Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Jay Caufield

At 6'4" 240lbs, Jay Caufield looked like a linebacker on skates. That's because he was! A linebacker in college, Jay also liked to play hockey, though he never played it too seriously until 1985-86 when he signed as a project of the New York Rangers. Just out of college with no prospects to continue his NHL career, Caufield played in the minors for the next two years.

Caufield did play in 13 games for the Rangers in 1986-87 with the Rangers, but was traded early in 1987-88 to Minnesota where he played just one game, spending the rest of the year in the minor leagues. It was with the Stars farm team in Kalamazoo that Caufield accepted the role of tough guy/policeman, earning 273 PIM in 65 games.

Caufield was picked up via the waiver draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins just prior to the 1988-89 season. The Pens were looking for a "designated sitter" to protect the likes of superstars Mario Lemieux. He played in a career high 58 NHL games and compiled 285 PIM in his first of 5 full years with the Pens.

Caufield was a good fighter, though never a truly feared heavyweight. He was incredibly strong and in excellent muscular condition (he was the heaviest player in the league, all of it muscle), he wasn't even that feared by other NHL tough guys. He willingly took on all comers but because of a lack of balance on skates he couldn't get all his strength into his punches, thus making him more of a clutch and grabbing wrestler than a true heavyweight fighter like Dave Brown or Bob Probert.

If Caufield was an average fighter, he was below average as a player. He had little agility or speed on his skates at all, which prohibited him from bodychecking effectively. He had little hockey sense and couldn't handle the puck while skating. His only goals, 5 in total, came from a loose puck in front of the enemy net.

A likeable person off the ice, Caufield was a good guy to have in the dressing room, always keeping the guys loose. That and his willingness to fight kept him in the NHL. Few players worked as hard in practice to improve himself as a player

When it comes right down to it, Caufield played in 208 NHL games, scored 5 goals and 13 points and twice has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. That's better than what many accomplished!

Caufield gained a lot more respect in retirement when it became known he was serving as Mario Lemieux's personal physical trainer and emotional confidante when #66 was making his comeback to the National Hockey League.

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