Welcome to NHL99The Athletic’s countdown of the best 100 players in modern NHL history. We’re rating 100 gamers however calling it 99 as a result of everyone knows who’s No. 1 — it’s the 99 spots behind No. 99 we now have to determine. Every Monday by means of Saturday till February we’ll unveil new members of the record.

TUSTIN, Calif. — Wyatt is a 10-year-old Maltese and in the mean time, he’s cradled in Paul Kariya’s lap and Kariya is feeding him snacks from a small bowl on the dinner desk. We are sitting outdoor at Barolo’s, an Italian restaurant, well-liked with present and former Anaheim Ducks gamers — a one-stop vacation spot for pregame meals as a result of hen parmigiana is at all times on the menu and parts are large. Hockey gamers, even ones with Kariya’s dietary specificities, like huge parts.

Sitting beside Kariya is his longtime companion, Valerie Dawson, and the three of them — Paul, Val and Wyatt, the canine — are a tight-knit household unit.

To actually perceive the present life and instances of Kariya, a Hall of Fame participant and No. 58 on The Athletic’s record of the 100 biggest gamers of the post-expansion period, it’s good to perceive the function that Wyatt performs in his life, and in Val’s.

The couple has an extended record of dog-friendly accommodations and eating places that they patronize. When Wyatt attended Hall of Fame ceremonies in Toronto just a few years again, he had his personal seat on the airplane that Kariya and Teemu Selanne chartered. Wyatt travels with Paul and Val wherever they go.

“We’ve never left him with anyone else,” mentioned Kariya. “He’s just part of our lives. He sleeps on my chest at night. When I go on a ski trip alone or visit my family in Vancouver and he’s not around, it’s difficult to sleep because I’m so used to having him around.”

When Paul is away, who misses him extra: Val or Wyatt?

“Wyatt, unquestionably,” solutions Kariya, with amusing. “Val enjoys time away from me, but Wyatt doesn’t. We couldn’t imagine our lives now without Wyatt. We don’t have kids, so he’s our son. We don’t even consider him a dog. He’s part of the family.”

Slim and match, and at the moment sporting denims and a hoodie, Kariya is 48 however he might go for a 25-year-old and naturally blends in with the lunchtime crowd. On today, a younger fan acknowledges him and asks — not for an autograph — however for a selfie as a result of it’s 2022, in any case. Kariya poses, exchanges just a few pleasantries after which returns to the desk. Does that occur a lot anymore? No, solutions Kariya, not round right here. One of the issues Kariya likes about life in Southern California is how he can largely stay his life in digital anonymity.

Never thoughts that he or long-time teammate Selanne are arguably the 2 hottest gamers in Ducks historical past, the one two to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame primarily due to their time spent enjoying collectively in Anaheim.

Kariya performed 15 seasons for 4 NHL groups — Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis — and scored 989 factors in 989 regular-season video games. He received the Lady Byng Trophy twice for sportsmanship, ability and gentlemanly conduct. He made three end-of-season first All-Star groups and two end-of-season second All-Star groups. He received a world hockey championship for Canada in 1994 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002.

Much of his backstory is well-documented: How he was drafted by the Ducks in 1993 with the No. 4 choose. How the staff slowly obtained higher and, in 2003, made all of it the way in which to the Stanley Cup Final, solely to lose to the New Jersey Devils in seven video games. That was the 12 months Scott Stevens leveled Kariya with a success to the top so vicious that it knocked him unconscious. From that time on, Kariya endured his share of concussions and finally retired due to their lingering, enduring results.

It took two years for the fog to raise and for all times to get again to regular, and Kariya put as a lot effort, analysis and diligence into his restoration as he did into his NHL profession. He practiced yoga. He took up ballroom dancing as a result of studying the intricate sequence of steps challenged his mind in ways in which different extra conventional actions didn’t. In his enjoying days, he juggled to enhance eye-to-hand coordination. He turned an avid surfer and will get out on the water, he estimates, about 3 times per week.

According to longtime Ducks govt David McNab, Kariya was the right participant on the excellent time for a brand new franchise — again after they have been the Mighty Ducks and have been named after a Disney film.

