One of the NHL's best penalty killers and faceoff men of his era, hard-nosed shutdown center Joel Otto was born Oct. 29, 1961 in Elk River, Minnesota.
After a long and successful career with the Calgary Flames, Otto signed with the Flyers as an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 1995. Later, along with fellow North Star State natives Shjon Podein and Trent Klatt, Otto anchored the Flyers' "Minnesota Line" of gritty two-way forwards.
Before signing with the Flyers, Otto received a competing offer that summer from the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts, who had been swept by the Flyers in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals and had no answers for containing the Legion of Doom line, had the specific goal in mind of having a player to match up defensively against Eric Lindros. Instead, Otto joined Philadelphia and was deployed against longtime Edmonton arch-rival Mark Messier when the Flyers played the Rangers head-to-head.
Otto spent three seasons with the Flyers. When healthy, he came exactly as advertised -- the two-time Selke Trophy finalist was still an excellent third-line defensive center who could also chip in double digit goals and 40 points while also bringing tenacity and toughness. Unfortunately, Otto's body began to break down on him and his role was reduced by his third and final year.
During his time with the Flyers, Otto was twice chosen to represent Team USA internationally. Along with John LeClair, Otto was a member of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship-winning squad and was selected for the 1998 Olympics.
For his NHL career, Otto appeared in 943 regular season games (195 goals, 313 assists, 508 points, 1,934 penalty minutes) and 122 playoff tilts (27 goals, 47 assists, 74 points, 205 penalty minutes). As a Flyer, Otto posted 28 goals, 52 assists, 80 points and a plus-21 rating in 212 regular season games. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists), 19 penalty minutes and a plus-five in 35 playoff matches.
Otto retired after the 1997-98 season. Eight years his playing days ended, Otto began a lengthy stint as an assistant coach with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen. Previously, Otto worked with the University of Calgary Dinos hockey program.