Hockey Academy Lead Instructor
Brian Rolston is a retired American professional ice hockey player. He most recently played for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League. He won a Stanley Cup championship with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, and the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 playing for Team USA. Rolston has represented the United States of America three times in Olympic competition for ice hockey. In the Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002, he won the Silver Medal. Rolston was born in Flint, Michigan, but grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Rolston is considered a utility forward, as he can play as a center, left wing and right wing competently. The 6’2′, 214 pound forward is best known for his highly regarded two-way ability.
Rolston was drafted in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils as their second pick in the first round. Prior to his NHL career, Rolston played for Lake Superior State University (where as a freshman he scored the game-winning goal and earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the National Championship game, which his team won), then the Albany River Rats of the AHL. He has played for the New Jersey Devils, the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins. Rolston was one of four players who was traded from Colorado in the 2000 deal that sent the Bruins’ Ray Bourque to the Avalanche. He scored a then career high 62 points, including nine shorthanded goals in 2001–02 with the Bruins. During his career, he has scored a total of 33 shorthanded goals.
Rolston signed with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent on July 8, 2004, though his debut with the Wild didn’t take place until the 2005–06 season due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout. Rolston often quarterbacked the Minnesota Wild’s powerplay (a task normally given to a defenseman) due to his booming shot from the point and strong two-way ability. During the season, he was an on-ice leader and was one of the Wild’s top scorers, scoring a new career high of 79 points. He was named as team captain for the Minnesota Wild for February, October, November 2006 and January 2007. During 2006–07, Rolston scored three goals (one on a penalty shot and two in overtime shootouts), using a slapshot from the slot. He was selected for the 2006–07 NHL Western Conference All-Star Team. During the game, Rolston scored two goals and added two assists. Rolston’s shot is also known for making Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère duck for cover during a game in the 2007-2008 NHL season when Rolston fired a slapshot from the right wing aiming for the top left corner of the net. Giguere visibly ducked to avoid being hit in the mask, resulting in a goal for Rolston. In a similar event during the 2006-2007 NHL season, Rolston fired a slapshot on Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. The shot hit Luongo in the mask, and though unhurt, Luongo was visiby dazed for minutes, lying on the ice until the team’s trainer confirmed he was okay to continue the game. Rolston would later score on a penalty shot using his slapshot in the same game against Luongo.
On June 29, 2008, Rolston’s negotiating rights were traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in return for a conditional draft pick in 2009 or 2010. After failing to agree to a contract with the Lightning, Rolston became a free agent the next day on July 1, 2008, and signed a four-year deal worth $20 million to return to the New Jersey Devils.
Rolston was traded to the New York Islanders for Trent Hunter. In reaction to the trade, Rolston was quoted by The Star Ledger as saying “It’s been a bit of a rough ride in Jersey, I’m actually happy to go to a place that wants me. I just want to start new. I’m actually really happy about the change. […] I saw it coming. There was no blindside here. It was something we discussed from the end of the season and into the summer.” Rolston had been waived by the Devils during the 2010–11 NHL season, and was then entering the final year of the four-year deal he signed in 2008.
After seventeen seasons and 1,256 career NHL games, Rolston announced his retirement from the NHL on April 30, 2013.
Slap Shot Notoriety
Rolston’s frequent use of the slap shot became a specific subject of notoriety during his tenure with the Minnesota Wild. While Rolston was known for having an above average slap shot early in his career, his use of it on penalty shots and shootouts garnered league-wide attention and resulted in Sports Illustrated ranking his shot #8 of all-time in March 2013 (after Rolston’s retirement). The advent of his unorthodox approach began after Jacques Lemaire, head coach of the Wild, mentioned to Rolston during a practice that he had a dream the night before that Brian used a slap shot in a shootout and scored. The very next day, in a game against the Vancouver Canucks, Rolston socred on a penalty shot, beating goaltender Roberto Luongo with a slap shot. After this, Rolston began to use the slap shot regularly in these situations.