November 16, 2010

Then and Now: Catching Up with Michael Peca

Michael Peca and FamilyThen
Toronto native Michael Peca, 1990 first round pick of the Sudbury Wolves came to Ottawa midway through the 1991/92 season. Not really sure what to expect when he heard about it, he consulted teammate Glen Murray who confirmed the news with the GM. Although it was the first time he had been traded and didn’t’ really know what to expect, he viewed it as a new experience, a new challenge. “I didn’t realize at the time that it was going to change my hockey career forever.”

Until reporting to Sudbury, he had played as a right-winger. In Sudbury he was the left wing on the third line and either 2nd or 3rd in team scoring. When he got to Ottawa, Killer put him at centre and Michael found himself handling the puck much more than before. He also benefited from the teachings of Brian Kilrea who had been a centre himself. The results? Michael went from scoring 41 and 75 points respectively in his first 2 seasons to scoring 102 and 113 points and being the team’s leading scorer in the next two seasons. It was the turning point in what was going to become an outstanding career.

Drafted 40th overall by Vancouver in the 1992 NHL entry draft, he went on to score 191 goals, 308 assists for a total of 499 points in 961 NHL regular season and playoff games.  His 13 year career saw him playing in Vancouver, Buffalo (captain), New York (Islanders - captain), Edmonton, Toronto, and Colorado and making it to the Stanley Cup final with Edmonton and Buffalo.

In international play, Michael was a member of the gold medal winning 1994 Canadian World Junior Tournament team, captained Team Canada in the 2001 World Championship and was a proud member of Team Canada in that great 2002 Olympic gold medal win in Salt Lake City.

Throw in a couple of Selkes (1997 and 2002) and you have a great hockey career.

Retired in January 2010, Michael is enjoying the pace of his post-NHL life. He spends time with his family, coaches his son’s team, appears on TSN where he gets to provide analysis from his perspective and has fun playing weekly competitive over-35 hockey with like-minded friends in the Buffalo area he now calls home.  The demands on his time, the travel and the structure from his professional days are not missed at all. 

Will he follow the steps of other NHLers and get into more competitive coaching? He’s not in any rush. He may consider it once he is done coaching his son. He certainly loves the teaching that coaching allows and he loves the game of hockey "...which will always suck you back”.

His fondest memory as a 67’s is just having been here. A month after the trade, it was like he had always been in Ottawa. Killer was a father figure, instilling the right values and teaching them to be responsible young men. He learned to be accountable on and off the ice, that there are consequences for your actions and the lesson of humility.  These are traits that served him well in his professional career and traits he tries to impart on his young charges today.

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