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Memorabilia Memories: Ol' Nine Of Hearts

You might recognize the "Memorabilia Memories" (formerly "Lighting the Lamp") feature from the Game Time paper. Rick Ackerman has been nice enough to send over his column for the website. "Memorabilia Memories" will be featured every home game day.

Signed Blackhawks Pang jersey with Pang bobblehead (Milwaukee Admirals) and signed Hawks’ hockey card
Signed Blackhawks Pang jersey with Pang bobblehead (Milwaukee Admirals) and signed Hawks’ hockey card
Rick Ackerman

Memorabilia Memories

with Rick Ackerman                                                     21 February 15 Pittsburgh Penguins

Darren Robert Pang was born on 17 February 1964 (Happy belated birthday, Panger) in Meaford, Ontario, a Canadian municipality on Nottawasaga Bay, a sub-basin of Georgian Bay in southern Ontario. His first experience playing hockey, however, was for the Nepean Raiders in a western suburb of Ottawa, where he began a life-long friendship with teammate Steve Yzerman, HHoF 2009, and current General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Other notable Raider alumni include former Blues Mike Eastwood and Dan Quinn, Doug Smith (a 12 year NHL veteran mostly with Los Angeles) and Grant Clitsome, currently with the Winnipeg Jets.

Pang also played for the West Ottawa Golden Knights and appeared in many prestigious tournaments, including the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament and the Air Canada Cup. He was drafted by the expansion Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League and won the very first game the Bulls played. Traded to the Ottawa 67s, Pang helped win the Memorial Cup in 1984, winning Best Goaltender and All-Star team awards.

Pang was signed as an un-drafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in August, 1984. At 5'5", he was the second shortest goaltender in NHL history, behind only Roy "Shrimp" Worters, HHoF 1969, who played for the New York Americans, Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Canadiens in the 1920s and 1930s. Pang's first professional season was with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL, in which he played 53 games. He was recalled by the Blackhawks at the end of the season and played one game. The next season found him in Saginaw, Michigan, where he played for the IHL Generals in 44 games, along with former Blackhawk Brian Noonan and winger Peter Horacek, currently the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 1986-87 season saw Pang promoted to the Nova Scotia Oilers of the AHL, yet after seven games he returned to Saginaw. 1987-88 was his break-out year as Pang earned a promotion to Chicago where he played extremely well in 45 games as the number one goaltender in tandem with Bob Mason, currently the goalie coach of the Minnesota Wild. Pang played so well that he was selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, finishing second to Joe Nieuwendyk, HHoF 2011.

Unfortunately, it was all down-hill after that season. The following year Pang started in Saginaw, now the Hawks of the IHL. He was recalled for 35 games by the Blackhawks, yet did not play particularly well and started the 1989-90 season as a member of the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL. Disaster struck at training camp in 1990 when Pang suffered a career-ending knee injury. A little-known fact is that he was a assistant coach at Notre Dame University (1996-1999) and a goaltending coach in Indianapolis for two seasons (2002-2004).

Today, of course, Pang is a member of the Blues' television crew and a highly respected commentator with tons of experience, some international. He was an analyst for ESPN National Hockey Night and NHL on ABC for thirteen years, broadcasting over a hundred Stanley Cup Finals games on national television. Pang also worked for three Winter Olympics hockey games, including an assignment in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, in which he worked between the benches for CBS. He also worked in the 2002 Olympics for NBC and as a studio analyst for CTV/TSN along with Bob McKenzie, Nick Kypreos (who I will never forgive for running Blues goaltender Grant Fuhr in a first-round playoff game against Toronto) and James Duthie. Pang was recently named an "Inside the Glass" reporter for NHL on NBC games and is a regular contributor to Home Ice on XM Satellite Radio. Before joining the Blues, he was the color commentator for the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes and a part time commentator for TSN.

I happened to meet Darren when he made his first visit to the Blues training facility in Hazelwood at the St. Louis Mills and have a picture of the two of us commemorating his first photo with a St. Louis fan. Over the years, whether it be at the Mills or the TradeStocks Center or even J.Bucks's restaurant, he has always been a most personable and entertaining personality, recalling incidents and events from the past that define his knowledge and love for the best game in the world. He was most gracious in interviewing me onstage as a "Fan All Star" during the Brett Hull statue unveiling in 2010, making me feel quite at ease in front of thousands of fellow fans and Blues' officials and alumni. He has also been a speaker at Blues fantasy camps, although he declined to don the pads, saying he would not want to show up the likes of an old man like me when I failed to score against him. Quite the funny guy, eh?

There have been other functions in which I could always count on Panger to come up to me with a big smile on his face and a hearty greeting and handshake. One memorable meeting was at the Missouri Athletic Club at the most enjoyable breakfasts in which Blues players and personnel were available for some good hockey talk. And, of course, there are the many times Pang has visited O.B. Clark's in Brentwood to meet the fans and entertain us with his many stories and recollections from his storied career both in and out of hockey games. Yes, we are indeed blessed to have Panger here in St. Louis as he could easily work anywhere in the world he wants to.