“Right away, he brought respect and credibility to the franchise,” mentioned McNab. “Remember, this was the Gretzky era in Los Angeles. In a place — Southern California — where there’s a star system, Paul was a star right off the bat, a star that everybody could relate to.

“Teemu came later, and they complemented each other so well. But Paul, by then, was already established. For the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to get someone like Paul was a phenomenal break. He brought speed and talent in an era when people mostly respected size and toughness. Everybody loved Paul because of what he was. His personality, his professionalism. His dedication. He was great with young players. He gave the franchise a hero, someone the fans could relate to and love. I don’t know if this franchise succeeds the way it did without that perfect player.”

Paul, Val and Wyatt. (Courtesy Paul Kariya)

Kariya is non-public and lives a low-key life, often dabbling in hockey issues when requested by Ducks proprietor Henry Samueli. That occurred final spring, with Kariya becoming a member of the Ducks’ search committee for a brand new normal supervisor. Kariya invested two months into the undertaking and made it a precedence.

Many of Kariya’s browsing buddies and pals — from Rob Blake to Joe Sakic — run NHL groups, however that job has no particular enchantment to Kariya. Nor does becoming a member of the NHL in what lots of people consider could be the right function for him — director of participant security. The risk that Kariya would have the right mix of smarts and expertise to run participant security will get raised continuously on social media and web site threads.

The solely drawback is …

“That’s not something I’d be interested in,” mentioned Kariya. “That’s a very difficult job. Fifty percent of the people are going to disagree with you strongly every single time. In order to do something like that, you’re in a controversial position every time you act — and that’s not me. It’s not something I want to be doing. Whether I get more or less involved in hockey is a different issue than that.”

And once I raised the potential for serving to the staff in a consulting capability, if making a full-time dedication doesn’t work in his life, Kariya mentioned, “If I were doing something, I would want to do it 100 percent. So, for me, that is why I’m not involved directly. Because it has to be 100 percent — and then Wyatt and Val wouldn’t be happy with me. It’s a big commitment. A lot of players, when they retire, want to get into scouting, or coaching. To me, whatever the job is — manager, coach, director of player personnel — you have to invest more time in it than you did as a player to do that job properly.

“Players have the easiest job — by far — and the most enjoyable. You’re playing a game. I consider that I never worked a day in my life. I enjoyed all the things that some guys didn’t enjoy — like the off-ice training, the working out in the summer. The playing? Obviously, I loved it. Everything about it, it didn’t feel like a job. But if you’re going to be a coach and watch six or seven hours of video after a game, that would be work. I don’t know if I would enjoy that.”

Kariya grew up in a family of 5 youngsters, the son of Sharon and Tetsuhiko, and there have been no household pets. Kariya remembers as soon as, the household getting an opportunity to dog-sit for a neighbor, and everybody was enchanted by the expertise. Sharon Kariya took caring to a brand new stage — shopping for after which frying up hen livers for his or her short-term pet.

But when the youngsters gently requested if there was any probability that they might get a canine of their very own, the reply was a agency no.

It wasn’t till Paul met Val, who grew up in a household with pets, that adopting a canine of their very own was an actual risk.

“When I turned pro and you’re living by yourself, it’s impossible to look after a dog,” mentioned Kariya. “But Val’s sister had a Maltese and whenever Val walked in the room, it was like it was her dog. Every time we left, the dog would follow Val out the door and didn’t want anything to do with anyone else. That went on for a couple of years.

“Val’s sister had two small children. Malteses, in general, don’t want to be around children. They are kind of bred to be a single person’s dog, or two people in a household. So, the dog basically adopted Val and eventually we adopted the dog. This was when I was in St. Louis — and we only had her one year, and she passed away because of some health issues. We waited another year and then we got Wyatt.”

As a toddler, Kariya took Japanese classes however ultimately satisfied his dad and mom to let him drop out of lessons, since they passed off on weekends when he was in any other case occupied with sports activities.

“But if I could go back now, I wish I’d stuck with it,” mentioned Kariya. “I learn Japanese on my phone now. It would have been important to learn a second language, and your parents are doing the right thing there, but as a child, that’s the last thing you want to be doing on a Saturday morning.”

