By Brian Compton
Perhaps in some ways, Dwayne Hay is the “Crash Davis” of the Pensacola Ice Pilots.
You remember Crash. He was the catcher portrayed by Kevin Costner in the classic film Bull Durham, the veteran who was responsible for helping develop the team’s younger players.
There was one scene where the team was on the bus and Crash revealed that he once spent 21 days in “The Show.” His teammates stared at him in amazement, asking questions about the experience.
Hay, too, has been to “The Show.” And he was there for a lot longer than 21 days.
The 30-year-old left wing has made 79 appearances in the NHL and played in 49 games for the Calgary Flames in 2000-01. And while he hasn’t been back in the NHL since, Hay – who also made stops in Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay — was enjoying a quality campaign with the Ice Pilots before suffering what is likely a season-ending groin injury.
“That was the time of my life, for sure,” said Hay, who was drafted in the second round by the Washington Capitals in 1995. “I got a cup of coffee with four different teams. My one whole season was in Calgary. My time was amazing there. I was one of those borderline bubble guys that took all the back roads to get to the NHL. When I got there, I did everything I could every day to stay. I don’t have a bad thing to say about any of the places I was. I wish it was something I could have made last for 15 years. There’s only 700 jobs in the NHL.”
These days, Hay’s chances of returning to the NHL are slim to none. But the 6-foot-1, 203-pound forward relishes the opportunity of helping his younger teammates attempt to live the dream of playing on hockey’s greatest stage.
“I’m just trying to pass on my experiences and give those guys an opportunity,” said Hay. “If they go on, I kind of look at it as a feather in my cap with the hope I sent them in the right direction.”