The other day I came across an amazing post over at The Legend of Cecilio Guante about athletes and teams that should have never been. It got me thinking about hockey, especially when they included two great examples in Wayne Gretzky on the St. Louis Blues and Brian Leetch on the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Both are two players so identified with certain franchises that to see them on a different team is just plain weird.
What hockey players other than Gretzky and Leetch would fit into this category?
Mark Messier, Vancouver Canucks
After beginning his legendary career in Edmonton and cementing his place in the hearts of New Yorkers thanks to his Game 6 guarantee (video) and Stanley Cup delivery a short while later (sorry for the flashback, Wyshynski), Messier signed with the Canucks after the 1996-97 season and was immediately given the captaincy from Trevor Linden. From there, things went downhill. "Moose" had his worst point production of his career that first season, and also insisted that he wear No. 11 -- even though the franchise had kind of retired it in honor of Wayne Maki. After three injury-plagued and woeful season, Mess returned to the Rangers in 2000 and finished up his Hall of Fame career on Broadway.
Bobby Orr, Chicago Blackhawks
Everyone has seen the Cup-winning goal in the 1972 Finals where Orr went "airborne" after scoring. Orr became immortal in the city of Boston because of that moment and seeing him "Commit to the Indian" back in 1976 was just plain weird. Thanks in part to the shady Alan Eagleson, Orr's agent at the time, the former head of the NHLPA colluded with then Chicago owner Bill Wirtz by telling the Hall of Fame defenseman that the Blackhawks had a better deal to offer than Boston. Unbeknownst to Orr, the Bruins had a similar offer, but threw in an 18% ownership stake in the team. He would play only 26 games over the next three seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 31 in 1979.
Brett Hull, Phoenix Coyotes
After Hull signed with Phoenix in 2004 to a $4.5 million deal, the Coyotes/Jets organization made a huge deal about it. The franchise unretired his father's No. 9 jersey; from then on, things went south. The "Golden Brett's" first year in the desert was 2005-06, the first year after the lockout and the "new" NHL ate him up. Hull was unable to keep pace with the speed of the game anymore and after just five games, he hung up his skates for good.
Eddie Giacomin, Detroit Red Wings
Reduced to a mediocre goaltender in 1975 by injuries, the beloved Giacomin and his high salary was shredded by the Rangers brass and he found his way to Detroit. Just two nights after being signed -- in a touch of irony -- Giacomin returned to Madison Square Garden as the Red Wings faced off against New York. The Big Apple crowed gave No. 1 a standing ovation and booed the home team throughout the game. In 1989, Giacomin was given the honor of having his No. 1 raised to the rafters of MSG alongside Rod Gilbert.
Pat LaFontaine, New York Rangers
A growing theme here is "said player leaves the organization he's most associated with and the crap hits the fan." Pat LaFontaine keeps that trend going when, after he demanded a trade from Buffalo, he joined the Rangers and managed only 67 games; diagnosed with a concussion after colliding with a teammate and eventually retired. I would think some Islanders fans had a wry smile after seeing the former Isle join the dark side, donning a Rangers sweater.
I would image that there are so many more of these cases throughout hockey history.
Can you think of any other players that would qualify?