Those were the days. Pat Falloon and Ray Whitney lighting the lamp at a pace that was the hockey equivalent of arena football as the Spokane Chiefs were rolling to a Memorial Cup championship.
Falloon occasionally thinks of those days when he’s on a tractor or combine working the family farm in Foxwarren, Manitoba.
“I remember nothing but great things from Spokane,” Falloon said in a recent telephone interview. “It was three of the best winters of my life down there. I remember moving down there as a young 15-year-old from the country, having my eyes opened up. It seemed like a huge city to me. In the big scheme of things it’s not huge but it was quite a move for me.
“I have nothing but fond memories. Great people, (billets) Frank and Betty Ann McCoy, just a great all-around community. You couldn’t ask anything better for a young kid, and to cap it off with the Memorial Cup was icing on the cake.”
Falloon had 146 goals and 340 points in 204 regular season games with the Chiefs, which began in the fall of 1988, and closed his career with 24 points in the 15 playoff games that led to the 1991 Memorial Cup. (Whitney had 131 goals in 214 games; 31 points in the Memorial Cup run.)
The excitement didn’t end with the biggest prize in junior hockey; the San Jose Sharks drafted Falloon second overall and Whitney with the first pick of the second round in the 1991 National Hockey League draft.
But from there the star was never quite as bright for Falloon.
He spent nine seasons in The Show, never scoring more goals or points than the 25 and 59 he had in his rookie season. He was traded to Philadelphia early in his fifth season and the Flyers, who reached the Stanley Cup finals with Falloon, moved him to Ottawa. He also played in Edmonton and Pittsburgh before finishing his career in 2000-01 in Davos, Switzerland.
“I think it was a good career,” Falloon said. “I got to play nine, 10 years. It was good. Certainly going into the league as an 18-, 19-year-old, now being 35, you look back. I don’t know if I would have done anything different. It was great, I enjoyed it.
“The only disappointment I had is my career was maybe cut short a little bit.
“In the whole scheme of things I was in the higher percentage for how long I lasted in the NHL. I ran into some injury problems at the end of my career. I decided to come back here. I enjoy myself here.”
Falloon played 575 games in the NHL, scoring 143 goals with 179 assists, before helping Davos win a championship.
“I probably could have gone back,” he said. “As the summer rolled along, I wasn’t healing up as well as I thought (knee and shoulder problems). I was on the farm, on the combine, enjoying it and decided, ‘I’m not going to go back this year.’ It’s a decision I don’t regret.”
Working with his father but living in Lake of the Prairies, the Falloons raise wheat, barley, oats, canola and some peas. It’s a life he enjoys, made more pleasant with his girlfriend, Kristen, expecting their first child next month, but he couldn’t say he’s a farmer for life.
“That I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not closing any windows right now. At this stage of my life this is what I decided to do. I enjoy it, but who knows. I’m just 35, if there is something I think of, I would consider it.”
He doesn’t have a lot of contact with former teammates but stays in touch with the McCoys, who have moved away from Spokane.
“Now and again, I’ll hear from a guy or two but being out here in the boonies, it’s not like I’m in the big city so guys are around,” he said.
He doesn’t follow hockey too closely, but certainly keeps track of Whitney, who has had quite a journeyman’s career.
Whitney is entering his 15th NHL season, his third with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2006. He matched his career high with 32 goals last season and set a career high with 83 points and is now an alternate captain.
“We got to be great friends,” Falloon said. “I haven’t talked to him for a while but it’s nice to see him be a Cup winner. He’s done well. I’m proud of him.”
Just like the old days.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.