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2021 GSSHOF Dinner Program_CONNOLLYPic.jpg
Tim Connolly

Ice Hockey

Enshrined 2021

Even before he was a teenager, Tim Connolly skated circles around much older hockey players.  Stick-handling in dynamic fashion -- finding the open man or the net -- the Baldwinsville native was nationally rated No. 1 in his age group as a 12-year-old (and again at 13).

He played with the Syracuse Stars in Quebec International Pee-Wee tournaments, scoring an eye-popping 104 points in 50 games.  Connolly lived away from home, playing with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters the following year, registering 68 points in 46 games.  The National Hockey League was well aware of Connolly’s talents.

And at age 18, his skates were on NHL ice.  Center Tim Connolly was the fifth overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders.

Two years later, he was dealt to Buffalo.  He played 11 seasons in the NHL with the Islanders, Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Connolly’s career statistics are not jaw-dropping — 697 games, 431 points (131 goals, 300 assists) — but they’re darn good when one considers playing time lost to a plethora of injuries.

Tim Connolly was a great stick-handling and passing center. But his NHL career was marred by injury, not the least of which saw him miss Buffalo’s entire 2003-04 season due to post-concussion syndrome.  That was followed by the NHL lockout season.

Healthy and playing his best hockey during the 2006 postseason, he scored the game-tying goal late in regulation of the Sabres’ 7-6 overtime win in Game 1 of their series against Ottawa.  Connolly scored 11 points in eight games that postseason.

Again, the injury bug hit.  In Game 2, he suffered yet another concussion, causing him to miss the remainder of the playoffs plus 80 games the following year.  Buffalo’s hockey fraternity — Tim Connolly among them — wondered if the Sabres might have captured that 2006 Stanley Cup, but for a rash of injuries, including his own.

In 2008, bone spurs required season-ending surgery.  Still, Tim produced a career-high 65 points in 73 games during the 2009-10 season and signed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Maple Leafs.  His career earnings: $28.5 million.

He retired in 2013, after playing 28 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.  Tim lives in Rochester with wife Jeanne and 3-year-old son Asher.  By coaching youth hockey, he’s kept a hand in the sport that has been so much of his life story.

Now, Tim Connolly becomes a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2021.

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