Sunday, August 14, 2011
Whatever Happened To Brian Finley
In 2007, the first round, 6th overall pick of the '99 draft fell off the face of the hockey map with very little trails leading to what had happened. For a few years I have tried to figure it out for myself and I even wrote him a letter asking him myself, to which I received no response, although he did sign my card.
A few days ago I found this great article and the mystery was finally solved, although the story was a much more sad one then I had imagined.
Brian Finley seemed to have it all, he was a big goalie 6"4 and 200lbs who posted great numbers in his junior career, which led him to being chosen 6th overall in the '99 entry draft by the Nashville Predators.
He missed his first year of pro hockey due to a groin injury suffered near the end of his last junior season. After the year off he wasted no time re-establishing himself, winning a Calder cup in the 2004 season after posting the best season of his young career.
He dominated the minors and every once in a while the Predators would call him up to see if he was ready. Finley allowed 10 goals in all during one start and a relief appearance in 107 minutes. Not great numbers for a top prospect.
Seven years after drafting him and not developing like they hoped, the Predators let Finley go and he was picked up by the Bruins. He snuck into two more NHL games with the Bruins playing much better this time in the NHL. Finley ended his NHL career having played only 166 minutes in the best league on earth.
After that, Brian Finley's stats stop and wikipedia states that Finley was not offered a contract by an NHL team after the season and decided to retire. I knew that there was more to the story then this, which leads to the article I found:
"The heartache is still there. It tugs away at him every now and then, especially when he turns the TV on and sees an NHL game being played. It comes out when he talks about the past, about what was, what could have been and what should have been".
The first few sentences make me feel a deep sadness. We have all felt the pain of having a dream in life, chasing it and for whatever reason: our own fault or some outside force, we fall short of that dream.
During the 2006-07 season Finley tore his left groin and labrum, this was the second major surgery on the groin (he tore the right one in junior) and it ended his career for good.
"It still bothers me to this day and that's why I don't watch a lot of hockey. You can't put all the blame on the injuries. There were some seasons when I played very well in the AHL, but I didn't play well when I got called up to the NHL and that's when you have to perform."
The article puts in a lot of quotes from Finley and he seems to have a lot of regret and disappointment in terms of what was expected of him and how his career went:
"While at ease with where he's at in his life today, Finley does admit to feeling like one of those NHL flop stories, something he tries to cope with by not reflecting too much on the past. Still, it is hard".
"It's disheartening," he said. "It's tough seeing a lot of guys who were your equal before or who you were better than, and they're playing and playing well. I choose not to dwell on it. I don't watch a lot of hockey because that's difficult to do, especially knowing you had the potential.
While most of the article talks what might have been, there is a happy ending. Finley now lives in Toronto and is a police officer.
"I really like it," Finley said. "It's pretty rewarding. I come from a team background, so it's great being involved in a team again. Every day is different and you're out there meeting all kinds of people."
The whole story makes me think of Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams reflecting on only getting to play five minutes in the majors (he played right field for one inning and did not bat) and how he went on to become a doctor. Kevin Costner then points out that if he had only been a doctor for five minutes then that would have been a shame.
While Finley had plenty of potential, his career did not go the way anyone had hoped. Instead of protecting a hockey net, he his now protecting people and there is no shame in that.