Tom Glavine, 1984 NHL Draft pick, on choosing baseball over hockey

tom glavine
Frank Mullen/NHLI via Getty Images
2 Comments

There were five Hall of Famers selected in the 1984 NHL Draft. Only four, however, ended up playing hockey. The fifth? That would be Tom Glavine, who went on the have a legendary baseball career with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

Growing up in Billerica, Mass., hockey was Glavine’s first love. Born in 1966, the memories are still there of watching Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito play for the Boston Bruins. Growing up in a region that was a hot bed for the sport, it didn’t take long for him to tell his parents he wanted to learn how to skate.

As he got older, Glavine became a quality athlete in both sports, but hockey had an edge over baseball.

“It kicked in before baseball,” Glavine told NBC Sports during his weekend at the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. “I was a better hockey player at that stage of my life. I had a good arm and I was a good baseball player, but I was a more polished hockey player. I think I had a little bit more interest from colleges for hockey.”

As Glavine reached high school, he was still playing both sports competitively. He went on hockey recruiting trips with schools hoping to lock in players before their senior year. Baseball remained an option. During games there would be dozens of scouts seated behind home plate with radar guns pointed his way, recording the speed of his pitches.

It was clear at that time that Glavine had options should he want to pursue either sport following high school. A decision would have to eventually be made.

Drafted in two sports days apart

Five days after the Braves selected Glavine in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball draft, the Los Angeles Kings picked the center, who had 47 goals and 94 points in 23 games his senior year, 69th overall ahead of future Hockey Hall of Famers Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull and longtime veterans Kirk McLean, Don Sweeney, Cliff Ronning, and Gary Suter.

Glavine had already committed to the University of Lowell because the school had both baseball and hockey. But phone calls from the Braves and Kings helped the decision-making process and shaped his athletic future.

Kings general manager Rogie Vachon rang Glavine and said that he understood his decision to go to college and that they would talk after his junior year. The Braves, meanwhile, were much more aggressive informing Glavine that a representative would be coming to his home in a few days to convince him to sign and play baseball.

“That was the difference,” Glavine said. “It really became an exercise in hearing the Braves out, hearing what they had to say, and see if they were going to ultimately give me enough of a signing bonus that was going to make it worth my while to walk away from a college scholarship.”

Almost a teammate with Gretzky

When news got out that Glavine had signed with the Braves for $80,000, Vachon called back and told him he wished he would have had the opportunity to present an offer if he knew baseball was going to be the path. That presents a What if? scenario. Had Glavine gone the hockey route and worked his way through the minors, he could have been teammates with Wayne Gretzky when The Great One made his way to Los Angeles in 1988.

“I could have been, yes,” Glavine said. “That was one of my running jokes. When he got traded to the Kings, I said it’s a good thing that I wasn’t there because he would have had to move to wing.”

The baseball route went pretty well, though. Glavine’s accomplishments include a World Series, World Series MVP, two Cy Young Awards, 10 All-Star appearances, 305 career wins, and induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Even as Glavine rose through baseball’s minor leagues and made his Braves debut in 1987, his love of hockey never died. He never second-guessed his decision, but the thought does still creep into his mind all these years later.

“It was probably my first year of pro ball, that summer, I hurt my arm and I was on the shelf a little bit,” Glavine recalled. “I remember my thought process was obviously I wanted to get healthy, but if I didn’t then I still had time to go back to play hockey. That was part of my silver lining thought process so to speak. 

“But I never felt like I made the wrong decision. It was hard for me to go home in the winter and go to a Bruins game and not miss playing hockey. That part was a little difficult. I knew I made the right decision, but there’s not many days that go by that I don’t wonder what would have happened I would have played hockey.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.