Okay, I knew that he still played in the league, so it wasnâ€™t a surprise to see him score a goal, but every time he lights the lamp, Iâ€™m reminded of this talented player, who has been around the league since, well, it seems time immortal.
In reality, Whitney has been in the NHL since the San Jose Sharks took him in the second round of the 1991 Entry Draft. Their first selection had been Pat Falloon, and the two young guns were held up as the future of the young Sharks.
Pat Falloon — great prospect, tore up his shoulder and was never quite the same after. Part of that was that the development environment within the Sharks wasn’t the best early on, part of it was that Falloon rode his talent instead of worked to improve it.
Whitney always had to work his butt off to succeed and never stopped. Even after the Sharks dumped him into the IHL after Al Sims declared him not an NHL player (and we all know how Al Sims was the key to the Sharks success!), he kept at it. After the NHL changed the rules to make smaller skill players more effective in the league, Whitney didn’t just survive in the NHL, he thrived.
Whitney was always one of my favorite early Sharks. And he has one quet thing he can be proud of: he is the last first-year Shark to still be playing in the NHL Long after everyone else who started out in San Jose and played in the Cow Palace years, he’s still proving himself a key cog in the NHL. congrats, Ray.
Who was the second to last first-year Shark to play in the NHL? it was Sandis Ozolinsh, which when he was drafted probably wouldn’t have surprised anyone, but he had his struggles as his career went on and some off-ice challenges, but he ended up with a long, successful career. We got to meet Sandis a couple of times, and he is an amazingly nice, shy, intelligent person.
But here’s a bit of trivia I doubt anyone will get. After Ray Whitney and Sandis, who was the next first-season Shark to be left standing in the NHL? you could possibly guess Whitney, and maybe ozolinsh, but #3 is off the charts and will be hard to figure out. it’s not an obvious one on the face of it.
It’s — Wade Flaherty — former Sharks goalie and a guy who made a long and successful career as a team’s 3rd goalie and usually found a way to be brought up for a few games every year. Flaherty finally hung them up and in 2008 worked with the Sharks on their Shanghai china sharks team, and this year was named by the Blackhawks ot be their goaltending coach. Well done, and it shows you that longevity in the league isn’t necessarily about talent, but about attitude and work ethic. (jeff jilson, take note. Oh, wait. sorry, too late).