In the 1990s and early 2000s, the NHL churned out a lot of players – some good, some bad and some nothing more than average. Sure, you had the Fedorovs, the Jagrs, the Sakics and the Brodeurs who lit up the league for years and won’t be forgotten soon, but what about those unremarkable third-line grinders or the one- or two-season stars whose celebrity fell as quickly as it rose?
If you dig through that box in the basement full of the hundreds of hockey cards you collected as a kid and haven’t opened since Paul Kariya was with the Ducks, you’ll probably have a bunch of “Oh yeah, THAT guy” moments when you glance over some of the names. They’re the guys who seemed like they were always hanging around the league, spending a couple seasons with different teams here and there before showing up yet again on another roster in another conference.
That’s who you’ll find on this list. These guys aren’t the superstars you followed around the league and thumb-tacked their posters to your bedroom wall. Nor are they the obscure no-namers you’ve never even heard of. These are the players who were pretty good once and probably had a fairly significant impact on the league sometime between 1996 and 2004 but were were eventually swallowed into the bottomless pit of hockey mediocrity.
So without further ado, prepare for a nostalgic throwback as you browse this list of 15 NHL players from the Y2K era you probably don’t remember.
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15 Bates Battaglia
It’s fitting that Bates Battaglia and his brother were contestants on the 22nd season CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” the reality show where contestants travel the globe completing tasks in exotic locations. It was basically a metaphor for his itinerant pro hockey career. He had his most successful run during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes between 1998 and 2003, during which time he topped out with a career-high 46 points in the 2001-02 season. Battaglia was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, and from there he would make the rounds to the Washington Capitals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, a few stops in both the AHL and the ECHL, and then back and forth between Europe and the American minor league circuit for a couple seasons before calling it a career in 2011.
14 Richard Matvichuk
As a first-round pick by the Minnesota North Stars in 1991, 6-foot-2 defenseman Richard Matvichuk largely underperformed for most of his 14-year NHL career despite always finding a way to crack the gameday lineup. He was a familiar face on the Minnesota/Dallas blue line for over a decade and was a physical D-man who could clear the slot of opposing teams’ scorers, but he struggled to contribute offensively and never went over 25 points in a single season. His only real NHL accolade was when he won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Stars’ 1999 championship team. He finished off his playing career with two seasons within the New Jersey Devils organization and now coaches in the WHL after stints behind the bench in both the CHL and ECHL.
13 Mike LeClerc
Once he finally gained a fulltime gig in the NHL, Mike LeClerc showed flashes of brilliance, but his career would fizzle before his 30th birthday, and he became another also-ran whose name may or may not ring a bell. LeClerc was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round of the 1995 draft, and he spent much of his first three years developing his skills in the AHL. The winger out of Winnipeg eventually played four full seasons with the Ducks from 1999-2003 and turned in his one and only 20-goal season in 2001-02 before being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005 and then the Calgary Flames in 2006, where his professional days came to a close. In 341 NHL games, LeClerc posted 158 points.
12 Oleg Tverdovsky
Oleg Tverdovsky seemed to pop up in a new NHL city every other season, and he basically did. The Anaheim Ducks drafted him second overall out of Russia in 1994, and he made his pro debut in the U.S. later that same year. After two seasons in Anaheim, he played a season for the Winnipeg Jets and then turned up in Phoenix with the Coyotes a year after that. Along the way, he established himself as a first- or second-line defenseman and had a career high 55 points with Phoenix in 1996-97 when he made his one and only NHL All-Star Game. After that, Tverdovsky bounced around between NHL, AHL and Russian pro teams as a solid-yet-insignificant blueliner. He went back to play in Russia full time in 2007 and never stepped skate on U.S. ice again.
11 Radek Bonk
Admit it, the only reason you remember this guy was because you giggled about his unfortunate last name when he was mentioned on highlights or popped up in your stack of trading cards. Surname notwithstanding, Radek Bonk had a bit of a slow start to his NHL career when he signed with the Ottawa Senators in 1994 but eventually became a very skilled and dependable offensive forward who at one time had five consecutive 40-point seasons. He played 10 years in Ottawa, making two trips to the NHL All-Star Game before mediocre-at-best stints with both the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. Like Tverdovsky, Bonk moved to Russia in 2007 and then his native Czech Rebublic soon after that to finish out his pro hockey-playing days and was never heard from in the U.S. again.
10 Steve Konowalchuk
Unlike Bonk’s, Steve Konowalchuk’s last name rolls nicely off the tongue, but that’s neither here nor there. Konowalchuk was a solid, two-way player who was drafted by the Washington Capitals and played 12 full seasons there from 1992 through 2003. He was a stalwart forward who eclipsed the 30-point milestone six times but never led the team in scoring or made a trip to an All-Star Game. He did, though, serve as the Capital’s captain for a couple of seasons towards the end of his time there until he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche at the beginning of the 2003 season. After two seasons in Denver, he retired from playing and took on coaching roles there until 2011. He now serves as head coach of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
9 Curtis Leschyshyn
The Curtis Leschyshyn Tour, which kicked off in Quebec in 1988 and wrapped up in Ottawa 16 years later, made tour stops in seven different NHL cities and featured over 1,000 live, on-ice performances. OK, I’ll drop the lame concert-series comparison, but seriously, Leschyshyn was probably a platinum member of every airline’s frequent flyer program by the time he was done. He played on two franchises that relocated, he got picked up by the Minnesota Wild in an expansion trade in 2000, and he once played all of two games for the Washington Capitals between trades. After nine years in the Quebec Nordiques/Collorado Avalanche franchise, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 1996, he basically became the ultimate utility defenseman before eventually calling it quits in 2004.
