Hockey Might-Have-Been

1992 Pinnacle Baseball card #594 – Tom Glavine

This week’s Card of the Week is actually a baseball card – with a twist!

The 1992 Pinnacle Baseball set had a card of ace Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavineskating on ice, stick in hand. You see, in high school, Glavine was talented at baseball and hockey. Upon graduation in 1984, he was chosen in both the NHL and MLB drafts, as explained on the back of this card:

Tom, the NL’s Cy Young Award Winner in 1991, had a tough decision to make when he graduated from Billerica (Massachusetts) Memorial High School in 1984. He signed a baseball contract with Atlanta, which drafted him in the second round. But he was also considered a top hockey prospect and drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the NHL draft.

Tough decision, eh? I’m not so sure. Being a baseball pitcher means you work one game, and then get the next three off. And if you’re really good at it, you’ll still be the highest paid player on the team, despite playing only 25% of the time. Not to mention that hockey players didn’t make jack squat in 1984 unless your name was Gretzky or perhaps Dionne. The boys of summer always make more than the boys of winter.

While Glavine was drafted in the fourth round (69th overall), a few other guys you may have heard of got picked later on in the draft, including…

  • Kirk McLean – sixth round, 107th overall – New Jersey. McLean would play 14 years in the NHL, and was a top tier netminder in the 1990s for the Canucks.
  • Brett Hull – sixth round, 117 overall – Calgary. The son of Hall of Fame player Bobby Hull, Brett would play 17 full seasons in the NHL and would retire as third overall in goals scored.
  • Luc Robitaille – ninth round, 171 overall – Los Angeles. Robitaille would win Rookie of the Year honors in 1987, and go onto become the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history.
  • Gary Suter – ninth round, 180th overall – Calgary. All-Star defensemen would play 16 seasons in the NHL, and win Rookie of the Year in 1986.

Since the Kings did take Luc Robitalle in the ninth round, I guess it was OK that they used (wasted?) an earlier draft pick on a guy would opt for a baseball career instead.

So, why would the Kings draft Glavine over players like McLean, Hull or Suter? According to Hockey Draft Central (a wonderful but woefully out of date website), Glavine was a standout hockey player in high school, leading his school to the championship in 1984. He would net 47 goals and 47 assists in 23 games that year – that’s roughly two goals and two assists per game. Glavine’s career high school scoring totals were 111 goals and 121 assists for 232 points. Numbers like that bear serious consideration – and speculation – come draft time.

But how many players who put up good numbers in high school, college or junior hockey turn out to become busts, or at best mediocre? Many of them. A successful high school career does not necessarily translate to a successful NHL career. But that is what the draft is all about – taking a chance, especially in the fourth or later rounds. No one is a sure thing until they skate in an NHL game.

Seeing as how Tom Glavine went onto win over 300 games as a Major League pitcher, he obviously made the right choice.

Cards like this one make you wonder, though…

Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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