Brian Rafalski

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Brian Rafalski
Rafalski.jpg
Born (1973-09-28) September 28, 1973 (age 40)
Dearborn, MI, USA
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 191 lb (87 kg; 13 st 9 lb)
Position Defense
Shot Right
Played for NHL:
New Jersey Devils
Detroit Red Wings
SEL:
Brynäs IF
SM-l:
Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho
Helsingin IFK
National team  United States
NHL Draft Undrafted
Playing career 1995–2014

Brian Christopher Rafalski (born September 28, 1973) is an American retired professional ice hockey defenseman. He previously played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, in the SM-liiga Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho and Helsingin IFK in the Elitserien for Brynäs IF. After struggling to enter the NHL, spending four seasons in European leagues, Rafalski won the Stanley Cup three times, playing in five Stanley Cup finals in his NHL career (2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2009.) Rafalski also played for the United States men's ice hockey team in three Olympic ice hockey tournaments (2002, 2006, and 2010).

Playing career[edit]

High School[edit]

Rafalski played for the Madison Capitals of the USHL and scored 23 points with 12 goals and 11 assists

College and European play[edit]

Rafalski played for four years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and was a proficient player, scoring 45 points in 43 games in his senior year. He won several awards that season; he was named to the WCHA First All-Star Team, the NCAA West All-Star Team, and the WCHA Defenseman of the Year. With no immediate NHL prospects, Rafalski travelled overseas. He spent the 1995-1996 season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Elite League. After scoring only 9 points in 22 games in Sweden, he then moved to Finland. He played a season for HPK of the SM-liiga, and scored 35 points. He travelled to HIFK in 1997, where he spent two successful years. In his final year in Finland, he scored 19 goals and 53 points in 53 games, and won the Kultainen kypärä, which is the SM-liiga trophy for best player as voted by his fellow players. Notably, he also became the first non-Finnish player to win the award.

NHL career[edit]

Rafalski on the New Jersey Devils

Rafalski was named by the Sporting News in 1999 as the best hockey player in the world not playing in the NHL. On May 7, 1999, Rafalski was signed by the New Jersey Devils as a free agent. He was 26 years of age at the start of the 1999–2000 NHL season, somewhat older than most rookies, but with four seasons in strong European leagues already under his belt.

As soon as he arrived in New Jersey, Rafalski was teamed with Devils captain Scott Stevens. The two would remain as mainstay defensive partners for five years, until Stevens' retirement in 2004. He finished the season with 32 points. He led all rookie defensemen in plus-minus with a +21 rating, second among Devils defensemen and tied for first for all rookies. Rafalski helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup that year. Along with Calder Trophy winning teammate Scott Gomez, he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.

Rafalski improved his production in his sophomore season, as he scored 52 points. His 18 points during the playoffs set a team record for defensemen, although the Devils lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Brian Rafalski.jpg

In the 2001–02 NHL season, Rafalski continued his scoring ways with 47 points. He was selected to participate in the NHL All-Star Game, but was forced to sit out due to injury. The next season, he once again led all Devils defensemen in scoring with 40 points. He was a vital part of a Devils defense that helped the team win the Stanley Cup again with a seven-game win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in June 2003.

On July 1, 2007, the Detroit Red Wings signed Rafalski to a $30 million, five-year contract. Rafalski had grown up in nearby Dearborn and had been a Red Wings fan for most of his life. He has been teamed with another legendary defenseman, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Rafalski set a career high in goals (11) after scoring against the St. Louis Blues on March 5, 2008. He would go on to score 13 goals for the season, amassing that amount in 73 games. On June 4, 2008, Rafalski helped lead the Wings to the Stanley Cup, the third in his career. He helped out the cause by scoring the first Red Wings' goal on the powerplay in the first period to help them defeat the Penguins 3-2 in game 6.

On January 1, 2009, Rafalski scored the game-winning goal for the Red Wings in the 2009 Winter Classic, the first NHL game played outdoors in Red Wings history. The Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 6-4.

On May 5, 2009, Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock announced Rafalski would miss Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. It was the first time Rafalski missed the first three games of a series.[1] Rafalski finished the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs with three goals and nine assists as the Red Wings came within a game of repeating as Stanley Cup champions.

On May 25, 2011, Rafalski announced his retirement from the NHL, walking away from the final year of his contract, citing knee and back injuries.[2] Because Rafalski retired on an under-35 contract without being bought out, the move removed his cap hit for the 2011–12 season.

In the 11 NHL seasons that Rafalski played, his team qualified for the post season every year.

On January 3, 2014, the Florida Everblades of the ECHL signed Rafalski to a contract, his first return to pro hockey since his retirement. He expressed a desire to return to the NHL. He was released 18 days after he signed with the team citing back issues.[3]

International play[edit]

Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Ice hockey
Winter Olympics
Silver 2010 Vancouver
Silver 2002 Salt Lake City
World Junior Championships
Bronze 1992 Germany

Rafalski represented Team USA at the 2002 Winter Olympics, winning a silver medal as the US lost to Canada in the finals.

