3rd February 2012
By Terry Ryan
Granted, the one-time superstar is the highest paid player ever to play in the American Hockey league and I actually had him on my list of underachievers in the NHL this season based on that fact alone. However, Redden seems to be more known nowadays as the butt of a joke in a sports-bar-near-you than for anything else and I have had enough of it.
The fact is, Redden has had a remarkable career in hockey whichever way you slice it. The next time you open a beer and wanna start gossiping about everyone’s favorite overpaid minor-leaguer, think about this:
In junior hockey, Redden helped lead the Brandon Wheat Kings get to two Memorial Cup tournaments (being named a tournament all star in 1996) and captured a World Junior Championship gold medal twice playing for Canada, each time contributing mightily to the win. He was chosen as the WHL Rookie of the Year in 1994 and in his final two years of junior hockey, Wade Redden was named to the All-Star team twice and was widely regarded as the most dependable damn defenseman around by his peers. He played way older than his years would indicate at every level and in 1996 scored a goal on his first shot, versus the Montreal Canadiens. Redden enjoyed a spectacular NHL career by anyone’s standards and was a fan favorite in Ottawa for more than a decade as a result of his determined work ethic, strong play and charitable nature (those who criticize his character are quick to forget projects like “Wades’ World, a luxury-box paid for by Redden each game from the late 90’s until his departure in 2008 and donated to local children who were terminally ill). His on-ice play was rewarded by NHL All-Star selections in 2002 and 2004 and in 2006 Wade led the NHL in plus/minus, finishing with a staggering +35 rating. In 2007, Redden and the rest of the Senators came close to bringing Canada its first Stanley Cup Championship title since the Habs won it all in 1993, losing in 5 games to Anaheim’s Ducks but gaining respect throughout the hockey world for their strong playoff performance.
As for international hockey accolades? Mr. Redden, as mentioned, won two World Junior Championships in the mid 1990’s, but his legacy doesn’t end there. In 1999 and 2001, Redden was selected to play for Canada at the World Hockey Championships but the team fell short in their efforts to win gold. In 2005 he finally took home a silver medal from the Worlds, losing to Czech Republic in the final. Although our standards here in Canada are overwhelmingly high when it comes to winning and hockey - usually we only have space in our papers for “golden” stories – this doesn’t change the accomplishment or the fact that Redden answered the bell for his country. Not everybody does. In Italy in 2006, Canada’s Olympic hockey squad was shockingly left off the podium, but again Redden was on the team and played well at the Games. We all rooted for him. To top all this off, Redden won a World Cup of Hockey with Canada in 2004 and injured himself in the process, laying it all on the line for his country in order to get a job done. His presence in the locker room is often sought after, and this is evidenced by the many Captain’s C’s and A’s he has worn proudly on his chest throughout his glorious career.
Yes, Wade Redden is overpaid but that isn’t entirely his fault. The Rangers signed him to the deal. Ask any player, they aren’t going to turn down a payday, especially near the end of a long career. He was set to earn top-dollar on the free market either way, whether it was with the Rangers or one of the other teams bidding for his services at the time. I understand the hockey world may be down on him now (and so be it), I just think it has gone on too long and people are conveniently forgetting things. Things like what entertaining hockey he brought us and what a great humanitarian he can be. I can think of many players who played less, achieved less, but take not near the amount of abuse this guy gets within the media and elsewhere. Is he going to return to form? Probably not! The guy is 35 this year and like anyone, injuries add up and people get older. Has he earned his coin in NYC? God no! Although Wade Redden at this point shouldn’t have to justify his hockey abilities to anyone. His career falls somewhere in between NHL regular and NHL Hall of Fame candidate in my opinion, and if I were Wade I’d be very happy with my place in the game.
How am I so sure about Redden’s character? Well, we did get drafted in the same year (’95) and you get to know your peers during that time. We played n Team Pacific in 1994 in the World Under-17 hockey Championships and I don’t mind saying he was our best player as well as our best leader in the room. I remember Wade as being very quiet, but when he spoke everyone listened. In 3 junior years playing as his opponent, I saw night in and night out how superb he was at what he did, which was play with smooth poise and deceptive skills in an effortless-like manner which seemed to be without flaw. Nothing flashy, but solid. He always made the right play.
I haven’t spoken to Wade since the night he scored his first NHL goal in 1996 in Montreal. I was with the Canadiens, standing outside our locker area as he was getting whisked away from his dressing room towards the Hockey-Night-In-Canada headquarters for a well deserved post-game interview. We were still very aware of each other and I remember seeing him smile when I shook his hand and we spoke briefly. At that point, professional hockey is fresh and surreal, and each day seems like a dream. I don’t recall everything we talked about, but I know as a former teammate of his I felt proud that evening, because of his first big-league tally. That was over 15 years ago and if I saw him now I think I would say the same thing I said then as it would be fitting. “Great job, and good luck in the future buddy.”
So, like I said Wade, good luck and congratulations. Your fans are proud, we just need to be reminded once in awhile.
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