Walt Poddubny dies at 49

Maybe it’s just the morbidity that goes with it, but in years of watching the wire, there is something that happens when you see ^AP-XXX—Obit-- come across.

Generally, it’s calling out to Altruda, “So-and-so died.”

“Saw that,” the usual response.

On Saturday night, it was Walt Poddubny. And he was just 49.

Who was he? Poddubny was one of those players who toiled for several years in the NHL, was dealt and flourished for a few seasons before moving back into relative obscurity as his career flamed out.

One of those guys that you forget about until you see a story like this and then say, “Yeah, he was pretty good for a while…”

From 1981-86, Poddubny had 59 goals with the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, and played more than 38 games just once in that time. Not a particularly special player, in fact the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Web site said “once he was established, criticisms began to surface that Poddubny was a floater, guilty of inconsistent play before the injury bug struck, forcing him to miss many games during the seasons that followed.”

Traded to the New York Rangers, he had a career-high 40 goals and led the Blueshirts with 87 points while missing only five games. The next season, he had 38 goals and a team-best 88 points in 77 games.

In 1988-89, he landed with Quebec, and continued to thrive. He led the Nordqiues with 38 goals and was second with 75 points in 72 contests. Over the next three seasons, though, he would play just 54 games with the New Jersey Devils, totaling nine goals.

Out of the game at 31, Poddubny later coached in Anchorage, Alaska of the West Coast Hockey League.

The AP story said he died after collapsing in Thunder Bay, Ontario at his sisters’ home, where he had been living. Sad end and too soon.

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