Monday, October 4, 2010
On this date in 1996, left winger Mike Donnelly made history when he became the first player to ever play for all three New York teams, the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and New York Islanders when he made his Islanders debut in a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Donnelly played four seasons at Michigan State University and saw his point totals progress in the usual fashion from 20 points (in 24 games) to 32 (in a full season of 44 games) and then 47 until he made a quantum leap forward with more than double his previous season's total with 97 points, which included a spectacular 59 goals in 44 games to lead the nation in goal scoring and outscore none other than second place finisher and future NHL superstar Brett Hull by 7 goals, not to mention his next closest teammate by 35!
His 59 goal not only established an NCAA single season record, but it was his second goal of the game in the national championship final. It came with 2:51 remaining and gave Michigan State a 6-5 lead over Harvard and the NCAA championship.
Despite his prolific goal scoring in his senior season, Donnelly went undrafted and signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent. He spent the 1986-87 season proving himself with the New Haven Nighthawks in the AHL averaging more than a point per game with 61 in 58 games. He would also make his NHL debut with five games with the Rangers, which included his first NHL goal.
He would split time early in the 1987-88 season with the Rangers (17 games) and their IHL affiliate the Colorado Rangers (8 games) before the Rangers would trade him to the Buffalo Sabres, along with New York's 5th round draft choice in 1988 for Paul Cyr and the Sabres 10th round draft pick, also in 1988. This trade would work out great for the Sabres, for not only would they receive Donnelly in the deal, they would use the Rangers former draft choice to select future 76 goal scorer Alexander Mogilny.
The next two seasons were spent primarily with the Sabres farm team, the Rochester Americans of the AHL, although he did play 22 games in 1988-89 and 12 games in 1989-90.
Unable to fully crack the Sabres lineup in three seasons, Donnelly was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Aside from a brief stint back in New Haven for 18 games, the change of scenery was good for Donnelly's career, as he would play 53 games in 1990-91 and then full seasons of 80, 84 and 81 games with Los Angeles over the next three years, which included an NHL career high of 69 points in 1992-93. He would also chip in another 13 points in 24 playoff games as the Kings would make a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
After nine games with Los Angeles in 1994-95, Donnelly began his trek back across the country with a trade to the Dallas Stars, where he would play 35 games. The 1995-96 season was divided between the Stars and the Michigan K-Wings.
Completing his trip back to the east coast, Donnelly signed with the New York Islanders, completing the "New York hat trick" with his debut on this date in 1996. He was not destined to play long on Long Island, appearing in just three games for the Islanders. He divided the remainder of the season between the Utah Grizzlies (14 games) and the Detroit Vipers (19 games). His career wound down with 6 games with the Vipers in 1997-98 followed by 5 games with SC Bern of the Swiss National League A.
All told, Donnelly would play in 11 NHL seasons for a total of 465 games, scoring 114 goals, which included highs of 29 in both 1991-92 and 1992-93 with Los Angeles, 121 assists for 235 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 1987-88 Buffalo Sabres Mike Donnelly jersey. This style of Sabres jersey began life in 1983 and remained in use through 1996 until a radical change in both colors and logo for the Sabres.
In today's video section, Donnelly is awarded a penalty shot against the St. Louis Blues in the 1993-94 season.