Jeff Beukeboom

Jeff Beukeboom was forced to quit the game he loves because of repeated head injuries.

Beukeboom was originally injured Nov. 19, 1998 at Los Angeles when he was savagely sucker punched from behind by Los Angeles tough guy Matt Johnson. Johnson received a 12 game suspension for that hit.

Beukeboom paid much more than that. Though Jeff returned he was hurt again in December and his season ended with another concussion on Feb. 12, 1999 against Carolina. The concussion third concussion was very concerning for Beukeboom and his doctors.

"The thing that is most glaring, the thing that makes it easy is that the Feb. 12 knock was quite slight, something you see most every night in the NHL," Beukeboom said. "My situation over five months, the symptoms have not subsided."

Beukeboom said he suffers from headaches and loses concentration in conversations. He has been unable to work out or do anything physical since the February injury.

"It's a medical retirement. I'm not able to come back and compete in the NHL the way I'd love to. Everything in the game comes to your health. My body is healthy. My mind is not healthy right now." said Jeff.

Jeff grew up in a hockey environment. He is the nephew of former NHLer Ed Kea, and fellow-NHLer Joe Nieuwendyk is his cousin. When Jeff played in Edmonton and Joe played in Calgary, the two were forced to wage physical wars against each other in the dreaded Battle of Alberta during the late 1980s.

Jeff's hockey career started with Sault. Ste Marie of the OHL. In three seasons with the Greyhounds, Jeff scored 10 goals and totaled 75 assists. In 48 playoff appearances, Jeff tallied six goals and contributed 17 assists. He was an OHL First Team All-Star and a member of the Canadian team that won the World Junior Tournament in Finland in 1985. His fine defensive and physical play got him noticed by the NHL scouting fraternity as the Edmonton Oilers selected Jeff in the first round, 19th overall, in the 1983 entry draft.

The Oilers felt Jeff needed some seasoning and sent him to the minors. Jeff got his first shot at NHL duty in the playoffs of all times! He appeared in a game against the Vancouver Canucks on April 10, 1986.
Although he battled through some injuries, Beukeboom made the Oilers on an almost full time basis the following year. He even notched his first NHL goal on December 30, 1986 against the Vancouver Canucks. He scored 3 goals and 11 points in 44 games and helped the Oilers win their 3rd Cup in 4 years in the playoffs.

The 1987-88 season was Jeff's best from a statistical standpoint. He scored 5 goals and career high 20 assists for 25 points for another modest career high. Jeff even went on a scoring rampage in January of that season, scoring goals in 4 consecutive games. Not bad for a guy who only scored 30 goals in his entire career!

Times were tough for Jeff in the next two seasons. In a preseason game before the 1988-89 season Jeff left the bench to join in an altercation. For his actions Jeff served a mandatory 10 game suspension and had to report to the minors for conditioning purposes once the ban was lifted. Later in the season he suffered a knee injury and only played in 36 games. Injuries again limited Jeff's appearances in the 1989-90 season. He healthy enough to appear in only 46 contests that year.

Jeff played another season and a half in Edmonton before he was traded to New York in 1991-92. Jeff was traded to the Rangers in exchange for David Shaw on November 12, 1991 to complete the huge Mark Messier trade to the Big Apple earlier that season.

New York was a good destination for Jeff. Playing on the high profile Edmonton Oiler teams of the 1980s meant Jeff was overshadowed by the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Lowe etc. And while he certainly didn't over shadow names like Messier, Adam Graves, Brian Leetch or Mike Richter, Jeff's play was well appreciated by both the Ranger fans and media. Jeff got a lot of credit for helping the turn the Rangers into a solid NHL contender. The Rangers of course went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1994. For Jeff it was his 4th Stanley Cup ring.

Age and slowing mobility caught up to Jeff in his last couple of year limiting his effectiveness. Then came the concussion injuries. Beukeboom played in 45 games with nine assists and 60 penalty minutes in what proved to be his last season. In 804 NHL games, he scored 30 goals with 129 assists and 1,890 penalty minutes.

You could say Beukeboom was a checker. At 6'5" and 230lbs, Beukeboom took up a lot of room on the ice, and when he caught a hold of you, he used every ounce of his body to smack you into the boards, if not right through them. Although he certainly was no angel himself, Beukeboom was a clean hitter. With his long reach and good hands with his stick, he was a very effective poke checker and sweep checker. And he was great in front of his own goal too, quickly disposing of any opposition forward who dared to get into the slot.

Not a great skater, Beukeboom was content to stay within his limitations and play a simple, defensive game. He reached the peak of his career when paired with Brian Leetch, who of course was a offensive oriented defenseman. Beukeboom's steady defensive play allowed Leetch to constantly jump up into or lead an attack. Plus Jeff's physical presence meant Leetch could play defense more by playing the angles more than the man, thus saving the much smaller Leetch some wear and tear. It comes as no coincidence that Leetch's best years came when Beukeboom was healthy.

Beukeboom of course benefited from playing with Leetch too. Beukeboom had little offensive upside and although he was a good skater, he certainly wasn't the swiftest guy out there. Beukeboom would often let Leetch clear the puck out of their zone as Beukeboom's lack of skills and creativity limited him to simple dumping the puck into the neutral zone. Beukeboom also seemed to have a knack of getting caught on bad pinches from the point. If he failed to keep the puck in on a pinch attempt and the opposition squeezed the puck off the boards and behind him, Jeff would be caught out of position and lacked the speed to catch up to the ensuing odd man rush against.


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