Ice Kings Greater Flint’s Power Players

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They have won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals and NCAA Championships. Some rank among the NHL’s best American-born players.

Here is a closer look at ten of the finest hockey talents the Flint-area has ever produced.


Shawn Cronin

The Flushing grad scored just 23 goals in 700 college and professional games and was not taken in the NHL Draft, but still managed to play in nearly 300 NHL games over seven seasons between 1988-95.

That’s because Cronin proved valuable with his defensive and fighting skills. In fact, YouTube is littered with videos of Cronin taking on some of the top enforcers of the day, including the Detroit Red Wings’ Bob Probert and Darren McCarty. That physical style of play earned him the nickname “Cronin the Barbarian.”

Cronin finished with six goals and 23 assists in 134 games at the University of Illinois-Chicago, a Division 1 program. As a sophomore, he earned the Steve Richmond Award for showing the greatest general improvement on the team. During the same season, he was also co-winner of the Mark Nordling Memorial Award for Sportsmanship.

After two minor league seasons, Cronin was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Washington Capitals. He played for their minor league affiliate team before playing in one game for the Capitals.

Cronin was signed by the Winnipeg Jets and appeared in 193 games over the next three seasons (1989-92). He then spent a season with the Philadelphia Flyers and two with the San Jose Sharks.

Cronin did not score a regular-season goal for the Sharks, but scored the first playoff goal in team history nearly 13 minutes into a game against the Detroit Red Wings in April, 1994.

Photos courtesy of (top) San Jose Sharks, (bottom) Winnipeg Free Press

Ryan McGinnis

Brian Rolston and Ken Morrow are the only Flint-area players drafted higher than McGinnis, who was selected 184th overall in 2005 by the Los Angeles Kings. McGinnis never cracked an NHL regular-season roster, but took part in training camps with the Kings and Carolina Hurricanes.

The defenseman spent five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (2003-08), the first four with the Plymouth Whalers. McGinnis helped them to the 2007 OHL title, contributing two goals and seven assists in 20 playoff games before spending the next season with the Oshawa Generals. His final OHL season was McGinnis’ best, as he finished with six goals and 42 assists in 64 games and played in the league’s All-Star game.

For the next five seasons, McGinnis played for various American Hockey League and ECHL teams, helping the Florida Everblades to the 2012 ECHL title. His most productive professional season was 2009-10 when he tallied five goals and 28 assists in 49 games for the Kalamazoo Wings.

Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Kings

Ken Morrow

In more ways than one, the Davison native was atop the hockey world during the first six months of 1980.

In February, Morrow was among the top defensemen on the U.S. Olympic team, which stunned the world by capturing a gold medal. In the semifinals, Team USA shocked a seemingly-invincible Soviet Union team before beating Finland for gold.

In addition to standout defensive play, Morrow contributed a goal and two assists during the Olympics. He then joined the New York Islanders, who had taken him 68th in the 1976 draft, and helped them win the first of four straight Stanley Cups with a goal and two assists in the playoffs. He scored a goal in Game Two of the 1981 Stanley Cup Finals as the Islanders beat the Minnesota North Stars.

Morrow’s best Stanley Cup Finals performance came in 1983 when he was the Islanders’ second-leading scorer with five points (three goals, two assists) as they swept the Edmonton Oilers in four games. He was also part of a shutdown defense which held Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, without a goal in the series. Morrow remained with the Islanders through 1989 when knee problems forced his retirement. In 550 NHL games, he had 17 goals and 88 assists in addition to providing stingy defense.

He finished 10th in voting for the 1984 Norris Trophy which goes to the NHL’s top defenseman.

Morrow was one of college hockey’s top players during his time at Bowling Green (1975-79). He was a first-team All-American and three-time CCHA first-team pick. He also made the CCHA second team once. In 1979, he was named CCHA Player of the Year after finishing with 15 goals and 37 assists in 45 games. Overall, he had 34 goals and 92 assists in 154 games.

Following his playing career, Morrow was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the 1996 Lester Pearson Award for his contributions to U.S. hockey.

Photo courtesy of New York Islanders

Bobby Reynolds

For more than two decades, the Powers Catholic grad was a dangerous offensive weapon for every team he was a part of.

