It’s throwback Thursday and this week we take a look at former Arizona Coyotes winger Ray Whitney. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native was originally drafted with the 23rd overall pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Whitney was the second player drafted in Sharks history.
A 22-year, 1,330 game career that featured stints with the Sharks, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Hurricanes, Coyotes, and Stars, culminated a Stanley Cup victory, 2 All Star Game appearances, and 1,064 career points. By most standards Ray Whitney is a Hall of Fame player on the ice, and off.
Beloved by all of his teammates and fans, Whitney was a favorite in each city that he played in. His short but sweet tenure with the Coyotes makes him one of my all-time favorite players.
Whitney arrived in Phoenix on July 1st, 2010 after signing a 2-year $6 million contract. The deal at the time looked like a bargain as he was coming off of a 21 goal, 58 point campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes. At the time Whitney was 38 and in the twilight of his career. The Phoenix Coyotes were a perennial bottom feeder who in recent seasons had scratched and clawed their way to winning records by rostering veterans with something left in the tank on bargain basement deals (the GM Don Maloney way).
Then Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett was a master at getting the most out of his players and his rosters. Tippett and Maloney easily had the best GM/head coach synergy during their time together. They knew the team’s salary cap limitations and understood the best way to squeeze the most out of their rosters, every season.
Whitney’s first season with the ‘Yotes was a solid one. He scored 17 goals, 40 assists, and 57 points in 75 games. The team played well enough to finish second in the Pacific Division, but were swept by Detroit in the first round.
For Whitney, the 2010-11 season was highlighted on Saturday, November 13th 2010 in Glendale, Arizona against the St. Louis Blues. In front of a crowd of 9,412 fans Whitney erupted, matching his career high single game point total (5 points) and the his fourth career hat trick. The team had started the season off playing in front of fewer than 10,000 fans for the eight time in ten home games, finally had something to cheer about.
The Coyotes won 5-3.
Prior to this night, Whitney had yet to score in a Coyotes’ sweater and now the fans had their first taste of the elite offensive talent that Whitney brought to the table.
Not bad for a $3 million forward.
The Coyotes had the potential to become a legitimate contender in the Pacific Division. As the season went on, Whitney and the Coyotes once again exceeded league expectations and made the postseason. As mentioned, the Red Wings took care of business, sweeping the ‘Yotes in the first round. This was just the beginning though for the Whitney-led Phoenix Coyotes.
The next season, Whitney and the team kicked things into another new gear, and had the best season in Phoenix Coyotes history. The magical 2011-12 Coyotes finished the season in first place in the Pacific Division (their only division title) with a 42-27-13 (97 points) record. The team was built from the net out, but the combination of Radim Vrbata and Whitney gave the Coyotes one of the better scoring lines in the NHL. Whitney had one of the best seasons of his career, leading the Coyotes in scoring with 24 goals, 53 assists, and 77 points in 82 games.
The team made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals (their only appearance) but lost in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
Coyotes fans hated Dustin Brown after that series. I still do.
After the season Whitney was not re-signed, instead signing and playing two more seasons with the Dallas Stars. On January 21, 2015 Ray Whitney officially retired from the NHL, ending possibly one of the most rapturous careers in NHL history.
I personally would have liked to see Whitney spend his final two seasons playing for the Coyotes. He was a key figure in the greatest postseason run in franchise history. Oddly, just like that he was no longer a Coyote and most fans do not remember who he was. Ask any diehards and they will all agree, he was the man.
So what is Ray Whitney up to these days?
In 2017 Ray Whitney joined the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety. He currently resides in Arizona with his wife and kids, but works from all over. From reading emails regarding plays from previous games, to attending player hearings on the phone, Whitney still is a part of the NHL and has a hand in majority of the suspensions that we read about. I can’t imagine that job being easy considering he played with many active players. Who knows how many former teammates and friends he has had to suspend.
He was also present at the Shane Doan jersey retirement ceremony.
Whitney one of the best to ever play the game. He was a winner and his leadership had the Coyotes within three wins of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Thanks a lot Jonathan Quick. I hate you as well.
His name needs to be in the Coyotes Ring of Honor. Though his time with the franchise was short, but his impact was second to none (well, actually second to Doan).
Whenever the new stadium is finally built, the team brass needs to make that happen.