There’s only one thing that can bring out hockey sweaters in the warm months of May and June – it’s Stanley Cup playoff time. Plenty of familiar names don the ice in the conference finals of this year’s quest for the Cup. But the Big Ten has been represented long before the conference even came to be. Here’s a look at some of the best playoff performers to come out of Big Ten schools.
(Editor’s Note: We’re aware that these players were not in the Big Ten Hockey Conference at the time that they played... just go with it and enjoy!)
One of the best defensive forwards in his generation, Madden signed with New Jersey as an undrafted free agent. He went on to win two Cups with the Devils in his 10 seasons there. Madden added another cup with Chicago in 2010, ending a 49-year championship drought for the Hawks. The 2001 Selke Trophy winner was as good a penalty killer as they come. He played in 141 playoff games, scoring 21 goals – four of which were shorthanded – and added 22 assists for 43 points. In four seasons in Ann Arbor, Madden recorded 80 goals and 100 assists and was a major factor in Michigan’s 1996 NCAA title.
After 18 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL, Ward won Lord Stanley three times, including back-to-back Cups with Detroit in 1997-98 and one with Carolina in 2006. In his 95 playoff games, he registered 4 goals and 6 assists. Ward piled up 51 points in three seasons while at Michigan and had 263 penalty minutes. He earned All-CCHA Rookie team honors in 1991 and was All-CCHA honorable mention in 1992.
Not a very high profile player, but a very successful one thanks to some mighty teams that he was on. Hughes won three Stanley Cups during his nine seasons in the NHL. He was the beneficiary of a powerful Montreal Canadiens team that won a championship in 1979. Hughes then won back-to-back Cups with Edmonton in 1984-85, filling a role as a quiet third liner among high profile scorers Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey. In 71 playoff games, he had eight goals and 20 assists. He produced 54 goals and 51 assists over three seasons at Michigan, who was in the WCHA during his tenure.
Honorable Mention: Red Berenson, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Knuble, Carl Hagelin
Say what you want about your favorite athlete, but Duncan Keith might be the world's greatest athlete due to his ability to play 25-30 minutes a night for the Chicago Blackhawks. The two-time Stanley Cup winning defenseman played an astounding 49:51 in the Hawks’ 3-2 triple-overtime victory over Anaheim in Game 2 of this year's Western Conference Final. In 106 playoff games, Keith has scored 14 goals and has 51 assists with a plus-25 rating. During his time in East Lansing he had 6 goals and 18 assists in 56 games. He made the switch to major junior hockey in Kelowna after 15 games in his second year at Michigan State.
Drafted second overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, Simpson spent three years with the Penguins before they traded him to Edmonton in November of 1987. The Oilers would win two Stanley Cups during Simpson's six seasons there in 1988 and 1990. He averaged more than a point per game in his playoff career, scoring 36 goals – seven of which were game-winners – and adding 32 assists in 67 games. At Michigan State, Simpson had 141 points in his two seasons there and he was a Hobey Baker finalist in 1985 as well as an All-American.
After just one season in East Lansing, Brind'Amour made the jump to the NHL level where he would begin his prolific career, spanning 1,484 games with the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes. He added 159 postseason games to his resume, scoring 51 times and assisting on 60 goals. He had four game-winning goals en route to the 2006 Stanley Cup as captain of the Canes.
Honorable Mention: Justin Abdelkader, Torey Krug, Drew Miller, Ryan Miller
Minnesota's own King Midas, everything Broten did and everywhere he went became golden. He won a national championship with the Gophers in 1979, a gold medal with Herb Brooks and the U.S. Olympic Team in 1980 and won the first-ever Hobey Baker Award in 1981. Broten remained in Minnesota for the next 11 years, helping the North Stars reach the Stanley Cup Final twice. The first American-born player to reach 100 points in a regular season, Broten won the Cup with New Jersey in 1995 along with fellow Gophers Tom Chorske and Chris McAlpine. During that '95 Cup run, Broten scored seven goals – four of which were game-winners – and had 12 assists. During his playoff career, he scored 35 goals, had 63 assists and had a plus-18 rating in 135 games.
You didn't think this column was just for prolific players did you? Though synonymous with Wisconsin, Robert “Badger Bob” Johnson was born in Minneapolis and played his college hockey career for Minnesota under the legendary John Mariucci. He averaged a point per game for the Gophers, scoring 25 goals and assisting on 21 others in 46 games. But as I mentioned, this isn't about Johnson as a player, but more so as a coach. He was spectacular behind the bench, winning three NCAA titles at the helm of Wisconsin before beginning his NHL career with Calgary. He guided the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final in 1986, and won the Cup in his only season with Pittsburgh in 1991 over Minnesota. Johnson made the playoffs in all six seasons that he coached in the NHL.