From the fall of 1985 through the spring of 2007, Reynolds played in 1,228 college and professional games, racking up 605 goals and 786 assists. That includes four seasons of more than 100 combined goals and assists – three with the Flint Generals and one with a German professional team.

He established himself as one of the top players in Michigan State history from 1985-89, helping the Spartans to a National Championship as a freshman and two more Frozen Four appearances. As a senior, Reynolds finished with 77 points (36 goals, 41 assists), tying teammate Kip Miller as the nation’s top scorer. He led the country in goals (42) as a junior.

Also as a senior, Reynolds was a first-team All-American, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (hockey’s Heisman Trophy) and was named Michigan State’s Male Athlete of the Year. He made the All-CCHA first team once and second team twice and was twice named MVP of the CCHA Tournament.

Some three decades after he left East Lansing, Reynolds still ranks fifth in MSU history in career goals (107) and 11th in total points with 196 (107 goals, 89 assists). He is second in short-handed goals (12) and tied for first in single-season short-handed goals (seven).

Reynolds was taken 190th overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played in seven games for Toronto during the 1989-90 season.

Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletics

Brian Rolston

Among Michigan-born players, only Hockey Hall of Famer, Mike Modano, played in more NHL games.

The Fenton native finished with 342 goals and 419 assists in 1,256 career games over 17 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders.

Rolston ranks 14th on the NHL’s all-time list and first among American-born players in career short-handed goals (33). He is also second among Americans and 27th overall in shots (3,836). A 2007 NHL All-Star, Rolston’s best season was 2005-06 when he totaled 34 goals and 45 assists for the Wild in 82 games, including 15 power-play, five short-handed and seven game-winning goals. He also finished among the Top 10 in voting for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top defensive forward, five times.

During his rookie season of 1994-95, Rolston helped the Devils win a Stanley Cup. He appeared in 40 regular-season games, contributing seven goals and 11 assists. He had two goals and an assist in six playoff games. The assist came in the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals as New Jersey completed a four-game sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.

Rolston was taken 11th in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and spent two seasons at Lake Superior State before turning pro. He made an immediate impact and was a major reason the Lakers won the 1992 National Championship his freshman year. In fact, Rolston scored the game-winning goal in the title game against Wisconsin. He finished with 18 goals and 28 assists in 41 games and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. His next season was even more productive, with 35 goals and 36 assists in only 41 games as the Lakers returned to the national title game, but lost to Maine.

Rolston was a second-team All-American and finalist for the Hobey Baker Award which goes to college hockey’s top player. He was also named the team’s MVP. He represented Team USA in the 1994, 2002 and 2006 Olympics, winning a silver medal in 2002. Rolston had ten goals and ten assists in 20 Olympic games.

Photos courtesy of Boston Bruins

Ron Rolston

More than three decades after graduating from Flint Powers, Rolston still holds Michigan high school records for most goals in a period (six), game (10) and season (94). He also holds marks for most combined goals and assists in a game (17) and season (157).

The Fenton native continued his career at Michigan Tech, finishing with 32 goals and 26 assists in 110 games. He was named Outstanding Freshman in 1987. Rolston then embarked on a coaching career that took him to the highest level when he served as head coach of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in 2013. Rolston was an assistant coach for the 2018 United States Olympic team, as well. He was also head coach of the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons and Rochester Americans. Rolston was an assistant on Lake Superior State’s 1992 and 1994 National Championship teams. He is currently an assistant coach at Providence College.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech University Athletics

Gary Steffes

The Grand Blanc native was a steadily performing forward during Miami of Ohio University’s most successful era before becoming a feared minor-league sniper.

Steffes helped Miami to four straight NCAA Tournament berths (2007-2010), including Frozen Four appearances in 2009 and 2010. He finished with 22 goals and 26 assists in 136 games. The forward was also part of the greatest heartbreak in Miami history. In 2009, the RedHawks reached the national championship game against favored Boston University. Miami was up 3-1 with a just a minute remaining before BU scored twice to send the game into overtime and won 4-3. Steffes assisted on Miami’s first goal.

He averaged just .16 goals per game with the RedHawks, but more than doubled that to .38 in nine minor league seasons, spent mostly with the ECHL’s Allen (Texas) Americans.

