Newly minted AHL Hall of Famer Darren Haydar has been asked the question before: Does he first think of himself as a player for the Wolves or Admirals?
Haydar doesn’t know how to answer.
“I was asked that by one of my close friends and family,” a laughing Haydar said. “In baseball, you pick a team for your [Hall of Fame] plaque, and for myself I owe so much to both organizations. There’s no way I could pick. I couldn’t pick one.”
On Friday, the Admirals retired Haydar’s number 20 during their game against the Wolves, honoring a player who spent four seasons in Milwaukee (2002-2006) and was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in January. Haydar is Milwaukee’s all-time leading scorer with 276 points and is the only
Admirals AHL-era player to score more than 100 goals (110), helping them win the 2004 Calder Cup.
“Milwaukee gave me my start,” said Haydar, who was a ninth-round pick by Nashville in 1999 and played 23 NHL games. “They gave me the first opportunity to play professional hockey, and I had to work for every opportunity I got in that organization and prove to them that I belonged.”
He also has accomplished a lot with the Wolves.
Over two different stints in Rosemont, Haydar scored 128 goals and added 240 assists in 342 regular-season games. In 2006-07, Haydar opened the season with a league-record 39-game point streak and went on to win the MVP award with 41 goals and 81 assists. The next season, he was named captain and led the Wolves to the 2008 Calder Cup.
The Wolves also helped Haydar and his family through two very challenging moments: Darren’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis, and wife Sara’s throat cancer in 2008.
When Sara was diagnosed, the Wolves flew her and Darren to the Mayo Clinic for her treatment. And when the Wolves won the Calder Cup that season, vice chairman Buddy Meyers presented Sara with the game puck from the clincher.
“That was truly special for her, that moment,” Haydar said.
So considering what both the Admirals and Wolves have done for him and meant for his career, it makes sense that Haydar can’t pick between the rivals. Not that he’s complaining about anything.
“Really, if you look at it, they are two different parts of my career,” Haydar said. “In Milwaukee, I was the rookie, the young guy that had to prove that [I belonged]. In Chicago, I was the mentor that was trying to help the younger guys along with vying to continue to win the Calder Cup. It was definitely two different places in terms of career positions at the time.
“I just think that they mean so much to me.”