The next year Sheehan was sent to the St. Catherines Black Hawks of the Ontario Hockey Association, Canada's best amateur league. "The funny thing is that they traded three Canadian kids to get me," he said. He had scored 44 goals and 41 assists and was leading all the scorers in the OHA when he was suspended for making an unauthorized visit to New York state.
After that season Sheehan was eligible for the NHL's draft of amateur players. "I wanted to go to an expansion team," he says. "I wanted to play—not sit on a bench for some established team. So when the Montreal Canadiens drafted me I practically had a heart attack. They had a million good centers." Sheehan spent the past two seasons shuttling between the Canadiens and the Montreal Voyageurs, their top farm club.
When Jean Beliveau or Henri Richard was hurt, Sheehan was called up to fill in. Substituting for Richard two years ago, Sheehan scored his first NHL goal. "It was against Ed Giacomin of New York," he recalls. "It was sort of a fluky goal, but I have the puck and don't plan to give it back." Last year he even scored the hat trick in one game for the Canadiens.
"I didn't really expect the Canadiens to keep me," he says. "My style is not quite their style. I skate hard and fast for 60 seconds and then I'm tired, mostly because I waste too much energy going nowhere important. They wanted me to pace myself but, well, that's not me." As Goaltender Ken Dryden once said, "Sheehan is hyperactive." Sheehan laughs and notes, "I don't know what that means, but if Dryden said it, it must be right."
Shortly after the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup last spring, they sold Sheehan to the Seals, and last week when they made their first visit to Oakland they brought Sheehan some of his rewards for playing on the cup-winning team. There were a watch, a color television set and a tape recorder. "Sure, I miss Montreal," Sheehan said that night, "but at least I'm playing regularly here. Who knows when I would have taken a regular shift with the Canadiens."
Sheehan anticipates a steady influx of American-born players into the NHL. "There are rinks everywhere in the U.S. now," he says, "and kids can play the game all year. What the officials must do, though, is adopt the pro rules, with hitting all over the ice. Then kids won't have to spend a year learning to keep their head up like I did."
It would also help if the kids became rink rats.