DETROIT – He’s the only player among the top 20 all-time NHL scorers to play in more than 140 playoffs games and not list a Stanley Cup championship among his career accomplishments.
However, that didn’t prevent him from building an incredibly successful career, which culminated with his 2010 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario – located across the U.S.-Canadian border from Port-Huron, Michigan – Ciccarelli made the most of his first playoff experience. A 5-foot-10 forward, Ciccarelli helped the Minnesota North Stars reach the Cup finals against the New York Islanders en route to establishing a new league playoff mark for rookie points. That year he collected 14 goals and seven assists in 19 games. However, his record has since been equaled when Philadelphia’s Ville Leino did it in 2010.
Ciccarelli, 52, retired as a player following the 1998-99 season as a member of the Florida Panthers. But in December, he’ll join members of the Red Wings alumni association when they host guys who used to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park. The game is scheduled for Dec. 31 at the home of the Detroit Tigers.
Recently, the hall of famer sat down for an exclusive interview with DetroitRedWings.com to discuss his 19-seasons in the league and his time with the Red Wings’ organization.
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
CICCARELLI: “Not really. I’ll see some of the guys at different functions or charity events or at Christmastime but everybody seems to be pretty busy, so not on a day-to-day basis. It’s always nice seeing them once in a while just to say ‘Hi’ and catch up.”
Q: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
CICCARELLI: “If I had to pick a guy I’d probably say Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) because we both had the same kind of job and he’s doing a heck of a job with how he handles himself. To score goals in this league you have to go in front of the net and you have to create a play, so I can’t help but respect a guy like Homer.”
Q: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
CICCARELLI: “Unfortunately I wasn’t part of any one of the Stanley Cups but I think we (1995-96) still have the record for most wins in the regular-season (62). That was quite a group we had. We went out every night and we knew we were going to win the game and that was something special.”
Q: Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
CICCARELLI: Everybody has a little bit different role and there’s a lot of mental toughness that goes along with each position, whether it’s the goaltending or the physical toughness of a guy like (Bob) Probert or (Joe) Kocur. Or a guy like Stevie (Yzerman) or Nick (Lidstrom) leading by example. A guy like Paul Coffey, too, one of the best defensemen to ever play the game, his toughness was to keep himself in the best kind of shape. I think toughness is measured in so many different ways at this level.”
Q: Who had the biggest heart?
CICCARELLI: “When you get to the professional level everybody’s got a big heart. You can’t play at this level if you don’t have a big heart. Whether it’s scoring goals, getting in a fight or killing penalties. You can’t have 20 goal-scorers on your team and you can’t have 20 fighters so everybody brings a piece of the puzzle to the game and that’s what makes a successful hockey team.”
Q: How has the NHL changed since you played?
CICCARELLI: “I think a lot of the fans miss the rough stuff. But what it’s really done is create a lot of parity in the league. Even in the last three, four years, it’s just so many teams right up into the playoffs, so many teams are involved, so it creates good competition.”
Q: Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?
CICCARELLI: “I sat beside Dallas Drake one year; I sat beside Steve Chiasson, Greg Johnson, Ray Sheppard, Paul Coffey. We changed it around every once in a while. You just really get to know everybody pretty good and create some good family atmosphere.”
Q: What do you love most about the game?
CICCARELLI: “You start playing the game as kids because you love playing, you love competing, you love having fun. Even at the pro level, I always had fun. You can be serious, but if you forget the fun part of it, you won’t survive, you won’t last long.”
Q: Who had the greatest influence on your career?
CICCARELLI: “My dad. He was hard. He motivated me.”
Q: What advice would you give to kids playing today?
CICCARELLI: “You’ve got to have fun doing what you’re doing at a young age. The parents really push their kids at a young age, but just have fun and enjoy the moment.”
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