By Fred Wallace
Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire ".
The retirement of Joel Ward from the National Hockey League creates so many great images and wonderful narratives.
Undrafted, Ward went on to play more than 700 games in the NHL and score more than 130 times, but only after 4 years of Junior in Owen Sound and an additional 4 years at the University of Prince Edward Island.
In a nutshell, he was approaching the quarter century mark before anyone, anywhere gave him a chance.
His junior days in Owen Sound were solid competing for the Greys, the Platers and eventually the Attack, finishing his Ontario Hockey League days with 76 career goals.
Remember that made-for-CBC TV series " Making the Cut " ? I heard from others that Joel Ward was the best candidate at the pre-tryouts but wasn't invited to participate among the finalists on the show. Somewhat ironic in retrospect.
And so too is the tiny bit of gratitude Joel Ward might owe Jeff Kugel.
Owen Sound hockey fans know the incident well; Sunday October 25, 1998, Platers at Windsor- the Spitfires Jeff Kugel comes on to the ice and assaults the Platers en masse.
Joel Ward was a healthy scratch that night. And in all honesty, he wasn't playing particularly well early in his sophomore season. Who knows if that was the beginning of the end of his days in Owen Sound which had a deep and experienced roster.
However, the Kugel aftermath left Owen Sound shorthanded with both long term suspensions and injuries to key forwards which opened the door for Ward to play two nights later when the Platers were at Sudbury.
And while his game at Sudbury wasn't especially notable Joel Ward continued to dress for Owen Sound and ultimately continued to travel as less-than-typical road to the National Hockey League that finally concluded two decades later.
I'm Fred Wallace