If there was a picture next to "hockey lifer" in the dictionary, there's a good chance you'd see Donald Biggs.
An eighth-round pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1983, Biggs played 12 games in the NHL, 11 with a Philadelphia Flyers team that finished last in its division in the 1989-90 season. But thanks to his toughness, leadership and an innate ability to get under the skin of other players, Biggs carved out a 17-year pro hockey career spent mostly in the American Hockey League and International Hockey League.
The highlights include winning a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears in 1988 and serving as captain of the Cincinnati Cyclones. Despite those successes, he's still asked often (maybe too often) about serving as Patrick Swayze's stunt double in the 1986 movie "Youngblood."
Biggs' lasting legacy may be his work building hockey in Ohio, which he made his home during his time with the Cyclones. Twelve years after his last pro game, that region may have its first breakout star: Biggs' son Tyler.
"He was my coach my whole life until I was about 14 years old, starting from age 5. He was my coach all the way up. It was great for us and our relationship and great for my career, obviously," said Tyler Biggs, who was chosen by Toronto Maple Leafs with the 22nd pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
"If you ever watch him play, he was very mentally tough, he got under guys' skin, he played a role. He was a great leader and a captain of a lot of his teams. He's a guy I can definitely rely on when I have any questions."
Tyler Biggs always had good size for his age, and with a pro hockey player as a father, he would enjoy certain advantages in his development. That he played on teams alongside players a year older than him didn't hurt.
Despite the presence of his father (maybe because of it), Tyler Biggs played with a certain nastiness. He once committed a slew foot against a teammate during practice, earning a verbal lashing from his coach/father. Tyler was 12.
Entering his first pro season following 53 points in 60 games with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, Biggs is looking to crack the Maple Leafs' roster. At the very least, he'll start his pro career with the team's AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.
Wherever he lands, there might not be a prouder papa than Don Biggs, who grew up in Toronto idolizing his hometown heroes.
"The Leafs were his favorite team, Darryl Sittler was his favorite player. I had no idea where I was going to go in the draft. He always told me he thought I could have been in Toronto," Tyler told NHL.com. "I still remember when [Toronto general manager Brian Burke] said my name, my dad yelled 'Yes!' louder than everybody in the building. That was funny."
The younger Biggs was familiar with Toronto long before the Maple Leafs drafted him. At age 16, his family decided to look into opportunities outside of Ohio where Tyler could pursue hockey at a more competitive level. Tyler and his mother spent a year in the city, where he played for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. It was the longest his parents had been apart.
With a support system of relatives living in the Toronto area, Don Biggs took a step away from hockey to help raise his two daughters.
"I stayed behind with my two older daughters as they were finishing up high school and college. Not easy on anybody, but he's the better for it now having gone through it. He needed to be challenged and it opened up a lot of doors," Don Biggs said. "You probably get some funny stories from my daughters. You go from mom taking care of everything to dad trying to cook the same meal every day of the week. We had some trials and tribulations there. In the end it all worked out."
It sure did, with a scholarship offer from Miami University, where Tyler played one season, and the opportunity to embark on a career with his father's favorite team.
Tyler won four gold medals representing the United States, including two IIHF World Under-18 championships and a win at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. The moment Tyler won each of those medals, the first person he called was his dad.
"I called him and it was a pretty emotional call," Tyler said. "But it was great for us, because we both did the whole hockey thing together. To come as far as that and get a gold medal was special.
"I have four gold medals at my house now. I always call him as soon as I get off the ice."
And if Tyler Biggs gets to suit up for the Maple Leafs this season, it will be one more special moment for the hockey lifer and his son.
"I would have done anything to wear that uniform. To see your son do it is a very special feeling," Don Biggs said. "His grandfather isn't around anymore but he was a huge Leafs fan as well. I know there would be a lot of people in our family that would be extremely excited to see him in any NHL jersey, but especially a Toronto jersey."
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