Monday, November 21, 2011

Pat Verbeek

Would you believe me if I told you there was a hockey player who scored 522 career goals, scored nearly 1,100 career points, earned 2,905 penalty minutes, hoisted the Stanley Cup, and has one of the coolest nicknames of all time, but he's not likely to make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame any time soon.

Well that's exactly the situation Pat Verbeek, known to Rangers fans as "The Little Ball of Hate," finds himself in.

No one ever considers Verbeek in the Hall of Fame debates even though he achieved lofty career goal and point scoring levels in a 19 year career. That's partly because he played with a lot of bad teams and partly because the 500 goal plateau has been devalued in recent years.

It is also because never was Verbeek an all star, a trophy winner, or an elite player in any season. What he was was a very durable and consistent performer who always gave his all.

At just 5'9" and 195lbs, Verbeek was a stocky sparkplug who never let his lack of size effect his play in the NHL. In fact, he was one of most ornery and most effective physical players in his era. He was a kamikaze hitter and a real irritant, often drawing many penalties. Though he was rugged and strong, he always played the game on the edge and was prone to taking bad penalties himself.

There was no big secret to Verbeek's finesse game. His shot was the key to his attack, as it was both deadly accurate and quickly released. Almost all of his goals came somewhere near the goal crease. A miniature version of Phil Esposito or Tim Kerr, the pint sized Verbeek was always crashing the crease with great zeal, picking up garbage goal after garbage goal.

Though he had to rely on others to get the puck to him, he was a consistent and reliable scoring threat. Eight times he scored over 30 goals, including 46, 44, 43 and 41 goal seasons.

He was never elegant, but it all adds up to a 522 goal career. But amazingly, Verbeek's career almost ended before it took off.

In the summer of 1985, Verbeek was looking forward to his third NHL season but still had yet to establish himself as a goal scoring threat. His destiny as such seemed almost certainly ruined in a bizarre farming accident. While working a corn-planting machine on his Ontario farm, Verbeek sliced off his thumb and badly lacerated three other fingers. With his brother's help, Verbeek was rushed to the nearest hospital some 20 miles away in Sarnia, but they did not bring the severed portion of the thumb with them. They had to rely on their father to find the thumb and bring it in time for successful 6 hour reattachment surgery. All of this happened in mid May, and through intensive rehabilitation Verbeek was fully recovered by August. He never experienced any detriment to his hockey career.


Anonymous said...

That's unfair that he hasn't made it into the hall of fame yet...he was always a player I enjoyed watching...

Anonymous said...

He's not unappreciated in Dallas. We know his grit was an invaluable in our '99 Cup win.

Jon Thomas said...

no, he was a two time all star in 86 and 91

Unknown said...

Awesome post! I'm linking to it on my blog. The Little Ball of Hate was always one of my favorite players! FYI: He turned 45 on May 24th.


Alan Ranta said...

Thank gawd I'm not the only one who believes this. He was my fave player.

He was also one of the only players in history to lead his team in both points and penalty minutes in the same season.

Anonymous said...

haha this is my best friend's dad!

Little Ball Of Hate said...

Also an all star in '96 with the Rangers!
This is one of the elite group of hockey players to always give you 100% at all time.
I got my money's worth every time I watched him play. Thank you, Beeker!

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