Former Nashville Predators’ forward Paul Kariya became the second player in franchise history to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, alongside other NHL greats.
Paul Kariya, the Canadian-born winger and former Predator, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Kariya made his name with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, however his two seasons in Nashville were phenomenal. He arrived in Nashville after 9 seasons, 6 of which were All-Star seasons.
He chose the American college route, as he attended the University of Maine before the NHL. In his freshman year, Kariya scored 25 goals and had 75 assists, while helping Maine to a 42-1-2 record and an NCAA championship. Following that outstanding year, Kariya was taken fourth overall in the 1993 NHL Draft.
He debuted in 1994, tallying 18 goals and 21 assists in just 47 games. He was elected to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. The NHL’s rookie of the year award. The next season was his breakout year. Kariya’s sophomore campaign finished with 50 goals and 58 assists. On top of that, he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy for the league’s most gentlemanly player.
Kariya followed his early success with six All-Star selections in seven seasons. Kariya, alongside Teemu Selanne (who was also inducted into the Hockey HOF with Kariya) created one of the best duos in NHL history. He virtually carried the Ducks before Selanne’s arrival, so the blockbuster deal after the 1996 All-Star Game was a huge help for Kariya’s career.
After two seasons, Kariya was chosen as the team captain. He is still the longest tenured captain in Anaheim’s history and holds many other team records.
Time in Nashville
Kariya joined the Predators in 2005-2006 as a free agent, following the lockout. He set a single-season team record in goals with 31, assists with 54, and points with 85. He was a huge boost to the franchise that was still trying to get off the ground at the time. Kariya was the first superstar player to come to Nashville, as Peter Forsberg wouldn’t come for a few more years.
Kariya was a warrior in Nashville, playing all 82 games in both seasons. His second season ended with 24 goals and 52 assists, for a total of 76 points. As he led the Predators to the best season in franchise history. They won 51 games and finished with 110 points.
Kariya got the Predators to the playoffs both years, however, lost in the Quarterfinals both times.
He became a free agent following the 2006-2007 season, and signed with the St. Louis Blues.
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Kariya would finish out his career in St. Louis with three more seasons. After he left Nashville, his production dropped off, as he was repeatedly injured. A hip injury sidelined him for a month into the 2008-2009 season. He returned in 2009-2010, but announced his retirement in 2011 after his various head, hip, and other injuries plagued him.
In his 15 year NHL career, Kariya scored 402 goals and had 587 assists in 989 games played. That’s exactly a point per game.
Kariya was truly a hall of fame type player. He was a superstar for the majority of his career, and made entire teams better because of his game. The Ducks were average at best when he wasn’t playing. The Predators owe the best success in franchise history to him. He truly was a special player.
Being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with Selanne makes it even more special for Kariya, as they played together in Anaheim and Colorado. They were one of the best duos in NHL history, and best friends.
Kariya could’ve added who knows how many more points and records to his list, if he hadn’t been constantly nagged by debilitating injuries. Nevertheless, he still had a marvelous career, and for that, Kariya was rewarded with an induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Congratulations, Paul. Your spot is well-earned.