8 Roman Turek
Czech goaltender Roman Turek had a rollercoaster of an NHL career in the late 90s and early 2000s. He was drafted 113th by the Minnesota North Stars in 1990, but playing third fiddle to starting and backup goaltenders Andy Moog and Arturs Irbe, he didn’t step foot inside an NHL goal crease until his debut with the Dallas Stars after relocation in 1996. He won a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999 and was then traded to the St. Louis Blues, where he led the league with seven shutouts as a starting goaltender in the 1999-00 season and secured the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goalie for the team who allowed the fewest goals. After one more solid season in St. Louis with a save percentage over .900, he wound up in Calgary and played decently but was relegated once again to a backup role in his final season in the league in 2003-04.
7 Shjon Podein
Shjon Podein hung around the NHL for 11 seasons, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues between 1992 and 2003. The winger from Minnesota never really developed much of a scoring touch, but his value was manifested in his special teams talents and knowledge of the game. He was known best for his enthusiastic and highly effective penalty-killing, and he was the go-to guy on every club he played for when one of his teammates took a trip to the Sin Bin. He did win a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001, the same year he matched a career high in points with 32. Nowadays, he coaches high school hockey near his Minnesota home and runs his charity, The Shjon Podein Children’s Foundation.
6 Jason Woolley
What can I say about Jason Woolley? Unless you remember his overtime game-winner dubbed “The Shot Heard Round the Hockey World” in Game 1 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals when his Buffalo Sabres took a 1-0 lead in the series over the Dallas Stars, there isn’t a whole lot to cover. He spent 15 years in and out of the NHL, spending time in the AHL, IHL, UHL and the Canadian National and Olympic teams, but when he was in The Show, he actually did pretty well. That was especially true during his time with the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres between 1995 and 2002 when he was a top-line defenseman and had five straight 30-point seasons. But other than his prehistoric-sounding last name, you probably don’t remember Jason Woolley.
5 Tony Amonte
You wouldn’t think it’d be possible to forget about someone who scored 30 or more points in every single season of his NHL career, yet here we are. Tony Amonte was a very talented, very consistent winger, who at one point went five seasons without missing a single game. But he never quite had that sparkling 100-point season and fell 100 points short of the magical 1,000 career points plateau. At the time, he rose to relative stardom during his eight seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks between 1994 and 2002, during which time he made five NHL All-Star Games and led the team in scoring four times. He finished off his NHL career with stints in Phoenix, Philadelphia and Calgary before heading off into the sunset.
4 Derian Hatcher
The big, menacing Derian Hatcher did plenty of memorable things during his 16-year NHL career between 1991 and 2008, but none of it clung particularly well in our memories. Hatcher was drafted eighth overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 and moved with the team to Dallas in 1993. His leadership qualities both on and off the ice propelled him into team captaincy, and he served as the Stars leader during their Stanley Cup Championship run in 1999. He was also an NHL All-Star in 1997. If it weren’t for a couple of untimely knee injuries that sidelined him for extended periods of time as well as a full-season owners’ lockout in 2004-05, both of which slowed down a lot of his momentum, he may have and a more memorable impact on the league in the Y2K era.
3 Michal Grosek
Michal Grosek played a total of 526 NHL games between 1993 and 2004, but you probably don’t remember him. He was a sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 1993, and despite becoming the first Czech born player to suit up for the club, he played mostly in the junior and minor league ranks until he was traded to Buffalo in 1996. There, he evolved into a gritty forward with defensive tendencies and earned a full-time roster spot. He potted the Game 5 overtime winner over the Philadelphia Flyers that propelled the Sabres into the second round of the 1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that was the same year he hit a career-high 50 points in the regular season. He went on to spend parts of five more unexceptional seasons with the Sabres and three other teams before venturing back overseas to try his luck in Europe.
2 Dean McAmmond
Dean “The Nomad” (my name for him, not his) McAmmond played for nine different NHL teams over 19 years between 1991 and 2010, and I doubt you even remember him. So let’s see if you can follow. It all started for McAmmond when he made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1991-1992 season. After that, he was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in 1993, where he played for most of six seasons and then got traded back to Chicago in 1999 for two more years. From there, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2001, then got traded to the Calgary Flames, where he posted career highs for goals (21) and points (51) in 2001-02, got traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2002, got traded back to Calgary in 2003, signed with the St. Louis Blues after the 2004-05 owners’ lockout, then signed with the Ottawa Senators a season later in 2006. After a few seasons in Ottawa, he was traded to the New York Islanders in 2009, then signed with the New Jersey Devils for the 2009-10 season and then tried to come back with the Islanders for the 2010-11 season but ultimately called it a career four games short of 1,000. Did you get all that? Study up for the pop quiz.
1 Darius Kasparaitis
Darius Kasparaitis was the guy everybody loved to hate. He was an agitator and a fighter and someone known more for his ferocity than his playing ability. Though he skated for both the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers towards the twilight of his career, most of his 14-years in the NHL were split between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 863 games, his most notable stat was his 1,379 penalty minutes. He was relegated to just a handful of games in the AHL during his final two pro years in the U.S. and basically had an unceremonious exit from pro hockey in the U.S. when he returned to play in Russia in 2007. Interestingly enough, he now runs a real estate company and is overseeing a massive construction project in Miami.
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