John Slaney has a lot of favorite memories from his Hall of Fame AHL career.
One that Slaney remembers most is the standing ovation he received the night he represented the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the last time.
During the 2000-01 season, Slaney was traded by the Penguins to the Philadelphia Phantoms the day before the AHL All-Star game, for which he was selected. The game was being played in Wilkes-Barre that season, and although Slaney was technically no longer a Penguin, in his heart he still was.
“I just had to wear the Penguin jersey for the last time,” said Slaney after a Thursday practice with the Portland Pirates, where he is an assistant coach. “It was tough to leave a place when you have that much support.”
Slaney went on to spend the next six seasons with the Phantoms and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, and although he spent less than two seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, his time here produced many fond memories.
“For me it was about how good the fans are here. It’s just amazing the support they’ve given this team for all these years,” Slaney said. “When I played here I loved it, and when I came back I still loved, but I hated when they booed me (as a Phantom).
“This is a great atmosphere and it’s what you want as a hockey player.”
In 89 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Slaney scored 42 goals and 110 points — most of them coming via his wicked one-timer.
Slaney was the first AHL defenseman to reach 500 points and finished his AHL career with 166 goals, 353 assists and 519 points — all career records for AHL defensemen.
This Wednesday, Slaney will be part of the Class of 2014 inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that he said caps a dream that began in his childhood. To make the event even more memorable, this year’s All-Star Classic takes place in Slaney’s hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“As a kid you always want to be drafted, then play in the NHL and when you get older it would be nice to go into the Hall of Fame someday,” Slaney said. “I was absolutely shocked when I heard about it and it’s more special that it’s back home. I only wish my father was alive to see it.”
While he was sad to leave Wilkes-Barre, Slaney said the move to the Philadelphia organization was good for his career. During his six seasons with Philadelphia, he made the AHL All-Star game three more times and won a Calder Cup in 2005.
After spending the last four years playing in Europe, Slaney joined Portland as an assistant coach in 2011. The transition from player to coach was almost as big as leaving the Penguins for the Phantoms, he said.
“I had no idea the amount of hours it takes until I got into it. You don’t realize that as a player,” Slaney said. “But it’s awesome to teach these guys what I did. It keeps me in the game that I’ve been in for my whole life.”