Thursday, June 30, 2011
No other path through a hockey career can match that of goaltender Jamie McLennan, born on this date in 1971, who made stops in Canada, the United States, England, Russia and Japan with a stop at death's door for good measure.
His journey though the world of hockey began in 1988-89 with first the Spokane Chiefs followed by a move to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He returned to Lethbridge the following season and posted a stellar 20-4-2 record. He became the #1 goaltender for the Hurricanes in 1990-91, going 32-18-4 which led to his being taken 48th overall by the New York Islanders at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, the second goaltender selected in the draft.
He began his climb to the NHL with the Richmond Renegades of the East Coast Hockey League in 1991-92 before a promotion to to the Capital District Islanders of the American Hockey League. After spending a second season with Capital District in eastern New York in 1992-93, McLennan trekked west to compete for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the International Hockey League before making his NHL debut with a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames on January 7, 1994. By playing in the NHL, McLennan had now competed in five different leagues in four seasons.
McLennan spent the next season divided between the Islanders and their top AHL affiliate, which was the Denver Grizzlies in 1994-95. In 1995-96, he tended goal for a trio of clubs, the Islanders of the NHL for 13 games, the Grizzlies, who had relocated to Salt Lake City and were now known as the Utah Grizzlies for 14 games as well as playing the majority of his season with the Worcester Ice Cats of the AHL in 22 games, making in three different leagues in one season for the hockey vagabond.
McLennan had the misfortune of having to wear the "fisherman" jersey while on Long Island
At the conclusion of the season, McLennan drove from Salt Lake City to Lethbridge, Alberta on his way home to Edmonton. While in Lethbridge visiting relatives, he became ill with what he believed was the flu. After feeling ill for some time and his symptoms becoming worse, he went to a hospital now believing he was suffering from food poisoning after a night of fever and vomiting.
Once at the hospital he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and went into a coma, but not until a doctor noticed the black spots on his arms and legs and declared "We better call your parents. You might not make it." Luckily enough, he had arrived at the hospital early enough to receive proper treatment, but not before spending the next five days in a delirious state due to the inflammation of the membrane around his brain and spinal cord.
He still required three weeks in intensive care, ended up losing 30 pounds and needed to learn how to walk again following the ordeal.
Due to his medical setback, McLennan spent the entire 1996-97 season with the Ice Cats returning to form as a professional hockey player after signing a contract with the St. Louis Blues organization.
McLennan returned to the NHL with the Blues for the 1997-98 season, playing in 30 games and finishing with a 16-8-2 mark.
His brush with death and subsequent return to the NHL earned McLennan the 1998 Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey.
He played two more seasons with St. Louis, but saw his number of games decline from 30 and 33 down to 19 which made him available in the 2000 Expansion Draft where he was selected by the new Minnesota Wild, where he saw plenty of ice time, but dreadful goal support whenever he started, far less than teammate Manny Fernandez, which doomed him to a 5-23-9 record despite a 2.64 goals against average.
After the Wild signed Dwayne Roloson for 2001-02, McLennan was relegated to the Houston Aeros of the AHL for the entire season. At the following NHL Draft, McLennan was dealt to the Calgary Flames as a backup to Roman Turek for 2002-03 and found himself a part of a crowded crease in 2003-04 with the arrival of Miikka Kiprusoff before being dealt late in the season to the New York Rangers with whom he played just four games during the final month of the season.
During the summer of 2004, McLennan was signed by the Florida Panthers as a free agent, but remained mostly inactive during the NHL lockout of 2004-05, he signed with the Guildford Flames of the British second division for three regular season games and seven playoff contests.
With the labor issues now settled, he made his Panthers debut during the 2005-06 season, but was limited to just 17 games behind workhorse Roberto Luongo.
With his contract now expired, McLennan returned to Calgary for the 2006-07 season to again back up Kiprusoff, now himself an entrenched #1 as well as another workhorse, which saw McLennan limited to a mere nine games. He did make one infamous playoff appearance, during which he came into the game in relief of Kiprusoff, and lasted a mere 18 seconds before slashing Detroit forward Johan Franzen, which earned him a game misconduct and a match penalty and a later five game suspension.
To start the 2007-08 season, McLennan played five weeks for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Superleague.
McLennan while with Metallurg Magnitogorsk - note the Calgary Flames mask
McLennan later signed in late November with the Japanese Nippon Paper Cranes of the Asia Hockey League, his seventh different league as a professional, after he and former Blues teammate Tyson Nash were recruited by a friend already on the roster, giving them a unique opportunity to continue playing hockey and experiencing the Japanese culture for an extended period of time. To read more about McLennan's experiences in Japan, check out his blog at The Hockey News here.
Jamie McLennan and Tyson Nash experiencing Japan
It was to be his final season as a professional, as he announced his retirement following the season, bringing to an end a career which saw him play in 254 NHL games and finishing with a record of 80-109-36 along with a career goals against average of 2.68.
Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 New York Islanders Jamie McLennan jersey worn during McLennan's rookie season. While the basic basic blue Islanders jersey underwent some detail changes since it's introduction in 1972 up until it was first discontinued in 1995 in favor of the controversial "Fisherman" style, the fans demanded it's return, which came in an updated version of the original in 1998 which used a considerably darker shade of blue.
With the introduction of the Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007, the Islanders began to stray too far from the originals once more, which resulted in a new lighter blue alternate jersey being introduced in 2008 which replicated their 1973 jersey as much as possible with the Reebok Edge cut. It was so well received that it became the primary home jersey just two years later and a new white version was created to complete the set.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2002-03 Calgary Flames Jamie McLennan jersey. This alternate debuted in 1998 and featured a flaming horse head logo in honor of the famous Calgary Stampede rodeo. After two seasons of use this style was promoted to being the Flames primary road jersey.
Unusually, when the NHL declared that dark jerseys would now be the primary home jerseys beginning in 2003, the Flames introduced a new red primary home red, yet the black jersey survived by once again returning to alternate status for three additional seasons. There has never been another instance of an alternate jersey being promoted to primary status and then returned to duty as an alternate once again, as they are generally retired when replaced by a brand new style.
For a looking into the wacky personality of the man called "Noodles", check out this funny video poking fun at his lack of playing time while backing up Luongo while with the Panthers.
Here is McLennan is interviewed in two parts, which includes him talking about his battle with meningitis.