Rick Knickle

Patience, patience, patience....It took Rick 14-years of minor league hockey before he saw his first NHL action. He had played for 12 different pro teams before finally being called up by the Los Angeles Kings late during the 1992-93 season.

Why did it take such a long time for Rick before he finally got his chance to play in the NHL? Probably because of bad timing. Rick had a stellar career in the juniors while playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL). During his three years there (1977-80) Rick was 71-22-16 with a 3.83 GAA and was a 1st team All-Star in 1979. Compared to his successor in Brandon, Ron Hextall who had a 54-54-2 record and a 5.16 GAA one would think that it was Rick who would have the advantage. But it was Hextall who got the lucky break, not Rick.

Rick made a career of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was drafted 116th overall in 1979 by Buffalo and was sent down to Rochester (AHL). There he shared the goaltending duties with veteran Phil Myre, who got the callup when there were injuries. The other one who used to get called up was Jacques Cloutier, drafted the same year as Rick (55th overall). Buffalo at that time had Don Edwards, Tom Barrasso and Bob Sauve. On top of that Barrasso won the Vezina trophy in 1984-85, so their goalkeeping was stellar.

In the meantime Ron Hextall who had a much worse junior career was playing in Philadelphia He got the chance mainly due to Pelle Lindbergh's tragic death. Reducing the depth chart on the Flyers team considerably and giving him the break he needed.

Rick admitted that he was pretty bitter about his situation at one time.

"I felt I wasn't getting a fair shake, but as I was getting older I went to the rink in a better frame of mind."

Rick didn't blame anybody for failing to make the Sabres team.

"I didn't play the way I was capable of playing. In junior I was playing 50 games, I was always the No 1 goalie. It's a whole different situation, when you're a young kid, to deal with not playing as much. If I could go back there and have the same frame of mind as I do right now, it'd be a lot different." Rick said.

After Rick's contract with Buffalo expired he signed with Montreal (February 8,1985). Once again Rick came to a team stacked with good goaltenders. Montreal had a certain Patrick Roy. As well as Steve Penney. When Penney was traded for Brian Hayward, it was time for Rick to move again.

"I never got the chance to show that I could play in Montreal. I never got a chance to play in the odd game, to get someone to say, 'Hey, he can play, let's re-evaluate things.' Every year with Montreal when I went to training camp, they sent me right down. I'm not a training-camp goalie. I never have been. You know, that shouldn't hold a lot of water. Sometimes it takes you a while to get into a groove. I think I'm the type of goalie (who), the more you see me, the more I play, the better I get," Rick said.

Rick was a typical stand-up goalie with good reflexes. His biggest weakness was probably that he didn't challenge the shooters enough. Rick didn't just play in the AHL but spend most of the time in the IHL (15 seasons). He was a four time All-Star in the IHL (two 1st and two 2nd team selections). Rick also won the James Norris memorial trophy (fewest goals against in the IHL) in 1989 & 93.

Patience however pays off. As a property of Los Angeles Kings,Rick got the callup to the NHL for the first time as a 33-year old in 1993 as some of the Los Angeles goalies went down with injuries. Rick played 10 games for LA,doing pretty well as he won 6 games, posting a 3.95 GAA. The following season (1993-94) Rick played 4 games for LA with a 3.10 GAA.

That was it for him in terms of NHL action,but at least he got there after so many years. Had he gotpicked by another team then he might very well have had a pretty good NHL career. After Rick's final NHL appearance in 1994, he played another couple of seasons in the IHL before retiring as a 37-year old in 1997.


Graham Clayton March 22, 2015 at 3:47 AM  

One of the best player names in NHL history.

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