At the time there was no way to know just how much of a fan favorite he would become, but P.J. Stock was just that in Hartford, so maybe it is fitting that he scored the first goal at home for the Wolf Pack.
Stock scored before 12,934 at the then- Hartford Civic Center on Oct. 4, 1997, in a 2-2 tie with Portland.
Growing up in Victoriaville, Quebec, Stock started playing hockey at age 5. He once told The Courant, "If the fans don't notice you, the coach doesn't notice you and the scouts don't notice you."
In 160 games over three seasons for the Wolf Pack, the 5-foot-10 Stock got noticed by all with 25 goals, 45 assists, 742 penalty minutes and an infectious personality. He also was a part of the only Calder Cup team in Wolf Pack history.
"P.J. was a fan favorite, I think, most of all because he is a small guy by hockey standards, but was absolutely fearless," longtime Wolf Pack broadcaster Bob Crawford said. "He fought a lot, which of course appeals to some of the fan base in and of itself, but he was also one of those guys who often sought out the biggest guy on the other team and went right after him. And he usually did real well against the bigger guys.
"Also, he is a real entertainer, as is evidenced by the success he has had in broadcasting since the end of his playing career. He was one of those guys who got it, in terms of making the game entertaining, whether it was by throwing his body around and fighting or just by having a smile on his face all the time he was on the ice, and really being a friendly and likable ambassador in the community. He had an unbelievable rapport with all manner of fans, from real young kids to senior citizens."
Taking stock of his career, though, one has to give P.J. credit for his ability, too.
"He was never the best player, but was always a key part of the personality of the team, one of those guys who knew how to keep things light in the locker room and make the long season seem a little shorter," Crawford said.
"And having said that, he was a pretty darn good player, too, especially at this level. . . . I would say P.J. also ranks as the first young prospect, other than goaltender Dan Cloutier, who came up through the Wolf Pack ranks and went on to have a good career in the NHL."
Stock played seven seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Rangers and Bruins. He now lives with his wife and children in Canada, where he does a variety of broadcasting jobs, including working as a studio analyst for "Hockey Night in Canada."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times