By Rick Gethin
In a career that spanned 13 years, Michael Peca left his mark on players (literally and figuratively), fans and the game of hockey itself. He won the gold medal and was an alternate captain with Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics. He was the capatain of Team Canada for the World Championship in 2001. He was twice awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in 96/97 (Sabres) and again in 01/02 (Islanders). He won the gold medal with Team Canada in the World Jr. Championship in 1994. Of the six teams he played for, he was named the captain of two; the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders.
In his prime, he was considered one of the best two-way centers to play the game. Although he was never a prolific scorer, he was an exceptional penalty killer and ruled the face-off circle. He played for six teams: the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, NY Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and most recently the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, with Buffalo in 98/99 and again with Edmonton in 05/06. He sat out the 00/01 season due to a contract dispute with the Buffalo Sabres and was eventually traded to the NY Islanders as a result.
Why was Peca put in leadership roles for many of the teams he played for? One word – Intangibles. You could almost say he was a born leader. He seemed to have the innate ability to know what to do and say. He was adroit at translating “coach-speak” to the guys in the locker room that were not much younger than him. Outspoken but not flashy, Peca in later years was the “veteran voice” that every team needs. At times, he tended to butt heads with coaches yet was admired by his teammates.
Columbus Blue Jacket Jared Boll said this about Peca, “Pecs has been around the league for a while, he’s a world class player. He taught us alot along the way and I was fortunate to play with him for two years. He showed us alot of stuff.” It’s said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. The influence of Peca can be seen in the skating style and now leadership role of Blue Jacket Derek Dorsett and to a lesser extent Jared Boll.
Michael Peca was a role-model for so many players. The leadership he provided, although not always evident, is his legacy.