Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For you to decide

The Windsor Star has run an article on former Spitfire and NHLer Mark Renaud. It's a fine article, but I did one on him a few years ago, and frankly, it's twice as good. But far be it for me to have the final word on it. You be the judge.


[click to enlarge]

And here's the Windsor Star's article. [Nice photo, by the way. Was the regular guy off? Seriously, I've seen better pictures of Sasquatch]

Former NHLer Mark Renaud isn't in the Hockey Hall of Fame, he just feels like he's played with a good chunk of it.

With his induction into the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday at the Caboto Club, Renaud will get to feel something similar to what some of his famous NHL teammates have experience when he joins this area's most exclusive athletic club.

"This took me by surprise," said Renaud, who totaled six goals and 56 points in his 152 NHL games for Hartford and Buffalo. "My reaction is still being very flattered.

"I'm a big sports fan and I was aware of who is in the hall. There's a lot of great athletes and it's nice to be included in such a distinguished group."

A fifth-round pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1979, Renaud packed a lot of great experiences into his six-year pro career.

He entered the league at the end of the transition period between the great players of the 60s and 70s and the modern era.

"My first year in Hartford I got to play with Gordie Howe and his two sons," Renaud said. "That was a great thrill.

"Dave Keon was also on that team and Bobby Hull was with the Whalers for a bit that season too. It was quite the roster.

"After I left Hartford for Buffalo, I got to play with Gilbert Perreault. He was just an incredible player.

"Just being able to say I played with those guys is pretty nice."

Renaud admits getting inducted into any hall of fame was something he never dreamed of.

Also being inducted are Jennifer Robinson, Brad Smith, Sam Sisco, Carol Mielczarek and Lou Veres.

Just making the NHL for a defenceman that never played at over 180 pounds was accomplishment enough for the 50-year-old Windsor native.

"I tell people I was good American (Hockey) League player," Renaud said. "I was good skater and I could handle the puck, but I was small. Just getting the opportunity to play in the NHL, that was my greatest thrill.

"But when I was looking at the hall of fame criteria I noticed one of the man things was making a positive impact in your community. Being from here and living most of my life here, it's nice to know you're being recognized in part because you're viewed as a positive part in your community."

Renaud's NHL career has roots in the most modest of beginnings.

Renaud was trying out for a Junior B team when Spitfires general manager Doug Johnston invited him to the OHL expansion club's training camp as a walk-on.

Only 16, Renaud had three goals and 18 points that season.

"It was a real struggle that year and I made the team because we weren't very strong," Renaud said. "We got beat 10-1 by Oshawa in our opener.

"It was exciting though because there was a real buzz about the team being back in the OHL. We drew huge crowds when teams like the Toronto Marlies came into town.

"I loved getting a chance to play in my hometown for the Spitfires. They gave me an opportunity in hockey."

Renaud's son, Mickey, was captain of the Spitfires and was drafted by the Calgary Flames.

Mickey Renaud died of a heart ailment in 2008.

Mark Renaud was drafted by the Hartford Whalers after playing three seasons with Niagara Falls Flyers and after posting 10 goals and 66 points in the 1978-79 season.

Renaud made his NHL debut that fall.

"I'll never forget my first game, it was against Phil Esposito and the New York Rangers," Renaud said.

Renaud also hasn't forgotten his first NHL goal which came after the New Year in Edmonton.

Dave Keon won a draw back to Gordie Roberts at the point, who slide it across for Renaud.

"I just turned and fired it at the net, didn't even look before shooting," Renaud said.

"Someone collided with the goalie (Windsor native Eddie Mio) and the puck slid into the wide open net."

After six years of splitting time between the NHL and AHL, Renaud decided it was time to leave hockey following a very solid 1984-85 campaign (8-34-42) for the Rochester Americans when their parent club the Buffalo Sabres opted not to renew his contract.

"I figured it was time to move on by then," Renaud said.

"I was tired of riding the buses. They didn't pay in the AHL like they do now.

"It was a lot of fun playing, but it was also a bit of a battle."

dwaddell@thestar.canwest.com or 519-255-5784

Congrats to Mark for entering into the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame, no matter who's article was more interesting.

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