Pittsburgh acquired the New York Islanders’ Bill Guerin on Wednesday. Guerin was the Isles’ second-leading scorer with 16 goals and 20 assists in 61 gamesAP photo
Todd Reirden was a 27-year-old rookie defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers lacing up the skates for his first NHL game when teammate Bill Guerin, who is now a Pittsburgh Penguin, informed him of the daunting task ahead.
The Oilers were in Phoenix to play the Coyotes, and Guerin reminded Reirden that he would be manning the blueline against the likes of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk.
It was 1998, and Reirden had spent the previous five seasons working his way up through the ECHL, IHL and AHL. Now he had finally made it to the NHL and Guerin promptly made sure Reirden was aware of whom he would be playing against.
The Oilers won the game that night, and Guerin, who was traded by the New York Islanders to the Penguins on Wednesday for a conditional draft pick, had another message for the rookie afterward in the locker room.
It’s a common practice for an NHL team to present the game puck to a rookie playing his first game, but in Reirden’s case Guerin took it a step further.
“Bill grabbed the puck and told everyone to stop getting undressed, that he had something that he wanted to point out,” Reirden said. “Bill said, ‘Here’s a guy that has battled for years to prove people wrong to get a chance to play in the NHL. This guy has earned every bit of a chance that he got tonight and I want to present him with his first NHL game puck.’”
Reirden said he will never forget the moment, but Guerin would go on to present him with another puck later that season when he assisted on Reirden’s first NHL goal.
“I remember him for that pass, but I remember him more for the way he took the time to point out the way I got to the NHL,” Reirden said. “I have that memory and it means a lot to me.”