Kerr savoured lots of fine twine

ROB BRODIE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

The way Kevin Kerr sees it, he didn't miss out on the riches a life in the NHL might have brought him.

Or merely just the chance to live every Canadian kid's biggest hockey dream.

If there's even a hint of regret, you'll never hear it in the voice of minor pro hockey's all-time leading goal scorer, who feels privileged that he's made a career out of playing the all-Canadian game.

"Not a lot of people get the opportunity to say they got to play a game and do something they loved for 18 years," Kerr, 39, told Sun Media from Flint, Mich., where he's a first-year coach with the United Hockey League's Generals.

"It wasn't always about the money, it was just the fact I loved to play the game."

How else to explain a guy who toiled for 14 franchises in five minor-pro leagues over the years. Over those 18 years, he piled up 677 goals -- the current standard for players in the minor-pro ranks -- before retiring in 2005.

"It's a great honour," Kerr, a North Bay, Ont., native, said of that distinction. "I get asked about it a lot, and I just make the comment, 'You're bound to break records sooner or later if you play long enough.'

"I was lucky enough to play 18 years and I loved the game and stayed in the game and enjoyed it."

Kerr's best years came in his late 20s. Beginning in 1993-94, he reeled off five straight 100-plus point seasons for the Generals, including a whopping 308 goals. He admits he had help from great linemates such as Brian Sakic, NHL star Joe's younger brother.

"Everybody knows what kind of player Joe Sakic is," said Kerr. "And his brother, at this level, was just as good."

You'd think a guy with Kerr's touch around the net -- he scored 72 goals for the Generals in 1996-97 -- would at least get a sniff from an NHL scout somewhere.

But even though Kerr, a third-round draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 1986, says he was a hard-working right winger who "played bigger than I was," the vital stats were there for everyone to see: 5-foot-10, 190 lbs.

Kerr also admits, "I wasn't the greatest skater."

"But I played with a lot of guys who weren't great skaters and they just happened to catch a break," said Kerr, who spent his first two years of minor-pro hockey with the AHL's Rochester Americans, the Sabres' top affiliate. "It's a game of breaks. Some guys get 'em and some guys don't.

"Maybe it just wasn't in the cards for me. (I wasn't) in the right place at the right time."

Kerr knew that for sure when two waves of expansion hit the NHL.

First the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning didn't give him a look. Then the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks passed on him, too.

"When the second expansion happened, I was in my late 20s," said Kerr. "I would imagine at that point, I was considered a career minor-leaguer. I was almost at the point where I was a bubble guy. Could have or couldn't have ... I just missed the boat."

From there, the game took him as far away as Alabama and Phoenix before he eventually wound his way back to the UHL and Flint.

Now he stands behind the bench for the Generals, watching over a new, younger generation of players. Some of them, no doubt, carrying the same dreams Kerr once had.

"It's a contagious game," said Kerr. "If you have a passion for it, you just want to stay in it in any capacity you can and hopefully, that passion for the game rubs off on other people."


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