Last night Ray Whitney joined an elite group of players in the NHL when he joined the 1000 point mark. A beautiful feed to Radim Vrbata that he put top shelf where Momma Hides The Cookies. After scoring, Vrbata dug the puck out of the net to give to Ray. Before Radim can get that puck to Ray, there was the best on ice hug between these two. Ray will forever be grateful that he gets to play on a line with a sniper like Radim. Radim will owe this season to the incredible passing and vision of the man they call The Wizard. Fans screaming for Ray and all he has meant to this team the past two years. Fans cheering they are a witness to history. And teammates celebrating for a 20 year veteran who means as much to the lockerroom as he does on the ice. Antoine Vermette talked afterward how happy he was to be on the ice when Vrbata scored. His name will be listed in the record book as being on a line when Ray got to 1000 points. After the celebration, Ray switched out his stick with head equipment manager Stan Wilson. Vrbata gave Stan the puck as well. And they stayed out on the ice.
Not content to sit at 1000, he scored a powerplay goal 40 seconds later. On a feed from Vrbata. Fans go wild again. One family was busy changing their sign from 999 points to 1000, then the glue stick came out again to change it to 1001. Fans hugging and high fiving, over a soon to be 40 year old with a great sense of humor, an ability to see the play develop before it does, and the best hands this franchise has seen.
The former stick boy for the Edmonton Oilers who shared the duties with his brother and Ryan Smith (now of the Oilers minus his trademark mullet) has accomplished what few will. He hoisted the cup above his head. He has played for 20 seasons. And now he has 1001 points.
He is the last remaining active player from the inaugural season of the San Jose Sharks. He played three games, got 3 assists. The following season, he was sent down to the Kansas City Blades of the IHL. Back up to the Sharks for 4 seasons, then back down to the IHL Utah Grizzlies. A brief stop in the AHL in Kentucky, then the dream. Playing for the Edmonton Oilers. For 9 games. Imagine being the stick boy for the team of Gretzky and Messier. You score one goal, get three assists. Then you get traded to the Florida Panthers. 4 season in Florida. 3 in Columbus. Then Detroit. Ray has commented that the Red Wings did everything top notch. There was an expectation that you will perform at a high level during practice, then do it even better during a game. Detroit ownership gives the team all the tools they need to win.
Then the lockout. You are in the 12th season of your career. The owners and players union cannot continue to operate under current working conditions. So the league is shut down for one year. Those who can, go to Europe. For others, it is working out on your own, golf, and wondering what will happen when this is settled. Bill Guerin has stated that to do it again, he would never want to miss a season. You don’t get that year of your short career back. You won’t recover the money lost, and the hit to the game was too great.
Ray goes to Carolina to start the 2005-2006 season. Wins the Stanley Cup in 2006. Stays for five years before being signed by the Coyotes as an unrestricted free agent for 2 years. Ray will be an UFA when this season ends. He wants to play a couple more years. The new owners of this team need to sign him and Shane, keep the Prime Line together, and let the fans watch the Wizard work his Magic.