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Whitney happy to have 'hand in the game' with Player Safety

Former NHL forward hopes to bring unique perspective of skill player

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

Ray Whitney was attracted by the prestige of working for the NHL when he took the next step in an eventful career on and off the ice.

A Stanley Cup champion with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Whitney joined the League's Department of Player Safety on Wednesday after having worked for the Hurricanes' scouting staff since June 29, 2016. 

"There's something about the League when you say who do you work for, you work for the National Hockey League," Whitney said. "I feel like you're in on the game a little bit more and have a little bit more impact on the overall play of the game. You have a hand in the game.

"When you're scouting, which I didn't mind and I liked doing it, you work for one team and I felt like I had a better opportunity with the NHL."

Whitney, 45, will assist George Parros, the League's senior vice president of player safety. Known as The Wizard since his time with the Florida Panthers in 1997-98, Whitney succeeded as a forward because of his hockey sense and deft playmaking, and plans on providing a unique perspective to the war room as a former skill player. 

"I think the reason George was leaning more toward me is because when you have a skill guy, not a big skill guy, I look at plays and the game a little bit different than a lot of people who play the physical, hard NHL game," Whitney said. "And a lot of times there's situations where everybody wants to go up in arms for a player hitting a skill guy. But as a skill guy, I know whether he should know where that player is or whether he should be expecting that hit, or whether that was actually a skill play he made and it ended up the wrong way for him, but he was the one who initiated it.

"Sometimes it's the skill guys who put themselves in positions to get hurt or get hit hard. I think my objective view from that point will be to protect some of the guys who people feel should always be given the hard love."

Whitney lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife, Brijet, daughters, Hanna (15) and Harper (13), and son, Hudson (9). Though he will visit the League's New York offices on occasion to get to know his colleagues, the job will allow him to work remotely and travel with an iPad and phone to watch videos and provide feedback. During Whitney's time as a scout, he was often away from home, and it was a burden for Brijet to prepare three children for various sports activities.

"I'd still be a part of the NHL and do something special, and still be able to be a dad," Whitney said of his new position. "I know a lot of professional athletes have sacrificed a lot for their families and I feel like mine have already done that for a good length of time, and I felt like I owed them to be able to around a little bit more and still be involved in the game."

Whitney, the second player chosen by the San Jose Sharks in their history -- he was the No. 23 pick in the 1991 NHL Draft, after the Sharks selected forward Pat Falloon at No. 2 -- had a distinguished career after often being told by some that he was too small (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) to play the game. Instead, he had 1,064 points (385 goals, 679 assists) in 22 NHL seasons before retiring on Jan. 21, 2015. 

Whitney, who played for the Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars, admired how Theo Fleury (5-6, 182) scored 1,088 points (455 goals, 633 assists) in 15 NHL seasons from 1988-2003. 

"A guy like him playing in the era that he played in, which was a real hook-and-hold and tough era, he made it possible for smaller guys to filter in the League," Whitney said. "Guys like myself and Martin St. Louis (5-8, 180) have maybe paved the way and helped the way for guys like Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 157) and players who have probably been told they're too small the whole time as well. If your attitude is big as 6-foot-4 you can get anything accomplished."

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