Brendan Shanahan tells a story, which he repeated Thursday on NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s satellite radio show, about growing up as a Maple Leafs fan and meeting former Toronto captain Rick Vaive during the summer of 1983.
“When I was 14 years old I was skating in the summertime at a rink in Toronto,” Shanahan recalled. “Rick Vaive happened to be skating at an adjoining rink and we were actually in dressing rooms that were right next to each other.
“I went in when he was sort of settled and asked him for an autograph. I didn’t get the best response from Rick Vaive at that time.”
It was not a moment Shanahan would forget.
The Devils made him their first selection and the second overall pick in the 1987 entry draft and he went straight to the NHL as a rookie with the team in 1987-88.
“Fast forward four years later and Rick Vaive is waiting for a meaningless faceoff in Buffalo,” Shanahan said. “He’s now playing for the Sabres. He’s lined up next to some 18-year-old kid from New Jersey. When the puck dropped, I attacked Rick Vaive.
“It was a quiet, uneventful game. He couldn’t believe the rage I had, not only in attacking him, but it took two (linesmen) to restrain me afterwards and throw me in the penalty box.”
Vaive was dumbfounded.
“He said to one of my teammates at the time, Jim Korn, ‘By the way, what’s wrong with that kid and why was he coming after me?’ ” Shanahan recounted. “Jim Korn said, ‘Apparently he asked you for an autograph when he was a little kid and you weren’t that friendly to him. So he’s harbored those feelings since then.’ ”
There is a postscript to the Vaive story.
“Three years ago, he came up to me at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and introduced me to his 14-year-old son,” Shanahan said. “I signed the autograph, took a picture and gave him a piggy-back. I didn’t want karma to come back and get me.”
I was looking through the things I Tumblr’d yesterday and the day before, and when I saw the picture of Raymond beating the shit out of Claude Lemieux, it occurred to me that I should post the video of Cam Neely beating the shit out of a turtling Claude Lemieux in the ‘94 playoffs.
Oh, if only that first punch had landed.