( Photo Credit: Craig Melvin / Getty Images )

By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff

On January 30th, Bruins Alum Steve Heinze will be celebrating his 52nd birthday. Heinze was drafted by the Bruins 60th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Before playing for the Bruins, Heinze was a decorated hockey player for Boston College. In fact, Heinze was All-Hockey East Rookie Team in ’88-’89, Hockey East All-Tournament Team ’89, All Hockey East First Team ’89-’90, and AHCA East First-Team All-American ’89-’90.

Heinze played 12 seasons in the NHL, playing nine of those seasons with the Boston Bruins. Heinze would play for Los Angeles, Buffalo, and Columbus before retiring in 2003. Since Heinze is celebrating his birthday today, let’s take a look back at the right-winger’s career.

Hometown Boy en Route to Boston

Steve Heinze was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, so Heinze grew up rooting for the Bruins. The young stud played high school hockey for Lawrence Academy and flourished. In his last two seasons at Lawrence Academy, Heinze scored 56 goals and 49 assists. After attending Lawrence Academy, Heinze went to Boston College to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL. During his first season at Boston College, Heinze entered the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. With the 60th pick in the third round, the Boston Bruins selected the kid from Lawrence.

Heinze would prove to be an exceptional talent coming out of College for Boston, as in three years, Heinze scored 74 goals and 85 assists for the Eagles. During his time at BC, Heinze was All-Hockey East Rookie Team in ’88-’89, Hockey East All-Tournament Team ’89, All Hockey East First Team ’89-’90, and AHCA East First-Team All-American ’89-’90. Then, in 1991 Heinze was finally a part of the Boston Bruins.

In his first seasons with the Bruins, Heinze only played 14 games, tallying seven points. However, his next season was a jump in the right direction as he played 73 games scored 18 goals and 13 assists. His next season would be the season he played the most games in his career, as it was 77. Unfortunately, Heinze’s career would be seized from opportunity due to always being injured. For all his amateur promise, he could never achieve extended periods of offensive success in the NHL.

He carved out a traditional Bruins winger role of a grinder. He also excelled as a penalty killer due to his great first-step quickness. He played an intelligent third-line game and used decent playmaking and a quick snapshot to consistently challenge the 20 goal plateau. His best year came in 1997-98 when he notched 26 goals and 46 points. That season was particularly rewarding for him as he was limited to just 30 games the year before because of severe knee and abdominal injuries.

Despite injuries riddling Heinze’s career in Boston, he was still able to play 515 games, score 131 goals, and tally 108 assists for 239 points. However, during the expansion draft of 2000, Steve Heinze was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets, meaning Heinze’s days in Boston were over. One of the funny stories that Heinze would leave in Boston circled around his last name.

Because of his last name, Heinze requested to wear #57 (as in Heinz 57 ketchup) with the Bruins. However, the Bruins general manager Harry Sinden denied his request, stating that only Ray Bourque (#77) could wear an unorthodox number. So, instead, Heinze wore #23 in Boston. He was granted #57 when he joined the Blue Jackets, and he wore it for the remainder of his NHL career.

End of Career

Joining Columbus, Heinze provided essential scoring and veteran aspects, as he scored 22 goals ad 20 assists. However, on March 13th, 2001, Heinze was traded from Columbus to Buffalo for a 3rd round draft pick in 2001 (Per Mars). The Sabres hoped he could add experience, speed, and grit to their playoff run. He added all of that plus 7 points in 13 playoff contests. Buffalo decided not to resign Heinze at the end of the 2001 season, and Heinze was a free agent.

On July 4th, 2001, Heinze was signed by the Los Angeles Kings. He would enjoy a year and a half in the Californian sunshine before being forced out of the game with post-concussion syndrome. Heinze was viciously hit in the head with Brad May’s stick. The incident landed May a 20 game suspension.

The following season, Heinze unknowingly would be playing his last game in the NHL. His career ended with a check, delivered by hard-hitting Jody Shelley of the Columbus Blue Jackets, one that left Heinze with a second concussion in a span of only some 6-8 weeks. That being said, Heinze announced his retirement from the NHL.

Despite concussions riddling Heinze’s hockey career, he still produced great numbers. In 12 years, Heinze played 694 games, scored 178 goals, and tallied 158 assists for 336 career points. Heinze also had two seasons where he was tenth in shooting percentage (’96-’97, ’00-’01). So Steve Heinze, on behalf of myself and the entire BNG Hockey Organization, we wish you a happy 52nd birthday!