Yes, his number with the Canucks is 13.
Chris Tanev may have been the first person from the Rochester Institute of Technology to play in the NHL, but he wasn’t the first to sign an NHL contract. That honour goes to Steve Pinizzotto, who signed with the Washington Capitals three years before Tanev signed with the Canucks. And yet, Tanev has played 64 games in the NHL before Pinizzotto has even played one.
Plenty of players get signed to NHL contracts without ever making it to the big leagues, but this is normally because their career stalls at a lower level. Not so for Pinizzotto, who has several solid AHL seasons under his belt to go with the kind of size and demeanour that should have earned him at least a cup of coffee in the bigs. Instead, Pinizzotto has reached his 28th birthday without a single NHL game.
Clearly, Pinizzotto must have earned himself a curse from an ethnic stereotype, because he is one of the unluckiest players in hockey. Even now, as the NHL lockout finally ends, Pinizzotto’s string of bad luck continues. The NHL lockout is over, and training camp begins in less than a week. But Pinizzotto, whom the Canucks have had in mind as a fourth line option since last offseason, won’t be there.
While the CBA “negotiations” dragged on, you see, Pinizzotto suffered a groin injury. He hasn’t played a single game for the Chicago Wolves since November 24th. It’s just the latest bit of bad luck for the Bad Luck Brian of the Vancouver Canucks.
After just two years at RIT, Pinizzotto signed with the Washington Capitals in 2007, hoping he’d have a shot at making the team after they had finished last in their division and missed the playoffs. He ended up toiling in the minors instead, spending two seasons bouncing between the ECHL and AHL, before finally solidifying his spot on the Hershey Bears roster in 2009-10. Pinizzotto was a key contributor for the Bears for the next two seasons, winning the Calder Cup in 2010 and scoring 83 points over the two years.
In those four years with the Capitals organization, they came calling just once, in March 2009. Already down one right winger after captain Chris Clark underwent wrist surgery, both Alex Semin and Matt Bradley suffered minor injuries and were questionable for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Capitals called up Pinizzotto to potentially fill in on the fourth line for Bradley.
Pinizzotto took the pre-game skate and was ready to play his first NHL game. That’s when the bad luck struck: Bradley decided to play through pain and Pinizzotto took in the game, a shootout loss, from the press box.
Despite two solid seasons in the AHL, Pinizzotto didn’t earn another shot with the Capitals. He went to free agency looking for a team that would and he had several suitors. He settled on the Canucks and signed a one-year deal that was fairly unheralded. When he got into training camp and pre-season, however, he won over a lot of fans with his grit, two-way play, and his knuckle-chucking, getting into a spirited tilt with Edmonton’s Alex Plante.
Pinizzotto’s combination of physicality and scoring earned him a rating of three-and-a-half Raffis out of five (the highest honour of his career!). He looked set to make the team ahead of the likes of Mike Duco and Victor Oreskovich. After not even playing a game for the Capitals, Pinizzotto was going to make the Canucks right out of training camp.
He couldn’t escape fickle fortune, however, separating his shoulder against San Jose while still in the pre-season. While Pinizzotto started skating again a month later, the shoulder injury wiped out his entire season.
The Canucks didn’t give up on Pinizzotto, re-signing him to a one-year contract this past off-season. He once again had a strong possibility of making the team out of training camp, but his luck wouldn’t have it. The NHL lockout first cancelled training camp, then took out half the season.
Now, finally, the lockout is over and training camps are set to start up this week. And Pinizzotto won’t be ready.
It must be incredibly frustrating for Pinizzotto, but also for the Canucks organization, as Pinizzotto has given every indication that he could be an effective player in the Canucks bottom-six. Prior to his injury this season, he was continuing to impress Canucks’ management.
“He has been a force lately,” Canuck assistant general manager Lorne Henning said Monday. “He is doing the things we saw last year in training camp. He’s skating well, he’s finishing his checks, going hard to the net, just creating space all over the ice. The one thing he’s got is a real heavy shot…He has good offensive instincts and he’s a big part of the penalty-killing unit down there. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed player.”
At this point, I just want Pinizzotto to play a game, any game, for the Canucks. As soon as he’s healthy, I want the Canucks to call him up immediately, not even taking a chance on him getting injured in his first game back with the Wolves. He should be escorted to the rink by a team of bodyguards while encased in sterile bubble that is itself wrapped in high-grade bubble wrap.
He shouldn’t even take the pre-game skate, just in case. Just get him on the ice for the first shift of the game. Only then will we know that the curse is lifted.
Or maybe he should just change his number with the Canucks from 13 to, y’know, any other number.Tags: ethnic stereotypes, Steve Pinizzotto