But whereas his dad and mom let the Japanese classes slide, they largely ran a strict family — and Kariya says he wouldn’t have had it some other means. He discovered a number of life classes from the disciplined means wherein he was raised.

“Warren Buffett says, ‘No is the most underused and important word in the English language.’ I like no,’” mentioned Kariya, smiling once more. “We never had any junk food or desserts in the house. Remember Fruit Roll-ups? When those came out and my friends would have them for snacks, oh, my God, they looked so enticing. But now, as an adult, when you go grocery shopping, all the stuff that as a kid, you think, I’ve gotta have it, I don’t want it now.

“Except maybe Fruity Pebbles. Sometimes, we’ll go on a streak where we have cereal and buy Fruity Pebbles.”

duha2 scaled

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

A typical day for Kariya begins with breakfast and an early morning exercise six out of each seven days. In retirement, he’s spent a number of time finding out funding and handles the funds for relations. So, he’ll spend an hour or two funding papers and inventory apps, break for lunch, take Wyatt for a stroll, stretch, do some yoga after which have dinner.

Three of these six mornings, climate allowing, he likes to get out on the water and surf, one thing that he began studying throughout the 2004-05 NHL lockout. The NHL ultimately misplaced that complete season due to the labor dispute.

“But in the beginning, we were still hoping to play,” mentioned Kariya, “so we’d rent ice for maybe three days a week and on the off days, we’d surf. There were probably 15 or 16 NHL players doing it. The L.A. guys would come up, and we’d meet. Joe Sakic. Keith Carney. Mike LeClerc. Rob Niedermeyer. We had a huge crew of guys.

“Surfing’s a difficult sport to master. It’s one of those sports you could do for the rest of your life and never call yourself a master. I love the physicality of it. There’s a lot of paddling involved. I swam competitively as a child. Reading the ocean, understanding the waves, it’s a science. Some guys can do it blindfolded but when you’re beginning, it’s a whole different challenge. The ocean’s constantly moving and constantly changing. It’s never the same. And so, it was just a very appealing sport to try.”

Kariya discovered to surf largely by trial and error.

“Random guys would help out,” he mentioned. “There was nothing formal. Surfing’s not like golf or a sport where you get an instructor and you work on your swing. There are hockey players who surf, and it was just their time to chill. They wouldn’t even catch a wave. It’s an amazing experience to be sitting in the ocean and have dolphins swim by you that you can touch — or see a shark.

“Less amazing. But you’re in nature. Seals come by. It’s a very peaceful, serene atmosphere — and different from a sport where you’re trying to reach a goal, like getting a lower golf handicap. Surfing’s not like that. We’d have as much fun going out for breakfast after, as we did surfing.”

Kariya is cautious to stipulate that he’s not “Riding Giants” or in any other case attempting to catch the forbidding waves you see in some browsing documentaries.

“California’s waves are much smaller than what you’re thinking about,” he mentioned. “Where we learned and where we surf would be like a beginner’s surf. We all learned on longboards. Then we started doing stand-up surfing, which as a training exercise for hockey, is incredible. You’re basically on a bosu ball, for two hours, with a paddle in your hand. Your forearms and your shoulders and your core get really strong.

“Even now, when I’m retired, and I don’t have to worry about getting injured, I still surf small waves. It’s not about trying to get the biggest wave. It’s about being in nature and getting good exercise. There’s a spiritual element to it. It’s very addictive. It’s like running and getting that runner’s high. Most surfers will tell you they’re a better person coming out of the water than they were before going in.”

In reflecting again on his enjoying profession, Kariya calls the 2002 Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City, “one of the greatest experiences of my life. My mom was there. Val was there. As a kid, if someone had said, ‘You’re going to play on a line with Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman,’ I’d be like, ‘No chance.’ It was just an incredible experience to be part of that team.”

What else about his hockey profession does he keep in mind fondly?

“I don’t often think about things in my past unless I’m asked about them,” he answered. “But with every year that goes by, I’m more grateful for all the experiences I had — what I’ve been able to see and do. To see the world. To represent my country. To make a great living playing a game I loved.

“If I could go back to when I was 6 or 7 years old and someone had told me, ‘This is going to be your life,’ there’s no way I would have believed it.”

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(Top picture: Glenn Cratty / Getty Images)

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