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PRINCIPE: Pinnacle of Success

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Pinizzotto fights Vancouver's Derek Dorsett (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)

For all the Taylor Halls and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins there are in the hockey world, there are also the Steve Pinizzottos. In the case of Hall and RNH, they were destined for greatness along with fame and fortune right from a young age. They were can't-miss and haven't-missed prospects. Franchises build around players like Taylor and Ryan. However not every hockey player comes with the fan fare of first overall picks. There are so many players whose path to the NHL is full of bumps and road blocks that can derail a dream. Steve Pinizzotto is one of those players.

Before we travel down the rocky road that led to Wednesday night, let's talk about the present. What a night the right winger had against Vancouver on Sportsnet. Wednesday night hockey in front of a national TV audience. Family and friends watching in Mississauga and they saw Steve start his night with a fight 2:27 into the game. Then 4:43 into the second period, he scored his first NHL goal. If he didn't play another shift the night would have been a personal victory. However, the 30 year old wasn't done. At 11:43 of the middle period he picked up the second assist on Boyd Gordon's goal. Let's review: goal (check), assist (check), fight (check) which means a Gordie Howe hat trick. Incredible success in his first game of the season and the 19th of his career.

Steve showing off his first career goal puck (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)

If you add up the numbers, it doesn't make a lot of sense. 30 years old and 19 NHL games. What gives on Steve Pinizzotto? Well let's start with the fact he was never drafted. Hurdle number one to jump over. Not an insurmountable one but nonetheless an early obstacle for someone who has NHL aspirations. With that being the situation, Pinizzotto took his hopes and dreams to college hockey in the U.S. and started playing at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). Not a noted hockey school but it was a spingboard to minor pro where for a few years he bounced back and forth between Hershey of the AHL and South Carolina of the ECHL. It stayed that way until ironically enough Vancouver latched on to Pinizzotto. Things were looking up until the 2011 pre-season. He blew out his shoulder and, temporarily speaking, his chance to play in the NHL. After an entire year off he came back the next season and played 12 games with the Canucks. He didn't stick with the team and eventually landed in Florida and more specifically back in the AHL with San Antonio.

That's where the story takes a turn for the better. January 17, 2014 and the Oilers make what looked like a minor league deal with the Panthers. Edmonton giving up Derek Nesbitt and Ryan Martindale. Florida responding with Jack Combs and Steve Pinizzotto. Three of those players, from an NHL standpoint, have never been heard from again except of course for Pinizzotto. He came to camp and nearly made the team. Again disappointment as he was a last cut up front. Unhappy but not unwilling to keep his dream alive. Even when he was called up earlier this season and didn't play he just kept working, playing and fighting for another chance. He got that Wednesday night. A historical one as Steve reached, what could turn out to be, the pinnacle of success.

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