Thursday, January 13, 2011

Steve Chiasson

On May 2nd, 1999 the Boston Bruins scored a 2-0 win to knock out the Carolina Hurricanes from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just hours later, 'Canes defenseman Steve Chiasson was killed when he was thrown from his pickup truck in a one-vehicle accident. He was just 32 years old. Chiasson is survived by wife Susan, sons Michael and Ryan and daughter Stephanie.

The Hurricanes had just arrived in Raleigh on their charter flight from Boston. A number of players went to directly to a party hosted by teammate Gary Roberts. After a couple of hours there, Chiasson decided to go home. Since he just lived nearby, he thought he'd get into his truck and drive home early in the morning. A couple of teammates attempted to stop him, including Kevin Dineen. Chiasson wouldn't share a cab with his close friend, or wait to catch a ride with Ron Francis who lived on the same block as Chiasson.

Chiasson's 1996 Chevrolet pickup truck went off the right side of the road and then veered back over the left and flipped, ejecting him from the vehicle. The ejection was an indication Chiasson was not wearing a seat belt. Preliminary investigations, based on evidence at the scene and interviews with those who earlier had been with Chiasson, indicated alcohol and speed were factors in the fatal accident.

''This is a terrible tragedy,'' NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. ''When a young life ends prematurely, when a young family loses a husband and father, words cannot begin to express our sorrow. Our thoughts and our prayers are with Steve's wife, Susan, and their three children.''

'Canes GM Jimmy Rutherford said ''He was not the designated captain, but was understood as being an honorary captain. He was the kind of guy everybody wanted to be around, certainly a big member with his teammates and a real ordinary guy that loved the game of hockey and loved the people around him.''

A native of Barrie Ontario, Chiasson was a solid defenseman who was good at everything though did nothing spectacularly, although he had a booming shot.. He was a good skater who over came a choppy stride. He was positionally solid who was calm under fire. A competitive warrior, he often played hurt. A top four d-man on just about any team in the league, Chiasson was at his best when he was cast as the #3 or #4 blueliner.

Steve was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 50th overall in the 1985 Entry Draft. The following year Steve was returned to his junior team - the Guelph Platers. It was a season to remember for Chiasson, as he guided the Platers to the Memorial Cup championships where he was named the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament's most valuable player.

In 1986-87, Chiasson made the Red Wings but was used sparingly. He appeared in limited ice time in 45 games, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists. For Chiasson it was an apprenticeship more than anything. His apprenticeship continued the following season, when he appeared in 29 games. He also saw 23 games in the minors as the Wings sent him down to get some playing experience. Part of the reason of Steve's failure to play more in his first two years was a lack of maturity, both physical and emotional. He also lacked the conditioning to be a big time NHLer.

By 1988-89 Chiasson's apprenticeship had been completed, and he showed that he learned his many lessons. He excelled in 65 games, scoring 12 goals and 35 points for 47 points.

That was just the beginning for Steve. For the next 5 seasons he was arguably Detroit's best defenseman. Here's a quick rundown on the 5 seasons.

1989-90 - scored a career-high 14 goals leading all Detroit defensemen in scoring with 42 points (14g, 28a)

1990-91 - an injury plagued season saw Steve play in just 42 games and scoring 3 goals, 20 points.

1991-92 - rebounded from serious injuries to post a strong season - 10 goals, 34 points and a career high +22.

1992-93 - Steve's best offensive season with 12 goals and 50 assists for 62 points. Steve's great play was rewarded with his only All Star game appearance.

After that incredible 1992-93, Steve came back to reality a bit in 1993-94. He scored 13 goals and 46 points while continuing his strong two way play.

While the Red Wings were developing into a strong Cup contender, they felt they lacked a proven goaltender. On June 29, 1994, the Wings got their veteran in Mike Vernon from Calgary. Unfortunately for Steve, it was him who was sacrificed in order to get Vernon. While the Wings would go on to be the class of the NHL in the late 1990s, Chiasson played in relative obscurity in Calgary for 2 years, and later with Hartford/Carolina.

Chiasson's offensive exploits all but dwindled since his days with the Red Wings. But don't think that Chiasson wasn't a valuable member on the blueline. He was a rock steady performer that any team in the league would have liked to have had on their side.

The Hartford Whalers traded for Chiasson, on March 5, 1997, a deal that brought immediate dividends to the club. In his very first game as a Whaler, Chiasson scored a goal was voted the game's number one star. He finished the year as an integral part in Team Canada's gold medal-winning performance at the 1997 World Championships in Finland, contributing three assists at the tournament.

In 1997-98, Chiasson produced another solid season, notching 34 points in 66 games with the Carolina Hurricanes. He led all 'Canes defenseman in scoring.

Chiasson was limited to 28 games due to a shoulder injury in 1998-99, managing to produce nine points and a plus-seven mark. He was also one of Carolina's most productive players in their very first post-season action, contributing three points in six playoff games.

In 751 career games, Chiasson scored 93 goals and added 305 assists.

''This morning we lost one of our teammates, but more importantly, a friend,'' teammate Glen Wesley said. ''We'll all miss him.''

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