For every hockey player who is naturally talented there are probably 1000 that aren't. And of that 1000, only maybe a couple will ever make it beyond junior hockey. The ones who do graduate only do so because of their desire to play the game. Their heart outweighs all the skill they may lack, and that alone keeps their hopes of a NHL job alive.
Peter Bakovic was such a player. There's no confusing Bakovic with a goal scorer or a smooth skater. He made the minor pro rosters because of his work ethic, and because of that he even got a cup of tea in the National Hockey League.
Bakovic's route to the professional ranks was not a conventional one. He played with Kitchener and then with Windsor of the OHL. Despite scoring 74 points in 58 games while leading the entire OHL in penalty minutes in his final year of junior hockey, Bakovic was never drafted. He would be nothing more than a goon scouts said, as his skating was horrendous by NHL standards.
The Flames were impressed by his work at the minor league level, but they knew he could never play on the deep Calgary roster. So at the trading deadline of 1988, Bakovic was included as a throw-in in a 3 for 1 deal with the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks moved NHL tough guy Craig Coxe, who had memorable fights with Bob Probert earlier in his career, to the Flames who were looking to beef up for the playoff race. The Canucks got back three prospects - small but skilled Olympian Brian Bradley, good minor league defenseman Kevan Guy and Bakovic.
"Peter is a great competitor and very good minor league player at the moment," said Canucks GM Pat Quinn, who added Bakovic was an important part of the deal, not just a throw-in. He pointed to Bakovic's 43 points in 36 IHL games in 1987-88 plus his 221 PIM.
"Being 25 years old there is still an opportunity for Peter to become an NHL player," Quinn added.
Quinn gave Bakovic that opportunity late in the 87-88 season. The Canucks were out of the playoff picture, and Quinn was giving his young players a good look.
Bakovic played well as he took Coxe's role as the tough guy for the final 10 games of the year. In that time he picked up 48 penalty minutes. He also scored 2 goals!
The following training camp however Bakovic was sent back to the minor leagues.
"Peter has a lot of courage and a big heart," said Quinn at the time. "However, he does have a problem with the speed of the NHL right now and has to improve his skating."
Bakovic lost a spot on the Canucks roster to another Canucks prospect, Ronnie Stern. Stern was a very similar player to Bakovic, but was a better skater and a little more polished in the finesse game. Stern would go on to a lengthy NHL career as a mucking 4th liner. Bakovic would play 3 more seasons in the minors before retiring in 1991.