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VHL 20 in 20 #5: Finally Recognized


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Finally Recognized

The Victory Hockey League's Hall of Fame is the crown jewel of our league. Many great players have skated for the VHL, but only the best of the best are given the privilege of having their achievements immortalized inside the Hall of Fames legendary walls. Names like Campbell, Slobodzian, and Labatte are company that any VHL player would love to keep. I have not been fortunate or good enough to have any of my players be allowed entry to this scared sanctuary of VHL excellence, but of all the names in there, the name of David Night is my favorite to see. He waited 9 seasons to see his name be enshrined, and I'm going to find out why it took so long for this to happen. Admittedly, as a former GM, I am guilty of overlooking Night a few times in favor of other candidates, so I can't vilify the General Managers whom I interviewed, nor do I wish to. I merely want to get a clearer picture of the David Night situation, from his first game, to the Hall of Fame.

David Night, a 6’3”, 215 lbs British boy from London, was drafted 8th overall in the VHL dispersal draft by the Hamilton Canucks. As you may already know from a previous episode of 20 for 20, Night’s agent, David Knight, was a highly regarded member of the VHL’s predecessor, the ESHL, and was guaranteed to be a high draft pick because of this. England, while a beautiful country, was never known for producing hockey players, but David Night was a special and talented young man who forced the international hockey scene to pay attention to him. He would spend 5 seasons with the Hamilton Canucks, where he’d win an Orr trophy (now named the Labatte trophy), a Francis trophy, and be named to the all-star team three times. He also won a gold medal with Team Western Europe in the inaugural World Cup.

However, the Canucks were a flailing and stumbling franchise, and after a failed foray into the playoffs in Season 4, and a failure to even make the big show in Season 5, Night decided it was best that he and Hamilton parted ways as he signed on with the Avangard Havoc as a free agent in Season 6. Perhaps it was all those years on a weak team that caused Night to have so a long wait for Hall of Fame entry.

”Maybe, maybe not; it is hard to say. I was very happy about my time in Hamilton and they allowed me to become the player I was. – David Night

The Havoc were definitely favorites going into Season 6, and it looked like Night would finally be able to get his hands on a Continental Cup. With players like Mike Szatkwoski, Christian Stolzschweiger, Fabian Brunnstrom, Josh Vestiquan, Alex McNeil, and Patrice Roydeur, the Avangard Havoc would spend a lot of time in the top spot of the European conference. That all changed, however, when Avangard’s biggest competition, the Helsinki Titans, made a trade to acquire the great Scotty Campbell. The Titans would come back and overtake the Havoc for first place in the European Conference by a mere two points, setting up an intriguing playoffs match-up between the two. Unfortunately, despite a great performance by Roydeur, the Havoc were no match for Helsinki’s high-powered offense as the Titans defeated their Russian rivals in 6 games en route to winning the franchise’s first ever Continental Cup. David Night would leave the Havoc to free agency after that season.

Imagine if Night had stuck it out with Avangard for one more season

”It pained me that I could never grab that elusive Continental Cup. I was also never really a part of a serious contender until my final years so it reflected poorly on my play. – David Night

In hope of reaching the top of the mountain in what would be his final VHL season, Night signed with the Stockholm Rams. Unfortunately, the Rams were not as good as advertised, and Night was traded from the team at the trade deadline to the Vasteras IK Black Eagles in hopes of winning him that Continental Cup. In a painfully ironic turn of events, Night’s former team, the Avangard Havoc, would sweep Vasteras as they went on to win their first ever Continental Cup. David Night would retire from the VHL at the conclusion of that year. Despite his failure to win the VHL’s holy grail, Night routinely posted up solid numbers at both ends of the ice. Certainly, many people thought that Night’s name would be called up for Hall of Fame induction sooner rather than later.

They were almost right. In Season 8, Night’s name was included on the ballot. The 8 General Managers determine the Hall of Fame class, and only two players are inducted every year. The GMs voted in fellow defenseman Joey Kendrick unanimously, and the 2nd spot was heavily contested between Night and goaltender Adrian McCreath, who backstopped the Seattle Bears to 2 consecutive Continental Cups. They each had 4 votes, so to break the tie, the VHL enlisted 5 new voters to pick between the two. Unfortunately for Night, McCreath received the majority of the votes, and Night could only watch as his name was erased from the ballot. Night would not come that close to induction in the following years, but he would always get a couple votes from people. I honestly can’t say that I remember whom I voted for, though I do believe I had voted for him at least on one occasion.

”I, admittedly, never actually voted for Night. I always felt there were players better than him, and his lone Orr Trophy didn't mean anything to me because I wasn't there during his career. He just never popped out as a Hall of Famer. Perhaps he had been waiting so long by then that some people didn't even know who he was.” – Vase Trikamaki

Indeed, as the VHL is in a continuous period of expansion and new members join, older players become forgotten unless they truly were great. Even newer VHL players know about the legends like Scotty Campbell, Maxim Desny, and Scott Boulet, but a guy like Night, who often went unnoticed even when he was still playing in the VHL, was likely to be buried under more recent, and perhaps even more deserving VHL alumni. While Night himself admits that he didn’t necessarily believed that he deserved Hall of Fame consideration, that doesn’t change the fact that he was ever so hopeful to hear his name called. However, he lost hope pretty quickly.

