Doug Zmolek was close to achieving every hockey playing Minnesotan kid's dream. Then a funny thing happened.
Born in Rochester, Minnesota in 1970, Zmolek grew up playing the game as long as he can remember. He first became a star at John Marshall high school, leading to a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.
So high, that he went 7th overall in 1989. Even better, he was draft by the Minnesota North Stars.
A big, physical stay at home defenseman, Zmolek would become solid NHL depth defender for 8 seasons. But a funny thing happened before he left university - the Minnesota North Stars were no more.
In a complicated move, the North Stars moved to Texas to become the Dallas Stars. But first the franchise was split into two, with half of the players dispersed to a new franchise - the San Jose Sharks. Complicated yes, but Zmolek's future was clear. He was heading to California.
Zmolek stepped directly into the NHL after leaving university, playing admirably with a weak expansion franchise. He accepted the role of the tough, hard as nails defender, never an easy task. Over the years he would settle into a more comfortable role as a stay at home, positional defender who would display his physicality when needed.
Zmolek played two seasons in San Jose before he was reunited with the other half of his original franchise. He would play about 2 seasons in Dallas, then 2 seasons in Los Angeles and finally 2 seasons in Chicago. Because he had little offensive upside he was expendable, thus the vagabond career.
Life has come full circle for Zmolek. He returned to Rochester, Minnesota and became head of hockey operations for youth in the city. He also runs his own hockey school there.
Doug played 467 career NHL games, scoring 11 goals and 53 assists for 64 points. He added 905 penalty minutes.