Greg Stefan

Greg Stefan was born on February 11th, 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. 

Why is that so significant? Because he was born just a couple weeks after Wayne Gretzky. That meant the two grew up playing hockey together. For Stefan, a goalie since the age of 5, had to face a whole lot of Gretzky shots from the earliest of ages. Even though they were often on the same team, Stefan had to face the relentless Gretzky every week in practice.

"I kind of knew he was kind of special right from the get-go," said Stefan. "(Gretzky) was playing way ahead of himself. So it was special and the good thing about me and him, we played hockey together, then once hockey was over, we went right to baseball. And we were pretty good baseball players too." 

The two friends spent a lot of time taking shots in the famous "Wally Coliseum," the backyard rink built by Wayne's dad Walter Gretzky.

"It was pretty neat," Stefan said. "It is a lot bigger in our minds than it really was. He had the floodlights, the cones, the real steel nets which were hard to get in those days and it was a lot of competition and skill on that little rink. Late at night, sometimes it was just Wayne and myself and Wally. A lot of great memories." 

One memory may be legend more than anything. But the story goes that since young Wayne and Stefan looked alike at that early age, Stefan filled in for Gretzky to fulfill all the autograph requests during a tournament in Quebec. The story even goes as far as Stefan signing items but unknowingly misspelling Gretzky's last name - replacing the "z" with the all too common "s" error.

Facing the world's greatest goal scorer from such an early age probably only helped Stefan become a NHL goaltender. Stefan would play in 299 regular season games in the 1980s - all with Detroit. He posted 115-120-30 record with 7 shutouts. He also participated in 30 playoff games.

Stefan was an acrobatic goalie, exciting the crowd with great reflexes. He also had a legendary temper, a la New York Islanders great Billy Smith. He would go absolutely haywire at times, such as in the 1985 playoffs when he chopped Al Secord to earn an 8 game suspension, or the nasty stick swinging duel with Willi Plett. Unlike Smitty, Stefan's temper got the best of him. His play was greatly rattled when he erupted. 

Stefan, a notable golfer on the celebrity tour, took up scouting as well as some youth coaching after hanging up the big goalie pads. 


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP