Ray Whitney, NHL’s youngest old guy

Photo: Bridget Samuels

SANTA CRUZ, February 20, 2014 — As the San Jose Sharks prepared for their inaugural participation in the NHL draft, they had circled forward Pat Falloon, of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, as their top prospect. While scouting Falloon, the Sharks invariably saw a lot of Ray Whitney, Falloon’s line mate in Spokane. On draft day, San Jose selected Falloon with the second overall pick, and ended up grabbing Whitney late in the second round.

Some 22 years later, Ray Whitney is still an every night player in the NHL, while Pat Falloon’s last year of pro hockey was in 2000 in Switzerland. Whitney has seemingly been everywhere during his lengthy odyssey. During the 1991-92 season alone, he played for four teams in four different leagues. He is now playing for the Dallas Stars, his eighth NHL stop on what has been an incredible career.

Whitney’s ability to adapt and tweak his game, coupled with his attention to physical conditioning, have helped him remain an asset for whichever team he is playing.

Standing a mere 5’10”, Whitney is an example to younger, particularly undersized players, that perseverance can pay off. In a league where it is often easy to spot older players who have lost a step, Whitney, 41, buzzes around the ice like a teenager, killing penalties, checking opponents’ top lines and even chipping in on the power play.

He is able to assimilate into any locker room and be a reliable teammate, and Whitney’s selflessness and hockey smarts make him a coach’s dream. Who knew, that when the Sharks took him in the second round, his career would still be flourishing?

Selecting Pat Falloon with the second overall pick is one of the biggest busts in NHL draft history, particularly given that the Sharks did not pick Scott Niedermayer, who went with the third pick to the New Jersey Devils. Even Niedermayer finally retired after a hall of fame career, but Whitney is still going. He is the NHL’s youngest old guy, and shows no signs of stopping.

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.

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