Stephen Gionta is one of the feel good stories for this year’s lock-out shortened NHL season.
At the age of 29, Gionta is showing what fellow forward Matt Anderson said following his NHL debut last week at 30 that, “age is just a number.” Anderson registered his first point in the big leagues when he assisted on Ryan Carter’s goal against the New York Islanders before being returned to Albany over the weekend.
Gionta, the younger brother of former Devil and current Montreal Canadian Brian Gionta, was signed to an amateur try-out on April 12th, 2006. After spending six seasons in the AHL, Gionta finally got his shot in last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Gionta registered seven points in the playoffs and certainly proved that he belongs in the big leagues on a regular basis. Thus far this season, the Rochester, New York native and Boston College graduate has one goal and four assists with a plus three rating.
Gionta had a twelve-game stint with the Devils in the 2010-11 season, but did not put up a point. While Gionta may fall into the rookie category in terms of games played in the NHL, he does not meet the age requirement. Thanks to the Makarov Rule, players must be twenty-six years of age by September 15th of the current season to be considered a rookie and be eligible for the Calder Trophy which is awarded to the league’s best new hotshot.
The age requirement was added when forward Sergei Makarov made his debut with the Calgary Flames at the ripe old age of thirty-one. Makarov, a two-time gold medalist for the Russian Olympic team, won the Calder Trophy that year.
However, Makarov does not hold the record for being the oldest rookie in the NHL. That honor goes to Connie Madigan, a defenseman for the St. Louis Blues, who was thirty-eight when he donned the uniform during the 1972-73 season.