Friday, April 3, 2009

Wilf Paiement: Where Was He Then?

20 Years Later, Paiement Knows Better
The Kansas City Star - Monday, July 4, 1994
Author: Adam Teicher, Staff Writer


AGE: 38.

FORMERLY: Right winger for the NHL’s Kansas City Scouts.

CURRENTLY: Self-employed.

RESIDES: Amherst, N.Y.

FAMILY: Wife, Susan; children, Andrea, 14; Adam, 12; Alyssa, 9; Alexander, 6.

At the time, Kansas City seemed a wonderful place for Wilf Paiement to begin what would surely be a standout NHL career. Paiement was 18 and labeled a future superstar when he was the second player chosen in the 1974 NHL amateur draft by an expansion team, the Kansas City Scouts. What better way, he thought, to break in than with a brand-new franchise?

With the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, Paiement can see now that there would have been better situations for him. Philadelphia and the defending Stanley Cup champion Flyers would have been nice. Likewise Montreal, which would win the Cup four straight times later in the 1970s. In fact, any place besides Kansas City and the Scouts might have suited him better.

“The only thing I wish was that I’d have played for a contender right away,” said Paiement , now 38 and six years removed from his last NHL season. “It would have been a little easier for me. When you’re only 18 years old, you’ve got a lot to learn. You don’t like to admit it at that time, or maybe you don’t know it, but you do. And they expected so much out of their first-round draft pick.”

Paiement never became a superstar, but he had a better fate than the Scouts. While his first NHL club moved from town after only two seasons, Paiement lasted for 14 years and played for seven teams before his career ended with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1987-88. Paiement scored 40 goals in a season twice and finished with 356. But his career is probably best remembered for a stick-swinging incident in 1978 between Paiement, then of the Colorado Rockies, and Detroit’s Dennis Polonich. After being struck with Paiement’s stick, Polonich suffered a concussion and broken nose. He sued Paiement and was awarded $850,000 in damages.

Paiement said he enjoyed his two seasons with the Scouts. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound right winger, Paiement scored 47 goals before moving with the Scouts to Colorado. But he wonders whether his career would have been more productive if he had started with a more established team. “It’s tough on an 18-year-old to go to an expansion team,” Paiement said. “Thank goodness we had players like Simon Nolet and Brent Hughes in Kansas City. They helped me out quite a bit.”

Paiement lives in a suburb of Buffalo, where the Sabres were one stop near the end of his career. Paiement invested money from his playing days wisely and is self-employed with his work interests, mainly in real estate. “I know there are athletes that played and made a few bucks and then have nothing to show for it once they retired,” he said. “Fortunately, things didn’t work out that way for me.”

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