”Right after the Season 9 HOF induction is when it sunk in. The year before, it had been a tie for the 2nd person to get voted in, and I lost in the run-off ballot. I thought that it would be my last chance, but I guess I was wrong.” – David Night

He was wrong, because in Season 17 – a whole 9 seasons after his retirement – David Night was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Devon Marlow-Marta, another player who was an unspectacular, yet special member of the VHL’s history and had also been waiting patiently for the call.

Devon Marlow-Marta

”I was surprised and happy. I really didn't think I'd make it in so when I finally saw my name as one of the two inductees, I was overwhelmed. I was one of the few original defensive defenseman in a time where offence was at its peak so it was nice to be recognized.” – David Night

Current general manager of the Helsinki Titans, Joey Kendrick, was a defenseman in the VHL at the same time as Night, and he admits to having voted for his peer in hope of finally getting him into the hall.

”I think I did have a say in Night’s induction. I voted for him because, as a long-standing class act of a player, he deserves the honor. It’s hard to leave out someone who made the VHL what it is today. I think there were stronger candidates many times when he was trying to get in. Everyone loves the glorified scorer or the all-star keeper. No one looks at the two-way defenseman as a HOF worthy spot.” – Joey Kendrick

Well, Night was finally recognized and we are only left to speculate towards why it took so long for him to achieve this recognition that, while he himself won’t admit it, we all know he deserved.

”The longer you’re on the ballot, the less likely it is that you will get in. After not making it in after a few years, you almost get forgotten. The reason for that, at least at first, can be strongly attributed to the strong careers of others. He probably should have went in earlier, but in the grand schematics of it all, does it really matter when?” – Dustin Funk

”I think Night went in at about the right time. There were players with better credentials for a long time, but he finally appeared to be the guy on the ballot who deserved it most when he did go in. – Sandro Desaulniers

”Everyone who went in before me deserved to get there. I have no issues with the way the voting went. – David Night

Funk has a point. As long as Night is in the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t really matter how long he had to wait. Unfortunately, not all stories end happily like David Night’s did. Night’s former teammate, goaltender Jesus Christ, is another player who was on many Hall of Fame ballots and never got the call. Unlike Night, who has finally had his waiting pay off, it appears as though Christ will not be a part of the VHL Hall of Fame player, instead joining a lower class of players – the Hall of the Very Good, which I just made up. There are tons of respectable players in there such as Aiden Alexander, Ginzou Fujiwara, and even my own client Dominik Stryker. These guys were all household names back when they played, but are likely doomed to be forgotten once their legacies are as old as Night’s.

Jesus Christ

”Jesus was a great teammate and a great player. It is a shame for him that there were a lot of good goalies during his era so that he tended to get overlooked. He has played on a poor Hamilton team, which did him no favors. – David Night

These days, David Night’s agent has ascended to power as the general manager of the Toronto Legion. Because of his old client’s struggle to achieve Hall of Fame status, nobody would hold it against David Knight if he favored players who had been on the ballot for a long time over players who may be slightly more deserving.

”He goes on merit alone. He does not pass up on a player who deserves to be there just to put up someone who has been waiting a while and is not as deserving. – David Night

I like to think of David Night as the Brad Park of the VHL. If it weren’t for a guy like Sterling Labatte (along with several other defensemen), Night would have had much more recognition both during his career and after it ended. However, that doesn’t mean Night was a bad player – he simply wasn’t as flashy or as fortunate as Labatte was. He was a steadying presence on the blue line who would often go unnoticed, but that was alright, because that meant that Night was doing his job effectively. Like Brad Park, Night did not win his league’s biggest prize, but he was still great in his own right. Perhaps Night’s biggest barrier between him and the Hall was the era he played in.

Night's last hurrah in Hamilton

The early days of the VHL consisted of high-flying teams who would score many goals. It was not uncommon to see players eclipse 150 points – Scotty Campbell even reached 190 in his best season, statistically. These days, a VHL player can’t simply rely on their skill to achieve success in the VHL. They need to be defensively responsible, resilient, and tough. They need to be willing to work in the trenches, and must fight for every goal. 120 points was not a huge deal back in the day, but now it’s a major accomplishment, and it is a point total that you know the player truly fought tooth and nail for. I don’t think many of the VHL’s stars of yesterday would be very successful in today’s game without significantly changing the way they played. The biggest exception is the man you’ve been reading about – if David Night was playing today, he’d be one of the league’s true greats, and there is no way we’d get away with making him wait 9 seasons to take his rightful place among the VHL’s immortalized – just between Kendrick and Labatte.

End of Part 5
Special thanks to Vase Trikamaki, Dustin Funk, Joey Kendrick, Sandro Desaulniers, and of course, David Night


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