I loved Vinny Prospal, who officially retired on Tuesday. Loved him.
He was that instant offense forward that teams crave for their top six, someone that seemed to fit with whatever line he was thrown on. (The world needs more Prospals, Alex Tanguays and Ray Whitneys.)
He was never the fastest guy or the most lethal goal-scorer – his career best was 33 goals in 2007-08 – but you were sure you were getting something offensive from him in every tour stop.
But the reason I loved him was because he was such the wise ass.
It’s probably the reason he followed John Tortorella like a lovelorn puppy, even though the two “fought like cats and dogs” according to Torts. They’re both strong-headed nudges whose verbal sparring matches were legendary in Tampa Bay, where Prospal played for parts of six seasons.
Like, for example, when Tortorella cut Prospal’s ice time, he went out and scored two goals and issued this legendary missive in an interview in which he revealed his motivation was to "shove it up to somebody's butt."
But that was the point: Tortorella thought a pissed-off Prospal was a better player than the “life is good” guy with the healthy contract. It’s one of the reasons why Tortorella pushed for Prospal to join the New York Rangers after his buyout in Tampa – the hope that he felt disrespected enough to play exceptionally.
They were nearly reunited again in Vancouver, but Prospal’s mind wouldn’t cooperate.
"Within minutes of me stepping on the ice for practice last week in Abbotsford, I knew that I wanted to focus on something that was more important than hockey, my family. I love my wife and I love my children,” he said, via the NHLPA. “It was clear to me that I did not have the desire to play at the level I have come to expect of myself anymore. And to not be able to give everything needed would be to disrespect the game that has been so good to me.
“I appreciate Torts and the Canucks for their faith in me and am sorry I will not be reunited with one of the most influential people in my life in Torts as we had planned.”
It’s a shame, because he’s someone the Canucks could have used in the room. Prospal was both a leader and a cheerleader for the Columbus Blue Jackets when he was there, but didn’t fit into the plans of the new management regime.
Too bad. Every team should have at least one guy willing to go “SCOREBOARD”:
Fare thee well, Vinny Prospal.