You know the phrase, “the hockey world’s a small world?”
This week, Everett Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson is in Toronto visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in honor of Paul Kariya, who was coached by Davidson at 16 years old.
Kariya would go onto have one of the most prolific careers spanning two decades (1995-2010) with 989 points in 989 games, a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and five times named as an NHL First or Second Team All-Star.
Davidson shared memories of coaching Kariya with the Penticton Panthers in 1991-92, when Kariya blistered the league 132 points and 46 goals in 40 games. That season, he also had eight points in seven games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
What set Kariya apart as a player? His speed. And there was plenty of it.
“His ability to play with the puck at a very high speed on open ice and in traffic, it was like the puck was a part of him,” said Davidson. “He was a super skilled young player and I was fortunate enough to recruit him.”
Kariya played two seasons with the Penticton Panthers and under Davidson enjoyed a 25-win jump in Kariya’s final season.
“The second year we were a really good team,” said Kariya to the Penticton Western News. “Got some good players. I was able to play with a lot of friends that I played minor hockey with. Guys like Brian Barnes and Jeff Tory. A good group of guys.”
Not surprisingly, Davidson also took note of Kariya’s dedication to being the best at whatever he did.
“I think he’s one of those guys that just wanted to be the best at what he did his chosen sport was hockey,” said Davidson. “I’m sure if he had chosen golf he would have done well at that too but he had chosen hockey and was determined to be the best.”
Davidson remembers a great story, getting calls from Kariya’s billets asking if Kariya was avoiding them – he was in bed at 8 pm each night.
“I said that’s Paul, in bed at eight and he’ll be up at five or six in the morning when his day starts and he knows he needs his rest and so again,” said Davidson. “I think he obviously had athletic ability but he also had the mindset that i am going to be the best I can be.”
Kariya finished with the Panthers for a scholarship to the University of Maine where he won the NCAA title and was drafted fourth overall to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft – an event that leveled the hockey offensive landscape and brought Anaheim their first true superstar.
He would go onto have 402 career goals in the NHL, many coordinated through longtime linemate Teemu Selanne in Anaheim during a career that was cut drastically and inopportunely short by injuries.
Fittingly, both Kariya and Selanne will enter the Hall of Fame together as fellow inductees. Davidson will be at Kariya’s side, forever linked as the start of something big.