Today, he’s a retired NHLer who racked up 1,004 points during a 15-year career with Philadelphia, Boston, Minnesota and Hartford.
But 40 years ago, Brian Propp was a teenager who could only dream of playing in the NHL.
Going into the 1974-75 season, the Saskatchewan cities of Yorkton and Melville decided to combine their Midget teams in an effort to compete with some of the province’s powerhouse programs.
Propp, then a 15-year-old from nearby Neudorf (2011 population – 272), made the final cut.
“Being from such a small town, most of the time we just tried to get enough kids together to get a team,” Propp remembers. “It was different for me to get to play with guys from other cities, in a more well-organized system.”
Propp’s Yorkton Parkland team was a success on the ice, winning the Saskatchewan championship and earning a berth in the Wrigley Cup, Canada’s National Midget Championship.
“Definitely the biggest stage I had been on up to that point,” recalls Propp. “Our tournament was held in Oshawa and being so young I hadn’t really traveled that far before.
“It was really the fact that it was the first time that you could represent your whole province in a tournament that meant a lot. Being born in Saskatchewan and being able to represent that province while playing hockey was an honor that stuck with me throughout my career.”
Yorkton Parkland started strong at the national championship, earning three wins and a tie in its first four games to put itself in contention for a spot in the medal games. But losses to Barrie and Oshawa (the eventual gold and bronze medallists) left the Saskatchewan side third in its division, and sixth overall.
Looking back today on a tournament that preceded an NHL career of over 1,000 games and 1,000 points, Propp says the Wrigley Cup was a major milestone in his development as a hockey player.
“Playing against new and better teams and alongside better players, with better coaches, really helped my career,” he says. “It made a big difference in understanding the game and helped me aspire to be better.
“That tournament really got me thinking about what it took for me to play professionally.”
TELUS Cup Team & Year: Yorkton Parkland, 1975
TELUS Cup Finish: sixth place
NHL Entry Draft: 1979, Philadelphia Flyers (1st round, 14th overall)
NHL Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (1979-90); Boston Bruins (1990); Minnesota North Stars (1990-92); Hartford Whalers (1993-94)
NHL Statistics: 1,016 GP; 425 G; 579 A; 1,004 PTS
Team Canada Experience: IIHF World Junior Championship (1979, fifth place); IIHF World Championship (1982, bronze medal; 1983, bronze medal); Canada Cup (1987, first place); Canada’s National Men’s Team (1992-93)