He has continued to represent America in international play, playing in both the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Rafalski played in the 2010 Winter Olympics while filling in as the United States' alternate captain. He scored two goals and assisted on another in the USA's 5-3 win over Canada in group-stage play, which ensured the United States would win their group and earn a bye to the quarterfinals.[4] He finished third in the tournament in scoring (first among defencemen) with four goals and four assists.[5] He was named as the best defenceman of the tournament as well as being named to the tournament all-star team.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Award Year
All-WCHA Rookie Team 1991–92
All-WCHA First Team 1994–95
AHCA West First-Team All-American 1994–95

Personal life[edit]

Rafalski and his wife Felicity have three sons; Danny, born in June 1997, Evan, born in October 2000, and Matthew, born in June 2004.[8][9]

Rafalski is from Dearborn, MI. He has a degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Economics. On a similar note, Rafalski has said during an interview that he is a political buff and frequently listens to Glenn Beck and other talk show hosts, with notable stances taken on issues such as taxation.

Speaking about his retirement Rafalski said, "This was probably the most challenging season of my career, both physically, mentally and spiritually, but it was also the most rewarding and most blessed...The decision was made between myself and my wife approximately two months ago. We went through a long process of weighing different factors in our lives. At the end of the day it came down to priorities, with the top three priorities being serving God, serving my family and serving others." [10]

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM GP G A Pts +/- PIM
1990–91 Madison Capitols USHL 47 12 11 23 28
1991–92 University of Wisconsin–Madison WCHA 34 3 14 17 34
1992–93 University of Wisconsin–Madison WCHA 32 0 13 13 10
1993–94 University of Wisconsin–Madison WCHA 37 6 17 23 26
1994–95 University of Wisconsin–Madison WCHA 43 11 34 45 48
1995–96 Brynäs IF Swe.1 18 3 6 9 12 9 0 1 1 2
1995–96 Brynäs IF SEL 22 1 8 9 14
1996–97 HPK SM-l 49 11 24 35 24 26 10 6 5 11 4
1997–98 HIFK SM-l 40 13 10 23 0 24 9 5 6 11 0
1998–99 HIFK SM-l 53 19 34 53 38 18 11 5 9 14 4
1999–00 New Jersey Devils NHL 75 5 27 32 21 28 23 2 6 8 5 8
2000–01 New Jersey Devils NHL 78 9 43 52 36 26 25 7 11 18 10 7
2001–02 New Jersey Devils NHL 76 7 40 47 15 18 6 3 2 5 −2 4
2002–03 New Jersey Devils NHL 79 3 37 40 18 14 23 2 9 11 7 18
2003–04 New Jersey Devils NHL 69 6 30 36 6 24 5 0 1 1 0 0
2005–06 New Jersey Devils NHL 82 6 43 49 0 36 9 1 8 9 3 2
2006–07 New Jersey Devils NHL 82 8 47 55 4 34 11 2 6 8 −1 8
2007–08 Detroit Red Wings NHL 73 13 42 55 27 34 22 4 10 14 6 12
2008–09 Detroit Red Wings NHL 78 10 49 59 17 20 18 3 9 12 11 11
2009–10 Detroit Red Wings NHL 78 8 34 42 23 26 12 3 8 11 4 2
2010–11 Detroit Red Wings NHL 63 4 44 48 11 22 11 2 1 3 −1 4
SM-liiga totals 142 43 68 111 68 30 16 20 36 8
NHL totals 833 79 436 515 178 282 165 29 71 100 42 66

International[edit]

Year Team Event Result   GP G A Pts PIM
1992 United States WJC 7 0 1 1 2
1993 United States WJC 4th 7 0 2 2 2
1995 United States WC 6th 5 0 0 0 2
2002 United States Oly 6 1 2 3 2
2004 United States WCH 4th 4 0 3 3 6
2006 United States Oly 8th 5 0 2 2 0
2010 United States Oly 6 4 4 8 2
Junior totals 14 0 3 3 4
Senior totals 26 5 11 16 12

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rafalski out for Red Wings". Detroit Free Press. May 5, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Red Wings defencemen Rafalski set to retire". The Sports Network. May 23, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ Brian Rafalski returning to pro hockey with ECHL Florida Everblades
  4. ^ "Canada at United States Game Recap". National Hockey League. February 22, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Scoring Leaders". International Ice Hockey Federation. February 28, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "Vancouver Olympics All-Tournament Team". USA Hockey Magazine. February 28, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Brian Rafalski elected to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame". Detroit Free Press. August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  8. ^ "2010-11 Detroit Red Wings Media Guide". Detroit Red Wings. October 2, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ "2010 U.S. Olympic Team Fact Sheet". Teamusa.org. February 4, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Red Wings' Brian Rafalski retires with three Stanley Cups". usatoday.com. May 25, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Mika Strömberg
Winner of the Pekka Rautakallio trophy
1996–97
Succeeded by
Allan Measures
Preceded by
Allan Measures
Winner of the Pekka Rautakallio trophy
1998–99
Succeeded by
Toni Lydman
Preceded by
Raimo Helminen
Winner of the Kultainen kypärä trophy
1998–99
Succeeded by
Kai Nurminen
Preceded by
Olli Jokinen
Winner of the Matti Keinonen trophy
1998–99
Succeeded by
Kai Nurminen