Grant Ledyard eventually played 1,028 National Hockey League games and wore nine different uniforms, but the Winnipeg native first became known in Manitoba for something that never happened. The big defenceman from Fort Garry was not drafted by the NHL.
For many players, that would have been the end of the dream and a different hockey road might have been taken with lesser expectations. But not Ledyard. He went back to his roots, more determined than ever, was signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers on July 7, 1982 and carved out a superb 18-year NHL career. It was his first of six free-agent signings.
Ledyard's greatest season of hockey might have been his final year with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Fort Garry Blues when he recorded 70 points in 63 games (25 goals, 45 assists). It was enough to attract a New York Rangers scout who inked Ledyard to a deal that sent him to the minors to prove himself. He earned his first NHL job out of the Rangers' training camp 1984-85 and played in 42 games scoring eight goals and 12 assists. But he was traded midway through the season to Los Angeles Kings, the first of five trades he experienced. The six-foot-2, 200-pound Ledyard also had NHL stops with Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Though Manitobans will say it was as soon as he picked up a hockey stick, the Sabres proudly state it was in Buffalo where Ledyard gained the reputation that stayed with him throughout his career of being "a quiet leader" who was "highly appreciated by his teammates and coaches."
But it was in Dallas in 1993-94 where he had his best NHL season, playing all 84 games scoring nine goals and 46 points.
When Grant Ledyard officially retired from the NHL in 2003, he had scored 90 goals and recorded 276 assists for 366 points. He was inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. Not a bad run for a kid nobody wanted to draft, certainly a career that continues to lend hope to every Manitoba kid that dreams of the Big League and definitely a proud addition to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
b. November 16, 1961