Grant Fuhr – The Comeback King

As goalkeepers seem to be in the spotlight for the Blues at the moment, it seems appropriate to take a look back at one of our special guys between the pipes: Grant Fuhr.

Prior to signing with the Blues, Grant Fuhr had played ten seasons with the Oilers and won five Stanley Cups; he played in five All-Star Games; he played in both games of the Rendez-Vouz 87 series against the Soviet National Team; Canada Cup Champion in 1984 and 1987 and won the Venzina Trophy in 1988.  At the end of his career with Edmonton, he was suspended by the NHL for substance abuse.  Fuhr had spent two weeks in a counseling centre in Florida and came forward about his drug use, admitting he’d used a “substance” for about seven years.  During his suspension, he attended to the nagging tendonitis in his shoulder and had surgery to pin the joint.

Following his suspension, he was traded to the Maple Leafs.  A season and a half later, he was traded to the Sabres where he mentored Dominik Hasek and shared the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed.  Injuries started to take their toll however, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.  During the 94-95 season, he played 14 games for the Kings posting a 4.04 GAA.

Seemingly injury ravaged and past his prime, Fuhr signed as a free agent with the Blues prior to the 95-96 season.  Fuhr was suspended for a week for reporting out of shape and from then on, he worked hard at being in shape.  The physical fitness soon showed.  Fuhr played an astounding 79 games in his first season with the Blues – 76 of them consecutive – both franchise records.  He was the comeback king – the more he was written off, the more he seemed to delight in proving the sceptics wrong.    As an example, just take a look at the athleticism here:

The Blues made the playoffs but, unfortunately for Fuhr, in the second game against the Maple Leafs, he ended up with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament following a controversial collision with Nick Kypreos.

“If a guy drives to the net, I’ve got no problem with that. It’s a good, honest play,” Fuhr said. “But if there’s a pileup and a guy jumps on the goalie, he’s trying to hurt him and that’s a joke. The job is tough enough trying to dodge those linebackers bumping into you right and left.  There’s no mystery to what Kypreos was thinking.”

Fuhr wouldn’t let a knee injury stop him. ”If I get run into again, I’m taking someone with me. I lost one knee. I’ll take a head if it happens again.” He said.

Wayne Gretzky later remarked on Fuhr attempting to get up and continue playing on one leg following the Kypreos collision:

“Nothing Grant does surprises me,” Gretzky says. “They counted him out in Edmonton, in Toronto, in Buffalo and in Los Angeles. But he came back. I knew if there was any way possible for him to come back from that surgery last spring, Grant was the one person who could do it. That’s why he’s so great in goal; he never gives up. He thrives on proving people who say he’s finished, wrong. He’s a special player.  Some might say he’s the comeback player of the year. To me, Grant Fuhr has been counted out so many times that he should be the comeback player of the decade.”

Following reconstructive surgery on his knee, Fuhr was back. Over the next three seasons, Fuhr became one of the Blues winningest goalies, however injury problems had started to limit his ice time and he was never quite able to recapture that first brilliant year with the Blues.  In 1999, Fuhr was traded to the Calgary Flames and played just 23 games with them before retiring in 2000.  In 2003, Fuhr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Grant Fuhr is currently goaltending coach with the Phoenix Coyotes.

I think the last words should go to Grant Fuhr himself:

“I think I would have had better stats (starting my career in the 1990s), but then we maybe wouldn’t have won as much,” said

Fuhr. “The style of hockey we played, it was a lot of fun. A 7-4 or 7-3 game is a lot of fun to play in and it’s exciting for the fans. When I got to St. Louis, the game had already changed and I was putting up much better stats, but we weren’t as successful as a team as we should have been. I would much rather have the team success.”

Grant Fuhr St Louis Blues stats

Regular Season

Season         GP        W          L         T       SO       Avg

1995-96       79        30      28      16        3       2.87
1996-97       73        33      27      11        3       2.72
1997-98       58        29      21       6         3       2.53
1998-99       39        16      11       8         2       2.44

Playoffs

Season              GP       W       L      SO       Avg

1995-96             2         1        0       0         0.87
1996-97             6         2       4        2         2.18
1997-98           10         6       4        0         2.73
1998-99           13         6       6        1         2.35

Sources:

Wikipedia – Grant Fuhr
Goalies Archive
Grant Fuhr Biography
LA Times
BNet – Sporting News
Goaltending Legends

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