It is playoff time and as I watch TSN, I debated doing this nominee for a while. Even though people widely know him in North America for his broadcasting prowess, not many actually realize his goaltending prowess. When looking at it over and over-- the fact remains he only played 81 NHL games, not a full season in this day-in-age; but is still one of the most popular guys when it comes to hockey. That's right-- holy jumpin'....it's Darren Pang.
Now, Panger had started off his career with the Nepean Raiders in Junior "A" where he would play along side Steve Yzerman (a friendship that last to this day) for the 1980-81 season, before moving onto the Ontario Hockey League with the Belleville Bulls. With the Bulls in the 1981-82 season, Pang would get a majority of the starts over Ken Porteous with 47 and a 15-21-1 record for the year. The 1982-83 season started off shaky, as Pang went 3-8-0 with the Bulls, before being sent to the Ottawa 67s. That's where Pang's game seemed to change, as he would go 28-14-3 with the 67s. Pang would help the 67s get to the semi-finals before losing to the eventual OHL champion Oshawa Generals.
With his taste of success, Pang kept on rolling in 1983-84, going 29-10-1 in his 43 games and helped the 67s win the J. Ross Robertson Trophy for OHL champions. Along with Scott Coram, Pang won the Dave Pinkney Trophy for best GAA. With the 67s winning the OHL, they got to go to the 1984 Memorial Cup, where they went 2-1 in the round robin and won the in the semi-finals against Kamloops and the finals against Kitchener to take the Memorial Cup. Pang took away top goaltender honors (Hap Emms Memorial Trophy) and first team All-Star honors as well.
Thanks to that stellar season, Pang was picked up as a free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in August of 1984. The 1984-85 season would see Pang hone his craft in the IHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, going 19-29-3; but would get his first take of NHL action in February of 1985 in a lost to the Minnesota North Stars. In 1985-86, Pang would stay in the IHL, but this time for the Saginaw Generals, spending the entire season there. It would be a decent season, splitting starts with Rick Knickle, as Pang went 21-21-0 in 44 games. That season also saw Pang lower his GAA from 4.33 in Milwaukee to 3.37 in Saginaw; which shows you can do better with a better team in front of you. The 1986-87 season saw another year in Saginaw (25-16-0), but Pang would get some AHL time with the Nova Scotia Oilers (4-2-0).
The 1987-88 season provided to be Pang's break. After years in the minors, he would finally get the call up to the Blackhawks, where he would see equal time alongside Bob Mason. Panger ended up playing in 45 games with a 17-23-1 record and a 3.84 GAA and a .891 save percentage. Oddly enough, Pang's save percentage was .010 better and his GAA was only .41 higher than Vezina Trophy winner, Grant Fuhr. He would go on to go 1-3 in the playoffs that year, as the Hawks went out in the first round. In the 1988-89 season, Pang would start off the year in Chicago, going 9-10-3 from the start of the season until January of 1989, where the logjam happened for the Hawks. That season, the Hawks had Pang, Ed Belfour, Alain Chevrier, and former AGM Jimmy Waite all vying for playing time. Pang was left in the booth at times and got in a couple games with the IHL's Saginaw Hawks going 1-0-0 in his two games. Pang would return to Chicago in late February to go 1-1-3 before playoffs, where he would see two appearances-- both no-decisions-- as he replaced Chevrier. Pang would see a lot of change for the 1989-90 season, as he would only play seven games for the IHL's Indianapolis Ice late in the season (4-1-2, 2.54 GAA) and got some starts with Waite as the Ice went onto win the Turner Cup for IHL Champions.
At the start of the 1990-91 season, Pang knew he had to be at the top of his game; but suffered a major setback. During training camp, Pang suffered a serious knee injury, which would put him out not only for the season, but for his career as well.
Luckily for Pang, he had a gift for gab and knowledge of hockey. After his playing career, Pang has turned his knowledge to a successful broadcasting career. Everyone knows him from his role on ESPN's National Hockey Night, his coverage at the Olympics, his occassional drop-ins at TSN, being "Inside the Glass" for the NHL on NBC, as well as doing color commentary for, first, the Phoenix Coyotes and now the St. Louis Blues.
Even though he only played 81 games with a 27-35-7 record, Pang will be remember always for his work in the broadcasting medium over his playing career. Even so, his playing career includes a Memorial Cup and Turner Cup, which isn't anything to be disappointed about. Though, he should be a little disappointed in being one of the shortest players to play in the NHL at 5-feet, 5-inches. He could also be the most relevant of the AGMs to date, which is very odd considering he could be one of the least played we've had.