If you're a fan of enforcers or early-90s Islanders, then you'll surely know the name Mick Vukota. Vukota was the Islanders' enforcer of the era, spending a decade in the system and playing 60+ games on Long Island for five seasons between 1989 and 1994. In his career, Vukota racked up more than 2,000 penalty minutes and more than 150 fights; and that's only from what HockeyFights.com has on record.
One of the most memorable moments of his career didn't come via his fists, though. On October 20th, 1989, he scored a natural hat trick -- three consecutive goals -- against Don Beaurpe and the Washington Capitals. Up to that point, he had notched only three goals in his NHL career.
''The guys were working me over a little bit between periods, saying 'Don't be satisfied, don't let up,' '' Vukota told the New York Times after the game. He scored all three goals in the first period, an amazing start to the game.
The Times also caught up with then Capitals coach and current Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray:
Murray said he had seen Vukota in the hallway and asked him what he was trying to prove.
Vukota replied, ''I'll never do it again,'' Murray recalled, smiling. Vukota said he had never scored a hat trick even in junior hockey.
This particular game had a close ending, 5-3, with the Islanders getting an empty netter late. The Capitals were denied an equalizer with five minutes to go by referee Ron Hoggarth, as Dino Ciccarelli scored a 4th for the Caps but only after Hoggarth had already blown his whistle. That all occurred for one of the most predictable reasons possible (emphasis mine):
Hoggarth disallowed the goal because he had blown his whistle before the shot, which occurred right after Dale Hunter crashed through the Islanders' crease, knocking over the goalie, Glenn Healy.
Vukota didn't score a hatter again, adding 11 goals to his NHL total before his retirement in 2000, after spending a few seasons in the defunct IHL with the (not defunct) Utah Grizzlies. Earlier this year, Vukota had a one-game comeback as the FHL's Cape Cod Bluefins signed him to a one-game contract in February for minor league
ticket sales promotional reasons. He didn't score in the game and had four penalty minutes, so it's probably safe to assume he didn't fight.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATIONAll of Vukota's hat trick goals were assisted by linemate Gilles Thibaudeau. It's OK if you don't remember Thibaudeau -- I sure didn't -- he spent only 20 games on Long Island in 1989-90 before being sent to Toronto in December 1989 with Mike Stevens for Derek Laxdal, Paul Gagne and... Jack Capuano. That Jack Capuano.