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McLlwain would rather stay in one place these days

by Evan Weiner

During the 1991-92 season, Dave McLlwain played on a record four different teams.
Dave McLlwain has had a pretty easy time of it lately. The former NHL player has been a member of the Cologne Sharks (Kolner Haie) of the Deutsche Eishockey League since the 2000-01 season. That means he has a stable place to live, knows where his furniture is, has his car ready to go at all times and knows where to bank. But it was not always that simple for McLlwain. He holds a record – along with Dennis O’Brien – that he rather would forget. See, Dave McLlwain played for four different NHL teams during the 1991-92 season, an NHL record.

McLlwain started the season with the Winnipeg Jets and was swapped to the Buffalo Sabres after three games as part of a five-player, one-pick deal on Oct. 11, 1991.

While McLlwain got to Buffalo from Winnipeg, his car didn’t – it was held by customs officials in Fort Erie, Ontario. It was an omen. It was going to be a long season for McLlwain.

The Sabres then included him in a multi-player deal on Oct. 25 that sent him along with Pierre Turgeon to the Islanders for Pat Lafontaine.

McLlwain played 54 games on the Island, and then it was off to Toronto for 11 games after being involved in a four-player trade on March 10.

Four teams between October and March. That created some havoc in McLlwain’s life.

The easiest part about moving around so much actually is playing hockey. The most difficult part is chasing cars, furniture and finding a bank. At least McLlwain was single at the time.

“It’s hard mentally. I was not a married guy, I didn’t have children or family,” he said. “I think that would have made it a lot tougher. Maybe they look at that when they start moving guys, but I really don’t think so. You know, it was a tough time, a tough year in general. You start doubting yourself and start doubting your confidence. It was just a year I would like to put behind me.

“I guess you got to take the positive out of being traded, that there always are teams looking at you and want to use you.”

McLlwain had more problems than just being teased by his friends over the moves. Off-ice living became a hassle. He had to deal with cars, furniture, housing and banking.

“I had a car that was in Winnipeg, shipped it, and it didn’t pass U.S. standards. I didn’t quite understand it. My father picked it up and sold it in a few days, so I got lucky there with my car. I wound up buying something in New York, but I couldn’t get it back across the border when I went to Toronto. Little things like that honk you off.

“I leased a vehicle and you are not supposed to bring leased vehicles from one country to another. I had to take a hit on the buyout, which the team helps me pick up a bit. So I left it here (in the U.S.). I think I had three different leases that year. The teams are always responsible for it, but it’s the hassle of trying to get your money.”

McLlwain made a big mistake after he went from Winnipeg to Buffalo. He decided to rent a place for the remainder of the season. Not only did he rent, but he also sent for his furniture from Winnipeg.

“I just rented the night before I got traded,” he said. “They (the landlord) let me out of it, but my furniture was just arriving and I ended up leaving it in storage in Buffalo and sent it home to Ontario at the end of the year.”

“It was a bit of a pain in the butt to do it, but it’s a part of the game,” McLlwain said. “My friends look back on it and say, ‘You are in the record books,’ but it’s something you don’t want to be in for. You got to take the good with the bad in this game.”

McLlwain also had to learn about banking and driver’s license procedures.

McLlwain has been a member of the Cologne Sharks since the 2000-01 season.

“That was another thing,” he said. “I always had (a bank) account. I had about four or five different accounts all over the country. That was part of the business you have to look after; you just close them up and get your money sent to you wherever you are. I was lucky I was still in New York State (after the Islanders-Sabres transaction), that part of it was fine.”

McLlwain’s season went like this:

* After leaving Winnipeg, his car sat in Fort Erie, Ontario.

* He got a permanent residence in Buffalo and promptly was moved to Long Island.

* He had furniture sitting in storage in Buffalo.

* He had to keep opening and closing bank accounts, and on top of that he had to play hockey, both at home and on the road, and play it well or risk being traded again.

After the season, McLlwain had to regroup. Not on the ice, but off the ice.

“I left the car in New York. I had my furniture and I went and bought a house, a summer place, and I left everything there and there is where it’s been. I learned to travel very light. You just take what you need for the wintertime and leave most of your stuff at your summer home. Some guys are fortunate enough to play on one team all year or all their career, but now, things like that don’t seem to happen very much. Everyone seems to be moving three or four times in their career. I don’t feel too badly about it.

“Yeah, it is tough, you take a lot of ribbing, but you go on with it. Once you leave a city, you try to pretty well take everything out of there and move to the next one.”

McLlwain started his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1987-88 after being a ninth-round selection in the 1986 Entry Draft. He was traded to Winnipeg in 1989 and scored 25 goals in his first full season with the Jets, but dropped to 14 in 1990-91.

His record-setting season came the following campaign.

McLlwain played a year in Toronto, spent 1993-94 and 1994-95 in Ottawa, and his hockey journey continued in 1995-96 in Ottawa and Pittsburgh, and also with the International Hockey League’s Cleveland Lumberjacks, a Penguins farm team. His last season in North America (1996-97) mainly was spent in Cleveland, but McLlwain did get into four games with the Islanders. Then it was off to Europe, where he has found permanent hockey homes and has not been uprooted during the season.

He landed with Landshut EV in Germany for 1997-98 and then played two years in Bern in the Swiss A League. Now it’s Cologne, where he has been for the past eight seasons.

McLlwain played in each of the NHL’s four divisions in 1991-92. In 1977-78, defenseman Dennis O’Brien also played with four teams. O’Brien, who was a long-time member of the Minnesota North Stars, was claimed on waivers by the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 2, 1977. The Rockies traded him to the Cleveland Barons for Mike Christie on Jan. 12, 1978, and the Boston Bruins claimed him on waivers on March 10.

Despite all the moves, McLlwain played 501 NHL games, and at the age of 40 still is playing. Somebody, it seemed, always wanted to have him on their hockey team.

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