Given his 1,684 minutes spent in the penalty box during his time in the NHL, some might call Holmgren a “goon” for his on-ice behavior. However, he did have his moments of great productivity. After spending his first year professionally with the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints, he became a Philadelphia Flyer. His most notable year was during the 1979-80 season, where the Flyers went on their historic 35-game unbeaten streak. After putting up 30 goals and 35 assists during the regular season, Holmgren scored 10 goals and had 10 assists in their run to the Cup final, where they lost to the New York Islanders in six games. In 82 postseason games, he had 19 goals and 32 assists and 195 penalty minutes. In his only season as a Gopher, he had 10 goals, 21 assists and 108 penalty minutes.
Honorable Mention: Paul Martin, Mike Ramsey, Nick Leddy
An undrafted player, Macoun, spent parts of 17 seasons with the Calgary Flames, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings. Macoun is Ohio State's only Stanley Cup winner, lifting the trophy with Calgary in 1989 and again with Detroit in 1998. The hard-nosed defenseman had 10 goals, 32 assists, and 169 penalty minutes in 159 playoff games. During his time in Columbus, he lit the lamp 17 times, had 59 assists and 226 penalty minutes in almost three seasons.
A tough, skilled forward, Kesler spent one season as a Buckeye, scoring 11 times and adding 20 assists to help the Buckeyes reach the 2003 NCAA tournament. He spent 10 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks before being traded to Anaheim last summer. The 2011 Selke Trophy winner has 16 goals and 31 assists through 68 career playoff games. He reached the Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver in 2011, where the Canucks fell to the Boston Bruins in seven games. Kesler and the Ducks are currently battling things out with Chicago in the Western Conference Final. Through 12 games this postseason he's potted four goals and has five assists.
One of the most talented forwards to come out of the Ohio State program, Umberger spent three seasons in Columbus, posting 58 goals and 71 assists in 112 games. He had eight game winners en route to that 2003 NCAA Tournament appearance and was named a second team All-American that year. He spent three years in Philadelphia with the Flyers before spending the next six back in Columbus with the Blue Jackets. A trade for forward Scott Hartnell last summer sent him back to Philadelphia for the 2014-15 campaign. He's played in 30 playoff games, scoring 14 times and assisting on six goals. His most productive postseason came in 2008 when he scored 10 goals and had five assists, helping the Flyers reach the Eastern Conference Final.
Honorable Mention: Dave Steckel, Matt Bartkowski
Chelios is arguably the best American-born defenseman to ever play the game. He’s claimed Lord Stanley’s Cup three times in his storied career, once with Montreal in 1986 and twice with Detroit in 2002 and 2008. He defined perseverance throughout his career, playing in a remarkable 26 seasons in the NHL, tied with Gordie Howe for the most all time. He holds the record for most postseason appearances (with 24) and games played (with 266). In those games, he had 31 goals, 113 assists and had a plus-48 rating. During his days as a Badger, Chelios had 22 goals and 75 assists over two seasons. He was named to the all-WCHA second team for his efforts in the 1982-83 season, helping the Badgers win their fourth NCAA title. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.
Another American-born defenseman who has quite the resume, Rafalski won hockey's ultimate prize three times as well; twice with New Jersey in 2000 and 2003, and once with Chelios on that 2008 Detroit team. He made the playoffs in all 11 seasons in the NHL, an astounding feat. In addition, the four seasons he spent playing in Europe, prior to playing in the NHL, he was in the playoffs all of those years, too. Regarding the NHL postseason, he played in 165 games, scoring 29 goals, adding 71 assists and he had a plus-42 rating. He spent four years in Madison, tallying 20 goals to go along with 80 assists. In 1995, he was named a first-team All-American as well as the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year.
Named the 1986 WCHA Rookie of the Year, Richter and the rest of the New York Rangers brought the Cup back to the Big Apple in 1994 – 54 years since their last championship. He spent his entire 14-year career with the Rangers and was considered one of the greatest goaltenders of his time. He was the tournament MVP at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, leading the United States to victory over Canada in three games. He remains the last goaltender to garner MVP honors at the NHL All-Star Game. Richter had a record of 41-33-9 with goals against average of 2.68 and a save percentage of .909 over 76 postseason games. During his two seasons with Wisconsin, he had a record of 33-25-1 with a goals against average of 3.71 and a save percentage of .895.
Honorable Mention: Brian Engblom, Dany Heatley, Curtis Joseph, Scott Mellanby, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stanton, Gary Suter