Guards of Hockey Heaven – Thomas Vanek

Photo Courtesy of Edward Fraser

Okay, so who do you guys think is going to be the next Buffalo captain. Could Lindy decide to go back to the rotation, where every month there is a new captain? Could a newbie like Regehr or Ehrhoff where the “C”, or could the captain be a quiet guy from Austria. We are all going to have to wait a few more week or even a month to find out who will wear the “C” during the 2011-2012 season. But my money is on a guy named Vanek.

Thomas Vanek was born on January 19, 1984 in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He is one of only a few Austrians in the NHL, and he is a hockey God back in Austria, kids want to grow up to be like Vanek.  He moved from his home country in 1998 to Minnesota, a place he now calls home. Vanek played his college hockey at the University of Minnesota where he stayed for two seasons (2002-2004). Vanek was selected 5th overall in the 2003 NHL draft, the highest Austrian ever picked.

During his rookie season, Vanek scored 25 goals and had 48 points in 81 games. Not too bad, but his best season by far was 2006-2007 (name a Sabre that didn’t have a good year that season). He played all 82 games, had 43 goals which was good for 5th in the NHL, 41 assists, and a league best +47. That year he won the award for having the best plus/minus in the league, was a second team All-Star, and signed a 7 year, $50 million contract (the Sabres management matched the offer sheet made by the Edmonton Oilers). Next season wasn’t too bad either, Vanek made Buffalo Sabres history by scoring the teams 10,000th goal. Later that season he made his first All-Star apperance and on February 4, 2009 he scored a natural hat trick to help the Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 in front of a sold out HSBC Arena (now First Niagara Center). With that hat trick, Vanek tied an NHL recond for consecutive hat tricks with four. The only other person to do that was Cy Denneny in 1923-1924. All together Mr.Vanek has played in 469 regular season games, scored 204 goals, 182 assists, with 288 penalty minutes. In 36 playoff games, he’s not too bad either compiling 15 goals, 5 assists, and only 18 penalty minutes. I think he should be at the top of the list to lead the Sabres out on to the ice this season. Don’t you?

On a more personal note Vanek is married to Ashley and together they have three sons Blake, Luka, and Kade. (Luka and Kade being twins).

Can you guess who the next article will be on? He is also in the running for captain, if that doesn’t help, I’ll give you one more hint. After this man scored a series winning goal, Rick Jeanneret belted out “Now Do You Believe, Now Do You Believe, These Guys Are Good, Scary Good”.

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