Bob Rouse for Caps fan fave Mike Gartner and offensive d-man Larry Murphy. This has gone down as one of the biggest deadline deals of all time. I remember my dad calling from his work at the Globe and Mail sports section and telling me about it as it happened right at the 3pm cutoff. Dino got off to a blistering start with the Caps and scored 12 goals in his first 11 games in DC. Dino carried this momentum into the following year and topped the Caps in scoring with a 41g 38a 79 p campaign. He was also named to that year's All-Star game. Injuries shortened his next season and he scored only 21 goals in 54 games. In his final season here in 1992, he scored 76 points and a team high 38 goals. A disappointing first round exit and unfortunate off-ice rumours led the Caps to deal Dino to Detroit in the off-season for Kevin Miller (brother of long-time Cap Kelly), who ended up scoring just three goals in ten games with Washington
Ciccarelli had his 3rd most productive season with the Wings in his first year there (97 points in a full 82 games season) but ended up finding his role get smaller and smaller with the team in his following three years as the Wings were loaded at RW. In his final season though Dino did make the Stanley Cup Finals again but the Devils swept the Wings in four straight. Before the 1996-97 season, he was sent to Tampa Bay for a 4th rounder and again replied with a productive 35 goals and 60 points in 77 games. The last three seasons though between Tampa Bay and Florida were injury riddled and Dino retired in 1998-99 after a chronic back injury limited him to 14 games played.
Dino was finally named to the hall of fame this year after a career that saw him score 608 goals (2 less than Bobby Hull) and 1200 points. A video of his induction with an interview of Dino on HNIC can be seen here . Since leaving the game, he has been part owner of the OHL Sarnia Sting and also has ran a nightclub in Michigan.
Here's to you Dino and thanks for the memories!