It happened 18 years ago.
Jim Montgomery’s University of Maine linemate, Paul Kariya, was carrying the puck against New Hampshire in Durham, N.H.
“He came in off the wing and was carrying the puck across their blue line,” recalled Montgomery. “I was coming in behind him and I thought he was going to drop me the puck. Instead, he kicked the puck to his back foot and then kicked it with his back foot up to his stick on the forehand side. Then he went around their defenseman. I buckled (in disbelief) and their defenseman buckled. I think Paul had an empty net but he tried to set up Cal (Ingraham). “
Kariya was a creative genius and a tireless worker who never stopped trying to improve himself.
His electrifying speed, remarkable vision and great hands made him a fan favorite.
The crime is that his NHL career is over after repeated concussions. He sat out last season with post-concussion syndrome and retired last week.
Kariya won the Hobey Baker Award that year (1992-93) with 25 goals and 75 assists in 39 games. And Maine won its first NCAA title, going 42-1-2.
He is only freshman to win the Hobey to date.
He concluded his 989-game NHL career with 989 points (402 goals, 587 assists). He scored at least 81 points six times and had two seasons with more than 100. He had 39 points in 46 playoff games.
Montgomery, who has remained a close friend of Kariya’s, said “he made absolutely the right decision. It’s not worth the risk.”
Montgomery said Kariya was told by concussion specialists that they couldn’t predict what would happen if he suffered another jolt to the head.
Montgomery said if Kariya hadn’t suffered the concussions, he firmly believes he would be “around 1,400 points and would be a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
He thinks he should still be in the Hall of Fame.
Montgomery said the 1992-93 season may have represented “the greatest season ever by an individual” in the history of college hockey. It is certainly the best by a freshman.
“He made everyone on the team better and propelled us to national prominence by leading us to a national championship,” said Montgomery.
He said Kariya was “an elite thinker who always put the puck in the right spot so the (pass recipient) had a lot of time to do something with it. And he knew where everyone was on the ice.
“I think if you asked (NHL star) Teemu Selanne, he would tell you Paul is the most creative player he has ever played with,” said Montgomery.
He called Kariya the ”consummate professional. He lived the life of a pro athlete 12 months a year. Most did it for 10 months and took two months off. .. That’s why he has had such a great influence on a lot of people.”
Bob Corkum, Kariya’s former Anaheim teammate, said Kariya was a “pioneer” when it came to the virtues of working out hard year-round and eating properly.
“He made his mark in the NHL. He was a great player,” said Corkum.
Away from the rink, Montgomery said Kariya is a “private person who is very mindful of his responsibility as a role model. He is very kind-hearted to everyone. There aren’t many in his inner circle but he is extremely loyal to those who are.”
He will be sorely missed and the dangerous blind-side hits that contributed to his retirement must be eliminated.