From the fall of 2010 through the spring of 2019, Steffes played in 482 games. He was Central Hockey League Rookie of the Year in 2011, tallying 19 goals and 24 assists in 66 games for the Tulsa Oilers. He later led the Americans to ECHL titles in 2015 and 2016. The 2015 season was his finest, as he racked up an ECHL-best 44 goals along with 29 assists in 73 games.

Photo courtesy of Miami of Ohio University Athletics

Tony Szabo

As a freshman, the Flint native was one of the top players on Northern Michigan’s 1991 National Championship team.

Szabo was second on the team in goals (39) and added 20 assists in 47 games, including seven game-winning and 12 power-play goals. The forward scored in the Wildcats’ national semifinal win over Maine before seeing significant ice time in the Wildcats’ thrilling 8-7, triple-overtime victory over Boston University in the title game. Only five players have scored more goals in a season in NMU history. Szabo was named WCHA Rookie of the Year. He followed that with 21 goals and 20 assists in 41 games as a sophomore and made the WCHA All-Tournament team. Szabo then turned pro and spent the next four seasons with teams in Italy and Scotland, as well as the ECHL’s Roanoke Express. During that time, he amassed 118 goals and 125 assists in just 148 games.

Szabo’s finest season came in 1993-94 when he racked up 42 goals and 54 assists in a mere 68 games for the Express. Only seven ECHL players had more combined goals and assists that year.

Photo courtesy of Northern Michigan University Athletics

Tim Thomas

After spending several seasons playing in minor leagues and in Europe, the Davison native’s NHL career began in 2002 at age 28.

Thomas broke through with the Boston Bruins, but did not become the team’s full-time starter until he was 32 – still enough time to establish himself as one of the best American-born goaltenders in NHL history. He is tied for second among American netminders in career saves percentage (.920) and is fifth in goals-against average (2.52), sixth in shutouts (31) and 11th in games played (426). He spent the final season of his career (2013-14) with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars, finishing with a 214-145-49 record. That left Thomas 11th among American goalies in wins.

Thomas topped the NHL in goals-against average and saves percentage in both 2008-09 (2.10 and .933) and 2010-11 (2.0, .938). He also earned the Vezina Trophy in both those seasons as the league’s best goalie. His finest moment was leading the Boston Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup, becoming just the fourth American-born winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He posted a 16-9 postseason record, including four shutouts. He was also part of the silver-medal winning 2010 Olympic team, playing in one game and making six saves.

Drafted 217th by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, Thomas was one of college hockey’s top goalies while playing for the University of Vermont (1993-97). He was a two-time All-American and two-time all-conference pick who was also the Eastern College Athletic Conference Goaltender of the Year in 1996.

With an 81-43-15 career record, Thomas ranks 16th all-time in career college wins and is third in saves (3,950). He finished with a 2.70 career goals-against average and .934 saves percentage.

Photos courtesy of Boston Bruins

Garrett Thompson

The latest chapter in the Davison native’s productive career is unfolding in Europe. Thompson has five goals and is fourth on the team with 15 assists through 33 games for HKM Zvoles in the Slovakian League this season.

Last season, the forward finished with a team-leading 27 assists and 12 goals in 48 games for Norway-based Fritz-Asker before contributing two goals and nine assists in 19 playoff games.

Before playing overseas, Thompson spent five seasons with several American Hockey League and ECHL teams. He finished with 73 goals and 104 assists in 273 games along with 18 goals and 15 assists in 46 playoff games.

Thompson’s best season was 2017-18 when he racked up 29 goals and 42 assists in 67 games for the Fort Wayne Komets. Only four ECHL players finished with a higher number of goals and assists that season. Thompson added seven goals and nine assists in 18 postseason games.

During a memorable career at Ferris State (2010-14), he helped the Bulldogs to their only National Championship game appearance in 2011. He scored Ferris’ only goal in a 4-1 loss to Boston College. Thompson totaled 11 goals and 12 assists in 41 games that season and was named the team’s Most Improved Player.

Thompson’s best season was 2013-14 when he was the Bulldogs’ top scorer with 16 goals and 16 assists in 43 games and was named second-team All-CCHA. He tallied 42 goals, 45 assists, 12 power-play goals, nine game-winning goals and 78 blocked shots in 139 games at Ferris. In December 2019, he was named to the Bulldogs’ All-Decade Team.

Photo courtesy of Ferris State University Athletics

 

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