Darren Haydar remembers just a few issues from his rookie season within the AHL. He remembers that he was in a position to contribute immediately. He remembers that the veterans on that Milwaukee Admirals roster embraced the younger weapons. And he remembers that nobody had truly anticipated him to be there.
“I felt like even Nashville and Milwaukee missed me earlier than the season even began. I don’t assume they’d me pencilled in as enjoying in Milwaukee. I feel they’d me scheduled to be within the East Coast League,” Haydar mentioned. “To have the ability to come out that yr and have a right away influence on the league is unquestionably one thing that I’m pleased with and labored day-after-day to realize.”
All these years later, that 2002-03 season stays an unforgettable one for Haydar. A College of New Hampshire product and ninth-round, 248th-overall decide of the Predators again when the draft had a ninth spherical, Haydar took the AHL by shocking storm that season, netting 29 targets and 75 factors in 75 video games on an Admirals squad that was one season away from capturing the Calder Cup. At season’s finish, Haydar was named the AHL Rookie of the Yr, which he mentioned is the one piece of particular person recognition he obtained throughout his enjoying days that also stands out. It’s additionally one small a part of what has earned Haydar, 39, acknowledgement as one of many league’s all-time greats.
Introduced as a part of the AHL Corridor of Fame Class of 2020 on Thursday – an honor he shares and can obtain alongside longtime coach and participant Robbie Ftorek, former participant Denis Hamel and the late Fred Thurier forward of the AHL All-Star Traditional in January 2020 – Haydar’s legacy is among the extra intriguing in AHL lore. In fact, he has the numbers to assist his case for Corridor of Fame candidacy. Fact be advised, his resume is unassailable. He completed his 11-season, 788-game profession within the AHL because the 14th-highest scorer in league historical past with 788 factors, his 292 targets the 24th-most all-time and his 496 assists the 10th-most in league historical past. He captured two Calder Cups, went to 3 all-star video games, twice led the post-season in targets and factors and led the AHL in scoring and was named the circuit’s MVP in 2006-07.
However what’s fascinating about Haydar’s profession – and equally as confounding – is how some of the prolific gamers in AHL historical past by no means discovered his solution to constant NHL work.
To make certain, Haydar had his cups of espresso. Throughout that standout rookie AHL marketing campaign, he earned a two-game call-up to the Predators. Throughout 2006-07 and 2007-08, he skated in 20 video games with the Atlanta Thrashers. In 2009-10, he obtained a late-career one-game shot with the Colorado Avalanche. However that probability, which consisted of lower than six minutes of ice time for the then-30-year-old minor-league journeyman, was his final within the NHL. And it doesn’t take an excellent scout to grasp why Haydar was by no means an actual alternative to make his mark within the present.
When it got here to Hayday’s on-ice capability, the puck expertise had been indeniable, his imaginative and prescient was distinctive and his hockey sense was unquestionable. However what he lacked in the course of the early days of his profession, when the NHL was as a lot about dimension because it was ability, was the body to match. At 5-foot-9, he didn’t match the big-league mannequin. Merely put, his skilled profession got here an period too early. “Again then, in case you had been beneath six-foot, you had been nearly eradicated and needed to show past measure that you simply belonged,” Haydar mentioned.
The irritating factor for Haydar, and for individuals who had been conscious of what he might contribute, was that it was evident he might cling. Within the 23 video games he did play within the NHL, throughout which he skated roughly 240 minutes, he scored one aim and eight factors. In as we speak’s sport, that might make him a high quality fourth-line contributor. When Haydar was in his prime prove-himself years within the early- and mid-aughts, nonetheless, roster development didn’t depart many locations for a diminutive winger in a depth function. As an alternative, these third- and fourth-line spots had been reserved for crash-and-bang forwards or big-bodied pugilists. Haydar doesn’t blame anybody for that. It’s merely the way in which it was. However he does really feel like deserved a greater probability to indicate his sport might translate to the following degree.
“Even once I performed within the NHL, I felt like I used to be smarter than nearly all of the gamers on the crew,” Haydar mentioned. “I simply wanted that chance, the coach to actually imagine in what I delivered to the desk. Sadly, I feel statistically I did OK, I simply didn’t have a coach that really believed in every part I did.”
Following his shot with the Avalanche, Haydar’s journey took him again to the Chicago Wolves, with whom he had spent two of his greatest campaigns, however by the top of the 2012-13 season, he determined it was time to maneuver on. He departed the AHL for the German League, the place he and his spouse celebrated the delivery of their first youngster, and later made stops within the KHL and Austrian League earlier than returning to Germany for a closing marketing campaign. Throughout his time abroad, Haydar landed a spot with Crew Canada on the 2014 Spengler Cup, which stays a profession spotlight for the soon-to-be 40-year-old.
In the present day, regardless of a a number of sclerosis analysis within the late levels of his profession, Haydar stays in good well being and continues to play, most lately within the senior males’s Allan Cup. He additionally runs 20/20 Elite Hockey, a skill-development camp for youth gamers, and has made the transition to the actual property enterprise. However as he displays on his profession following the AHL Corridor of Fame choice, does he harbor any regrets about the way in which his time in skilled hockey performed out or remorse that the mentality surrounding dimension modified just a bit too late?
“I want it was swayed a bit of extra on the ability aspect 15 years in the past or 10 years in the past,” Haydar mentioned. “However we’re the place we’re, and I just like the standing of not solely the NHL however the place the AHL is as we speak.”
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Tags: ahl, corridor of fame, nhlConnect: Concerning the AuthorJared ClintonJared Clinton is a author and net editor with The Hockey Information. He is been with the crew since 2014. He was born, raised and resides in Winnipeg, the place he may be discovered lacking the web on outside rinks throughout city.