Wednesday

Jeff Tambellini


Jeff Tambellini played in 242 NHL games but he never really had a breakout moment.

Jeff is the son of long time NHLer Steve Tambellini and grandson of Addie Tambellini of the famed Trail Smoke Eaters who won the world hockey championships for Canada in 1961. Jeff grew up in BC where Steve worked in management with the Vancouver Canucks. After starring with the Chilliwack Chiefs Jeff committed to attend the University of Michigan, studying kinesiology though, likely influenced by his dad, he had a longer term plan of studying sports management.

"From day one I had the option of choosing what I thought would be best for me to develop as a player and a person and the college route was best," he says. "You get your education and you are setting yourself up for a pretty good future.

" I would like to step right into the business and that is the plan, for sure. It is a great lifestyle. You can be in the game and be around the sport you love. So if I can find a way into a job like that it would be great."

We will have to wait and see if he ever steps into some sort of management role. A lengthy pro career ensued first.

Jeff was a first round pick (27th overall in 2003) of Los Angeles but he would only play 4 games with the Kings. He was traded to the New York Islanders with Denis Grebeshkov for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel in 2006.

Tambellini impressed with his speed, shot and determination, but ultimately he was too undersized to stick in the NHL. In 5 seasons on Long Island, he only played one full season (scoring 7 goals and 15 points in 65 games). The rest of the time he starred with the Isles' farm team in Bridgeport where he was one of the AHL's best players. But at the NHL level he could never quite break through.

The Vancouver Canucks signed Tambellini for the 2010-11 season. The hometown boy proved to be an early season surprise. He teamed early with the Sedin twins to surprise opposing defenses with speed and offense. He also served as a shootout specialist. But as the season continued Tambellini found himself playing a 4th line role and then was a healthy scratch for much of the playoffs. While his ice time dwindled he still had his best season of his NHL career, scoring 9 goals and proving to be a solid two way NHL player.

”The minute I heard the Canucks made me an offer, it was a no-brainer and I didn’t even listen to anything else that came in,” said Tambellini.

Despite his progress, that would prove to be Tambellini's final season in the NHL. He sought security and stability, so he signed a lucrative 3 year contract with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland, the same team his father Steve played for late in his career.

Friday

Dennis Vaske


Dennis Vaske was a solid, stay at home defenseman. He played only 235 NHL games (plus 22 in the playoffs) as his career was cut short with some serious concussion issues.

The Rockford, Illinois native was a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he majored in Communications. The 6'2" 210lb defenseman's future was in hockey, however. The New York Islanders drafted him in the 2nd round (38th overall).

Vaske didn't leave school and turn pro until 1990. After a couple of seasons shuttling between the NHL and the minor leagues, he became a reliable regular defender with the Islanders by 1993.

Vaske was a solid hitter, though he lacked the quickness to explode into an opponent for the spectacular hit. Instead he was strong guy who excelled in close, one-on-one battles in the corners and in front of the net. Not a fighter or much of an offensive player, Vaske was a solid positional defender who could give his coach and teammates a solid 16-20 minutes a game.

Vaske's career highlight probably came in the 1993 season when he surprised many by cementing his arrival with a great 1993 post-season. The Islanders surprised everyone, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and knocking off the two time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins en route.

Vaske unsuspectingly played a big role in the signature moment of that series against the Pengs. In overtime of game seven it was Vaske who broke up a Pittsburgh rush and headmanned the puck to spring Ray Ferraro and David Volek on a 2 on 1. The rest, as they say, is history, with Volek becoming part of Stanley Cup lore.



The following season was his first full season and he did well, with 13 points and very respectable +21. Vaske's future appeared to be bright.

That's when his concussion history started to plague him. It started with a hit from behind by LA's Eric Lacroix costing him much of the 1995-96 season. The following year a second concussion allowed him to play in only 17 games total. A third concussion limited him to just 19 games in 1997-98.

Vaske retired after that season, though he did, against the advice of doctors, attempt a comeback in 1998-99. He played only 3 games with the Bruins, though did show progress with their minor league affiliate in Providence.

Satisfied that he was leaving the game on his own terms, Dennis Vaske hung up his skates for good at the end of that season. In 235 NHL games he scored 5 goals and 46 points.

Sunday

Goran Hogosta



On November 1st, 1977, rookie Goran Hogosta replaced the injured Billy Smith in the New York Islanders net. Hogosta made 4 saves in the final 9 minutes to preserve the Isles' 9-0 win over Atlanta.

In doing so Hogosta became the second goaltender in history (joining Chicago's Michel Dumas) to share a shutout in his NHL debut. He also became the first European born and trained goaltender in NHL history.

Hogosta was a Swedish all star netminder who was making a name for himself on the international scene in the mid-1970s. In fact, by 1977 he was named as the IIHF's top goaltender at the World Championships after the stand-up goalie stood up the mighty Soviets not once but twice (3-1 and 5-1) en route to winning a silver medal! He also represented Sweden at the 1976 Canada Cup.

The Islanders signed him shortly after the 1977 Worlds, but aside from the 9 minute relief appearance he played exclusively in the minor leagues.

Hogosta resurfaced in the NHL in 1979-80 when he played 21 games with the Quebec Nordiques. With a 5-12-3 record and a 4.15 GAA it was not exactly a banner campaign there, either.

Hogosta returned to Sweden after that season and continued playing until 1986.

Bryan Lefley

Bryan Lefley had an interesting life cut short due to an automobile accident

The native of Grosse Isle, Manitoba and former New York Islander, Kansas City Scout and Colorado Rockie was driving his Mercedes Oct.29 1997 in Italy when it crashed into an oncoming truck.

He was just 49 years old.

Lefley was in Italy serving as the Italian national hockey team's head coach. Hockey in Italy? Its true, although many of their players are transplanted Canadians with Italian citizenship. Lefley guided the Italian hockey program in two different tenures, as well as coaching Italian League championship teams. In all Lefley coached the Italian national team in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics and at 6 World Championships.

The younger brother of Chuck Lefley (a former 40 goal scorer with the St. Louis Blues), Bryan was not as gifted a hockey player. He played in 228 games in the NHL, playing both as a defenseman and left winger. His role was primarily a defensive one, although he did manage to chip in 7 goals and 36 points.

He extended his playing career by heading overseas and playing in both Germany and Switzerland. He would later coach in both of those countries, but was best known as a coach in Italy.

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