“It was in the second period and I think it was the next game after the [four-overtime game]. It was J.J. Daigneault. He had a step on me. I still say Schoenfeld had me brainwashed, because I never would have raced for an icing before. But I raced for an icing, there was a loose puck. A lot of it was my fault; I put the stick on him and kind of water-skied. I did win the race, but that was it. It was the end of my career.
“I can remember everything as clear as day. Kerry Fraser was the ref. He came up to me and said, ‘Hey Peaker, are you okay?’ [Caps trainer] Stan Wong came right out and I said, ‘I think I’m gonna be sick.’ Thank God that Pittsburgh’s locker room was at that end. When they carried me off they gave me a shot of medicine real quick. They cut all my equipment off. It was the playoffs, so we brought all our doctors with us. They went with me to the hospital, I had some x-rays, they put a cast on it and told me [my heel] was broken in quite a few places. It turned out it was broken in 12 places.
“Dr. Myerson who did my first surgery in Baltimore, is a little bit knife-happy, as Grant Hill will attest to. Grant Hill came right out on ESPN and said, ‘Dr. Mark Myerson cost me two years of my career.’ Came right out and said that. Dr. Myerson did probably six, seven, eight surgeries on me. I’d come back and I’d snap a tendon. They’d carve the bone out and make room for the tendon and my Achilles would snap. Finally they said, ‘That’s it, you better find something else to do.’ I went back home and there is so much arthritis now from all this and that. Anyway, long story short, I had my sixteenth operation last August. They took part of my hip and fused it into my joint. So now I only have motion in my ankle. I don’t have any subtalar motion. So like walking sideways on a hill, like if you’re golfing, I can’t do everyday stuff. I’m 33 years old and I’m trapped in a 93-year-old body. Now you limp and your back hurts and this and that.
“I used to think it was a myth when you’d hear older people say, ‘Aw, my knees hurt. It’s going to rain.’ I know what they’re talking about now."You mentioned that you are only 33 years old. You should still be playing.
“I should still be playing. I look around and I see, like you said, Andrew Brunette. Olie is the only guy still here, but Witter, Brendan Witt is with the Islanders [he points up at the TV screen; the Isles are playing the Penguins]. You look at Mike Peca and all these other guys that I played with and against in junior, and my whole life. [Eric] Lindros, [Jason] Spezza was a few years after me. Marty Lapointe was the same draft year. Scott Niedermayer was the same draft year. [Jaromir] Jagr, [Peter] Forsberg and the list goes on and on.
“I guess everything happens for a reason, and you’ve got to move on. I guess the good thing is it could have been the other end, with my head. I wouldn’t have been able to know my kids or recognize my parents and my wife. You kind of find the good in that.
“I had this same conversation with Steve Konowalchuk. He and I are still good friends. I talked to Kono quite a bit [after his own career was shortened because of a heart condition]. When he first stepped out, he called and said, ‘Peaker, what the hell? What do I do?’ He was torn up. It was tough. He was having a tough time."He was the same draft year as you, too.
“Oh yeah, we came up together. We lived together all those summers prior to and in our first year in the league.”You said that injury ended your career, but really it didn’t. You spent two years trying to come back. I once had a long conversation with Frank Costello, and he told me he never saw a guy work as hard as you did for two years. So you at least have that. There’s nothing else you could have done.
“That’s the hardest part, at least mentally. It was taken from me. I didn’t go out on my own terms and that’s very hard. For two years, I would come back, get in shape, work out and Frank would skate the living [stuffing] out of me. I’d get in shape, get ready to play, practice a little bit, and boom, another surgery. Right back to square one. Ever since the injury, I think I played one game against Edmonton. [He actually played five.]I remember that. It was in November of ’97 at USAir.
“Yeah, and then we moved to MCI Center and I never played a game there. I was practicing and working out and was potentially close [to coming back] during the finals, but there’s no way you’re going to put a guy in then who hasn’t played in a year in a playoff game. We were riding the Olie Kolzig rollercoaster. That was fun.”Do you have a hard time watching it now?
“There are certain times of year, like playoff time, where you kind of get the itch. I remember what it was like to go to the finals and I was around all that atmosphere. It was wild. Yeah, I do get a little bit grumpy every now and then. But I am a big hockey fan. I love the game. I still watch it all the time.”Didn’t you get into coaching for a while?
“Yeah, right after I quit I was the assistant coach for an OHL team in Detroit. Then I worked in the agent business for Donnie Meehan and Pat Morris for a while. I worked with those guys and what I would do – I didn’t do any of the negotiating or ego, chest-pounding stuff – I would go out and find the local talent and explain to them, ‘Hey, I’ve got a story to tell. Your career could be over tomorrow. You never know.’ I’d explain that to the parents and kids. I had a pretty good message to send. I did that until just recently. With the lockout and the cap, it’s pretty hard for Donnie to pay guys.
“Currently I am doing some work with E.J. Maguire and NHL Central Scouting. I go out and watch the young players and go back and type out the reports. It’s nice because I don’t have any outside influence. It’s just my opinion. What I see is how it is.”What level of players are you watching?
“OHL, college.”Do you have a certain territory?
“Yeah, right around the Detroit area. Windsor is close, London, Sarnia and Saginaw are all within an hour, hour and a half.”You go to Saginaw, so you’ve seen Patrick McNeill.
“Yeah, he’s a good hockey player. He’s going to be a good one. I’ll tell you who you’ve got who is real good, a diamond in the rough is the goaltender at Plymouth. Michal Neuvirth.
Oh boy, yeah. My dad works for the Whalers, that’s the team I played for, and he has been a scout there forever. They’ve got two good ones there, him and [Jeremy] Smith. But that kid is going to play.Give me a couple of your best memories here, maybe one from on the ice and one from off the ice.
“On the ice, it would probably be my first goal. It was in Pittsburgh against Tommy Barrasso. I still have good memories of that. [Michal] Pivonka and Kelly Miller assisted on it and I remember it pretty clearly. And off the ice, I think it was Annapolis, just living in Annapolis. My family used to come down during the summer and we’d go to the water and downtown there. We’d play a ton of golf and they couldn’t wait to get back here. I used to spend my summers here. I loved the summers here.”