A fond look back; Former NHLer remembers time with Mavericks

Ray Staszak watches from the bench while playing for the Detroit Red Wings in 1985. Photo provided by Vince Muzik

Ray Staszak watches from the bench while playing for the Detroit Red Wings in 1985. Photo provided by Vince Muzik

Ray Staszak may have had his NHL career halted by an injury, but he still looks gladly back on his time with the Austin Mavericks.

Staszak played with the Mavericks in the 1982-1983 season, and he went on to start at the University of Illinois, but his pro career lasted just four games, despite the fact that he had signed a then-record rookie contract of five years, $1.4 million.

Staszak played four games with the Red Wings before being sent down to the minors, where he tallied up 21 points in 26 games for Adirondack before suffering a career ending-injury.

Staszak still keeps in touch with his billet family from Austin — the Heegard’s — and he his still thankful that they brought him in.

“I’ll never forget what they did for me. They really became my second family,” he said.

When Staszak got to Austin after playing junior hockey in Philadelphia he was a little shocked by what he saw in first year head coach Frank Serratore, who now has more than 300 career wins at Air Force Academy. Serratore wanted to use Staszak as an example, since he was the hardest working player on the team.

“You think you know a lot about hockey, but I really found out I didn’t know that much. For the first three weeks I was there, all [Serratore] did was yell at me,” Staszak said. “He told me on the side that I was the hardest worker, so he had to yell at me to get the team to work harder.”

Staszak said that Serratore helped make him a better player on the ice. Away from the ice, Staszak was a positive community member who went to church at St. Augustine’s every Sunday.

“I was brought up catholic and we went to church,” Staszak said. “I kept up that tradition through juniors, college and pro. I always felt that was good for me. It came from my upbringing with my parents.”

Back in the early 1980s, coming to Austin was a big lift for Staszak as Minnesota was the place to be for hockey.

“It was a huge thrill. Minnesota was the hotbed for hockey in the U.S,” he said.

Staszak has spent the last 27 years doing landscaping work in south Florida. He still has the scrapbook his mother made for him during his hockey days, and he often looks back fondly on his time in Austin.

“I could never replace those times,” he said. “That was a great team and it’s a memory I’ll cherish through the rest of my life. I’m very proud and very humbled by that year.”

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