After 914 games spread over 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, nearly 100 games of Stanley Cup playoff action, including two finals, and selection to a couple of Canada Cup squads, one might ask Doug Crossman what he's doing here in the minor leagues of hockey.
After all, Baltimore and the American Hockey League is where a guy is supposed to pick up experience and seasoning on his way to fame and fortune in the NHL.
Actually, Crossman provides a simple answer: He's plying a trade he set out to master about 20 years ago as a youngster in Ontario.
"I want to be in the game for the duration," says the veteran defenseman who, almost without fail, draws praise from coaches of teams opposing the Bandits for his steadying influence on his young mates. In the game doesn't mean just in the player personnel end of it, either.
Crossman, 35, appears to possess a grasp of what it takes to be successful in not only hockey but other sports, too, from the product that appears on the field or rink all the way up through the various aspects involved in the burgeoning business of fun and games.
Want proof? Crossman says, "I don't think money and loyalty can coexist in the same business." Is that an expert analysis of what's going on in this age of total free agency (individual and franchise) or not?
It took Crossman the minimum of time to make it to the big show after alighting from junior hockey in Canada in 1980, one season in the AHL. He was the property of the Chicago Blackhawks then, "but I didn't sign for an option year," he recalls. "They don't like players who do that. I was traded."
What followed were five excellent seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he missed just eight of 400 games while averaging close to 40 points per season and playing consistent and reliable defense. Included in that stint were two visits to the Stanley Cup finals, the Flyers losing both times to the Oilers.
Afterward came a season in Los Angeles, another with the Islanders, then on toHartford, Detroit, Tampa and St. Louis. Crossman was learning systems, what to do and what not to do all the way from the front office down to what players to put out on the power play.
Two seasons ago, Crossman noted there was no big rush to sign guys approaching their mid-30s by NHL teams. The timing suited his family situation: "One of my kids was in school and the other was about to start. It was a time for family stability.
"Initially, it worked out well. I got a player-coaching job in Denver [International Hockey League] and we won the championship and dominated." The Denver Grizzlies went 57-18-6 and won the Turner Cup by winning series 3-0, 4-1, 4-1 and 4-0.
"But then the team moved to Utah, I had a bunch of decisions to make quickly and, as I said, this was a family decision," Crossman said.
"Prior to the season starting, I got four or five offers and I liked the one I got from Baltimore [and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim]. I knew they needed help and they had a bunch of young guys," he said.
Help is putting it mildly. When Crossman signed on, the Bandits were 1-9-1. Since he got his ice legs back and with a few more deals,
Baltimore is 9-6-1 heading into tonight's game against Cornwall.
It's not only Crossman's presence on the back line and on the power play, but at practice and in the clubhouse where the benefits of his experience are showing. It's a common sight to see one of the younger players at his side, pumping him for suggestions, explanations and maybe an anecdote or two from bygone days.
"They're aware of all the years I've been around and are dying to hear anything that might help them," said Crossman. "I love passing it all on, playing for the Stanley Cup, the Canada Cup experience and all the great players I've had the honor to play against. I always was looking for the older guys to pass stuff on when I was a kid. My first training camp with Chicago as a 20-year-old kid was when [Hall of Famer] Stan Mikita was about 40. He was a great help."
Season Team .. .. .. .. GP .. G .. A .. Pts.
1980-81 Chicago . .. ... 9 .. 0 .. 2 .. 2
1981-82 Chicago . .. .. 70 . 12 . 28 . 40
1982-83 Chicago . .. .. 80 . 13 . 40 . 53
1983-84 Phila. .. .. .. 78 .. 7 . 28 . 35
1984-85 Phila. .. .. .. 80 .. 4 . 33 . 37
1985-86 Phila. .. .. .. 80 .. 6 . 37 . 43
1986-87 Phila. .. .. .. 78 .. 9 . 31 . 40
1987-88 Phila. .. .. .. 76 .. 9 . 29 . 38
1988-89 L.A. . .. .. .. 74 . 10 . 15 . 25
1989-90 N.Y. Isl. .. .. 80 . 15 . 44 . 59
1990-91 N.Y. Isl. .. .. 16 .. 1 .. 6 .. 7
.. .. . Hartford ... .. 41 .. 4 . 19 . 23
.. .. . Detroit . .. .. 17 .. 3 .. 4 .. 7
1991-92 Detroit . .. .. 26 .. 0 .. 8 .. 8
1992-93 T. Bay .. .. .. 40 .. 8 . 21 . 29
.. .. . St. Louis .. .. 19 .. 2 .. 7 .. 9
1993-94 St. Louis .. .. 50 .. 2 .. 7 .. 9
Opponent: Cornwall Aces
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: WITH (1230 AM), WAMD (970 AM)
Outlook: The Bandits have lost three of their past four at home and, after splitting 16 games at the Arena, may be wondering if the place ever will prove a home-ice advantage. The Aces have played well lately, going 7-3, and feature defense, giving up the third fewest goals in the AHL. Line mates Mike Maneluk and J. F. Jomphe lead the Bandits in points with 26 apiece.