Monday, January 16, 2012
Who was the first Italian born player in National Hockey League history.
While Nelson Flavio Debenedet may have been born in the small agricultural town of Cordeno, Italy, he moved to western Canada as a youth. Soon enough he fell in love with the Canadian game.
Hockey took Debenedet far, but he also wanted to pursue the world of academics. So in 1966 the 6'1" 195lb left winger enrolled at Michigan State where he played hockey with the Spartans and hit the classroom studying urban forestry (how the heck does that work!). He later switched to the University of Toronto.
Detroit signed Debenedet in 1971. He apprenticed in the minor leagues for three seasons, finally getting into 15 games with Detroit in that third campaign. But then he was traded to Pittsburgh by Detroit for Hank Nowak and Pittsburgh's 3rd round choice (Dan Mandryk) in 1974 Amateur Draft
The move worked out well enough for Debenedet as he spent half a season Pittsburgh in the 1974-75 season. But he had had enough once he was returned to the minor leagues. He toiled with Hershey in the 1975-76 season, hanging up the blades once his contract expired at season's end.