Ken Priestlay

Ken Priestlay was born in the Vancouver, British Columbia suburb of Richmond. That was the beginning of a unique journey which included several stops around the world, all made possible by the great game of hockey. He would go from junior super star to Stanley Cup champion to "Lord of the Rinks."

Ken left the British Columbia Lower Mainland to pursue a hockey career. He crossed the water to Vancouver Island where he first starred with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCJHL and later put in 3 and 1/2 glorious seasons with the WHL's Victoria Cougars. The pint sized center erupted as a scoring sensation with the Cougars. In his final season and a half Ken scored a mind-boggling 116 goals and 111 assists for 227 points in just 105 games!

With scoring exploits like that, it is little wonder that Ken never had a chance to finish his last year in junior hockey. Instead, the Buffalo Sabres recalled their 98th overall draft pick from 1985 to finish the 1986-87 season with the NHL team. He did not look out of place, scoring 11 goals and 17 points in 34 games.

Ken spent the first half of the 1987-88 season in the minor leagues with the Rochester Americans, but finished the year in Buffalo. He scored 5 goals and 17 points in 33 regular season games. He was held scoreless in 6 playoff contests.

Ken changed his number from 12 to 56 in 1988-89, but only got into 15 NHL contests, scoring 2 goals. He had an outstanding season in Rochester. He became just the third Amerk to record 50 goals in a season when he notched 56 in 64 contests, including 5 hat tricks.

Perhaps Ken's best season as a Sabre came in 1989-90. He started the year by tearing up the American League, recording 58 points in just 40 games. Just after New Year's Ken got the call from the Sabres and finished the year in Buffalo, scoring 7 goals and 7 assists in 35 games, plus participating in 5 playoff games. Sabres fans agree that Ken looked more comfortable in this extended NHL stint than any before.

In Buffalo Ken showed his excellent speed and agility combined with a good sense of jumping in and out of traffic made him a threat at the NHL level. Although he never shied away from the physical game, his effectiveness was limited due to his lack of size. A conscientious defensive player, Ken was never quite able to make the jump from junior and minor league star to NHL regular.

When Ken didn't make the Sabres lineup in 1990-91, he opted to participate in the international game rather than going back down to the American Hockey League. Ken played the entire season with the Canadian national team, scoring 20 goals and 46 points in 40 games. At the end of the national team season he was ready to return to the NHL, but found himself as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sabres traded him to Pittsburgh on March 5th, 1991 in exchange for former sniper Tony Tanti.

Ken would play in just 2 games (collecting one assist) to finish the season with Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He never got into a single playoff game, but was a member of the Penguins first Stanley Cup victory. That was a great highlight for Ken.

The Stanley Cup victory was repeated in 1991-92. Ken played in a career high 49 games with Pittsburgh, but was used sparingly. He collected 2 goals and 10 points before finishing the season in the minor leagues. After scoring 16 points in 13 IHL playoff games, Ken was recalled to Pittsburgh to finish the season as a spare players as the Penguins captured their second Stanley Cup victory. Although it was Ken's second Stanley Cup championship, he officially was honored as a champion in 1992 by having his named inscribed on the Cup.

That proved to be Ken's final taste of NHL action, but his career was far from over. He would spend two seasons down in the International Hockey League, playing one season in Cleveland and one season in Kalamazoo.

Ken's career started by leaving for an island, and it ended the same way. Only this time Ken went to Great Britain where he agreed to play with the Sheffield Steelers. Ken became a fan favorite in Britain, scoring 209 goals in 210 games! One rabid British hockey fan - Bob Westerdale - dubbed him the Lord of the Rinks, and even wrote a book about Ken's career by the same title in 1997!

Ken retired as a professional in 1999, but couldn't give up the game he loved. He retuned home to British Columbia and was reinstated as an amateur. He played with the Powell River Regals in the 2000 Allan Cup (Canadian amateur senior trophy) championship season.

Ken scored 27 goals and 61 points in 168 NHL games in his career.


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