Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Daren Puppa
Daren Puppa's native Kirland Lake has been to hockey what great soil has been to farmers, a fertile place with a history of healthy crops. Long after names like Duff, Backstrom, Walton, and Hillman had moved on to the NHL, Puppa stepped onto the ice and established a reputation as a talented youngster known primarily only by the locals.

And although the Belleville Bulls of the OHL drafted him, Puppa had his sites set on obtaining a scholarship with an American university. He eventually settled on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State where he attended classes and backstopped the school's hockey team from 1983 to 1985.

Having chosen an academic path, Puppa remained unknown to most scouts and to the Central Scouting Bureau of the NHL. His discovery occurred in 1983 when his father's cousin, former Montreal Canadiens star Ralph Backstrom, then the head coach of the University of Denver, had called Sabres' GM Scotty Bowman to inquire about a Swedish goaltender. During the conversation, Backstrom mentioned his disappointment about not having been able to entice Puppa to play in Denver. Bowman's ears immediately pricked up at the thought of a goaltending sleeper coming out of Kirkland Lake. In response, Bowman sent his scouting spies up into Ontario to get second, third and fourth opinions about his secret prospect. As the picture became clearer, Bowman had a hunch that Puppa was worth the risk. He drafted him, sight unseen in 1983.

With the Sabres, Puppa made an instant splash in his NHL debut, shutting out Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers 1-0. But the bigger challenge he faced was to wrestle the number-one stopper's post away from incumbent Tom Barrasso. That took three years of patient waiting.

He finally got the starting job in 1989-90. As a strong, stand-up goalie in the tradition of Ken Dryden, Puppa won 31 games and was runner-up to Patrick Roy in balloting for the Vezina Trophy. But over the three seasons that followed, Puppa struggled to regain his form.

In 1993, he was shipped to the Leafs where he played eight games before being claimed first by the Panthers and then by the Lightning in the Expansion Draft of 1993. Puppa assumed starting duties with Tampa Bay for his first three seasons. By year three, his strong goaltending began to reflect itself in the win/loss column as he racked up 29 wins, 19 losses, and nine ties, topped off by the Lightning's first trip to the playoffs in 1996.

But from that point on, a nagging back injury created havoc for Puppa. He managed to hang in with the club over the four seasons that followed but was able to appear in a total of only 50 games. He then hung up his pads for good in 1999-2000.


REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
Season Club League GP W L T SO Avg GP W L T SO Avg
1982-83 Kirkland Lake Intermediates NOHA-Int.
1983-84 RPI Engineers ECAC 32 24 6 0 0 2.94
1984-85 RPI Engineers ECAC 32 31 1 0 0 2.56
1985-86 Buffalo Sabres NHL 7 3 4 0 1 3.14
1985-86 Rochester Americans AHL 20 8 11 0 0 4.34
1986-87 Buffalo Sabres NHL 3 0 2 1 0 4.22
1986-87 Rochester Americans AHL 57 33 14 0 1 2.80 16 10 6 1 3.05
1987-88 Buffalo Sabres NHL 17 8 6 1 0 4.19 3 1 1 0 4.65
1987-88 Rochester Americans AHL 26 14 8 2 2 2.76 2 0 1 0 2.78
1988-89 Buffalo Sabres NHL 37 17 10 6 1 3.36
1989-90 Buffalo Sabres NHL 56 31 16 6 1 2.89 6 2 4 0 2.43
1990-91 Buffalo Sabres NHL 38 15 11 6 2 3.38 2 0 1 0 7.41
1991-92 Buffalo Sabres NHL 33 11 14 4 0 3.89
1991-92 Rochester Americans AHL 2 0 2 0 0 4.54
1992-93 Buffalo Sabres NHL 24 11 5 4 0 3.58
1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 8 6 2 0 2 2.25 1 0 0 0 3.00
1993-94 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 63 22 33 6 4 2.71
1994-95 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 36 14 19 2 1 2.68
1995-96 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 57 29 16 9 5 2.46 4 1 3 0 4.86
1996-97 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 6 1 1 2 0 2.58
1996-97 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 1 1 0 0 0 2.90
1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 26 5 14 6 0 2.72
1998-99 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 13 5 6 1 2 2.87
1999-00 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 5 1 2 0 0 4.58
NHL Totals 429 179 161 54 19 3.03 16 4 9 0 3.89


AHL First All-Star Team (1987)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1990) Played in NHL All-Star Game (1990)

Recorded shutout (2-0) in NHL debut vs. Edmonton, November 1, 1985. Traded to Toronto by Buffalo with Dave Andreychuk and Buffalo's 1st round choice (Kenny Jonsson) in 1993 Entry Draft for Grant Fuhr and Toronto's 5th round choice (Kevin Popp) in 1995 Entry Draft, February 2, 1993. Claimed by Florida from Toronto in Expansion Draft, June 24, 1993. Claimed by Tampa Bay from Florida in Phase II of Expansion Draft, June 25, 1993.
Missed majority of 1996-97 due to groin injury in training camp, September, 1997.
Missed majority of 1997-98 and 1998-99 due to back injury vs. Boston on December 27, 1997.