Historically, Canadian players have been the dominant force in the 95-year-old National Hockey League, but with the expansion to 30 teams in recent years, many more American and European players have taken on important roles. Twenty-eight of these American players were born in Connecticut, including Hamden's Jonathan Quick, the outstanding goalie on this year's Stanley Cup champions — the Los Angeles Kings — just crowned this past Monday night.
The first Nutmegger to play in the NHL was Moe Roberts of Waterbury. Roberts was born in 1905. At age 20, he was a reserve goalie for the Boston Bruins in their second year as a franchise, 1925-26. Moe then minded the net for the New York Americans for two seasons in the early 1930s. His most active year was 1933-34, when he amassed 336 minutes of playing time. His goals against average was 4.46.
Big Frank Beisler of New Haven — 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds — played for the New York Americans for two seasons in the late 1930s. Born in 1913, Beisler played defense but only got into two games in his career.
Another native of the Elm City to play in the early years of the NHL was Dick Bittner. Born in 1922, Bittner played just one season with the Bruins in 1949-50. He was a goalie who saw very limited action.
It would be 37 years before another Connecticut native, , would play in the NHL. Janney, a frequent all-star, played in the league for 12 seasons, getting 188 goals and 563 assists. He was one of the best set-up men in recent years. Janney averaged about a point a game in his career. He played for six teams in the NHL, mostly with the Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. No player born in Connecticut has come close to equaling Janney's point total.
Like Craig Janney, Chris Drury of Trumbull played for 12 seasons in the NHL, spending the bulk of his career with the Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Rangers. Drury scored an impressive 255 goals in his career along with 360 assists for a total of 615 points. Regarded as one of the best clutch players in the NHL, Drury had a penchant for scoring game-winning goals. He was a Stanley Cup winner in 2000-2001 with the Colorado Avalanche. Drury's 1989 Trumbull Little League All-Star team also won the World Cmapionship at Williamsport, PA.
Jonathan Quick is the most recent Connecticut native to be a member of a Stanley Cup-winning team as a member of the Los Angeles Kings — this year's improbable winner. The Kings, the only 8th seed ever to win the Stanley Cup in NHL history, did so largely due to the stellar goaltending of Hamden native Quick.
Quick, who played high school hockey both at Hamden High School and at Avon Old Farms, also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP in the Stanley Cup playoffs — the only Connecticut native ever to do so. He led the Kings to a 16-4 playoff record with an incredible 1.46 goals against average, an NHL record for playoffs involving more than 15 games. Though Cheshire resident Brian Leetch had also won the Conn Smythe Trophy back in 1994 with the New York Rangers, Leetch is not a Connecticut native, having been born in Texas.
Of the 28 Connecticut-born hockey players who have made it to the NHL, 25 were born between 1967 and 1989, and 10 are still active in the league: Ron Hainsey of Bolton, Ryan Shannon of Darien, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colin Wilson of Greenwich, Nick Bonino of Farmington, Cam Atkinson of Riverside, Colin McDonald of Wethersfield, Lane MacDermid of Hartford, Max Pacioretty of New Canaan — who had a breakout year in 2012 with 33 goals and 32 assists with the Montreal Canadiens — and, of course, Hamden's Jon Quick, who just this week led his team to the first Stanley Cup in the 45-year history of the Los Angeles Kings!