Tuesday

Ray Staszak

When Detroit's GM Jim Devellano announced that he had signed 22-year old undrafted free agent Ray Staszak to a five year $1.4 million dollar contract on July 31, 1985,  it caused some stir around the NHL. It was a record sum for a rookie at that time. Ray had just finished a great season with the University of Illinois-Chicago (72 points in 38 games) and was a candidate for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.

Ray made the Detroit roster at the start of the 1985-86 season. His stint in the Motor City did not last for long though, after only four games (one assist) he was sent down to Detroit's farm team in Adirondack (AHL). Detroit lost the first five games that season, which was one of the main reasons why Ray was sent down, but Devellano also thought that Ray had lost some of his confidence when the puck wasn't going his way.

"He seemed to me to be in no-man's land. I thought he was a full step behind and having a tough time with the transition. He can go down, relax, start to unwind, start to handle the puck a little better and start to do some of the things he can. It looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Because he cares, he has pride and character, he wants to contribute and he wants to live up to his contract. That's unfair because no one can live up to that contract." Devellano said.

Ray himself didn't think that he played so bad, although he admitted that he was struggling a bit. "I was playing tentative. But I didn't think I was playing that badly. Obviously, they did," Ray said.

When Ray went to Adirondack he figured to be back with Detroit soon. Unfortunately a serious groin injury ended any further dreams of more NHL action. Ray was just hitting a fine form in Adirondack when he during a practice on December 12, 1985 sustained a groin injury. The night before the injury he had scored his first professional hat trick and had 21 points (13 goals and 8 assists) in 26 games for Adirondack.

What eventually made the injury career ending was the fact that Ray tried to play with the injury for almost two weeks which made the condition of the groin even worse. On top of that Ray also had a bad shoulder.. He was under careful medical supervision for several months, but nothing got better. Before Ray knew that it would be a career ending injury.

"It's been a frustrating year most of all. Things started really going well. I finally got my act together where I was playing well and doing the things I was supposed to do. Then something freakish like this happens, especially during practice. It wasn't a motion that was any different from what I usually do every day. I was just breaking hard to the net and the thing went. It's something that you really can't explain. I'm just trying to take it in stride and keep my spirits up."

Ray's high spirit didn't save him and Detroit eventually bought out the remainder of his huge $1.4 million contract. Ray never got the chance to show how good he was. Only a month prior to Ray's signing a young Adam Oates signed with Detroit. Oates went on to score well over 1000 pts in the NHL. Who knows? maybe the more heralded Ray would have done the same if he had stayed injury free.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  5:46 AM  

I played against Ray in Lower Bucks Scholastic Hockey League (high school) and remember him as a good skater, one of their best players on Arch Bishop Wood team. I caught him with a check as he was coming from behind our net that knocked him for a loop - Howe from Pennsbury Falcons...
P.S. I wish I would have went to Canada and tried out for minor leagues up there - back in that time it was possible to work your way up from that, hope your ccollege education helped after unforeseen career ending injury...

Anonymous,  3:10 AM  

I forgot to mention that Ray scored a HAT- TRICK against us that game and I made a mistake about his school team, he played for Arch Bishop Ryan ( I knew it was one of the Catholic school teams ) also me growing up a Boston Bruins fan ( Big Bad Bruins - Bobby Orr Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson, ect..days ) I always thinking about Ray as Adam Oates played for and coached the Bruins henceforth the Red Wings connection with them both, makes me smile and remember our couple of high school games against each other and reflect on how I played a future NHLer !!! Sincerely, Howe Haberstick ( Pennsbury Falcon - defenceman, forward, penalty killer & overall Rover 7th MAN on the ice :)

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