Cool US$12m hockey dealJoel Ward (left) of the Washington Capitals taking the puck around the net against Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers.
By Tony Best | Fri, November 18, 2011 - 12:05 AM
Call Joel Ward, a Bajan, the multi million-dollar man.
That’s because Ward, the son of Cecilia and the late Randal Ward, two Bajans who made Canada their home, has signed a lucrative US$12 million contract to play the next four years for the Washington Capitals in the National Hockey League (NHL).
The 30-year-old forward helped the Nashville Predators, the NHL franchise in Tennessee, to reach the playoffs last season and then put up a starring performance against the Vancouver Canucks, forcing six games in the Western Conference semi-finals. He has been skating since he was six years old in Toronto. The Bajan, who was born in Toronto, made his NHL debut in 2007 and has been on teams in Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Nashville and now Washington.
“He just loved his hockey,” said his mother Cecilia, a nurse who emigrated from Barbados to Canada in the 1960s. “I don’t know how to explain it. He just loved the game. He was just so focused on the game.”
George McPhee, the Capitals’ general manager who signed Ward to the contract, said that when he became a free agent he decided to go after him.
“I’d rather have someone that gets 10 to 15 goals in the regular season but delivers in the playoffs than someone who gets 25 and doesn’t.”
Ward, who has a reputation in the NHL for playing at his best when the stakes are high, scored seven goals and six assists in the playoffs, a feat that made him an attractive free agent when the season was over.
He has scored four goals since joining the Capitals.
Noel’s father, Randal, an auto mechanic, collapsed with a stroke while watching his 14-year-old son play about 16 years ago. He died three days later in Washington, leaving his wife to raise their three sons.
“He always told people that I would make it,” Joel said of his dad. “It was always kind of odd to hear someone from Barbados, who never played a lick of hockey, tell people I would make it one day.”
To support her children after her husband’s death, Cecilia often worked two jobs, the day shift at one hospital and at night at another.
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