Brad Fast’s lone goal gives him a tie to slice of NHL history
In the world of sports, athletes often dedicate their entire lives to reaching the pinnacle of their profession, but for many, life at the top can be short-lived. Sometimes all a player gets to experience at the highest level is one minute on the court, one trip to the plate, one shot on goal or one checkered flag, but more often than not, that fleeting moment in the spotlight is a story all its own. This is One and Done, a FOX Sports series profiling athletes, their paths to success and the stories behind some of sports’ most ephemeral brushes with glory.
When the Carolina Hurricanes called up Brad Fast from the AHL to replace an injured Glen Wesley for the final game of the 2003-04 season, the then-24-year-old defenseman never figured his NHL debut would wind up being historic.
After all, Fast wasn’t sure whether or how much he’d skate in the team’s road matinee against the Florida Panthers.
Fast didn’t just play — he started for coach Peter Laviolette. And he made the most of his 28 shifts, too, beating Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo with a wrist shot to tie the game at 6-6 late in the third period.
Neither team lit the lamp in overtime, so Fast’s goal stands as the final tally in the final tie in NHL history (by the time the lockout ended and the NHL picked up again in 2005, the post-OT shootout had been implemented), and because Fast never played in another NHL game, he’s also one of four players to date — including current Nashville Predators prospect Miikka Salomaki — to score a goal in his only NHL appearance.
It’s not necessarily the career Fast imagined for himself, but all things considered, it’s not a bad claim to fame.
"I think it’s awesome," Fast said in a phone interview with FOX Sports. "Obviously, I would have liked to have had more than one goal, and especially more than one game, but that’s not how it worked. Still, it’s pretty cool that I got to play at the highest level and not just skate in a game but actually contribute. I got to do what every kid dreams of and more."
Originally from Fort St. John, B.C., Fast had a rink in his yard as a teenager and played his junior hockey with the Prince George Spruce Kings before being taken by Carolina in the third round of the 1999 draft. However, rather than jump right into the minor-league circuit, Fast spent four seasons at Michigan State, where he had 30 goals and 84 assists in 164 career games, helped lead the Spartans to the Frozen Four as a sophomore and was a captain as a senior.
After graduating, Fast joined the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., and played in seven games with the Lock Monsters to close the 2002-03 season. In his first full season the following year, Fast played in 79 games, scoring 10 goals to go with 25 assists, and after the team’s April 3 game against the Albany River Rats, Fast learned his next game would be played the following afternoon — and in a different sweater.
"I had a little injury at the time, and they asked me after the game on Saturday night how I felt," Fast said. "I said I was feeling good, and they said, ‘Well that’s fantastic because you’re going to fly down to Florida and play against the Panthers tomorrow.’"
Needless to say, fatigue and the standard aches that come with being a hockey player were the last thing on Fast’s mind.
"We were in the midst of probably cramming in 50 games in the last 80 days, as it was in the American League at the time, so I wasn’t too worried about getting tired," Fast said. "I was more just excited. It’s a lifelong dream of any hockey player to get an opportunity to play in the NHL, and I was right on the verge of it."
The following morning, Fast took an early flight from Boston to Florida, where he met his new team at the team hotel. Once there, Laviolette gave Fast a quick rundown of the game plan and told him to be ready to execute it.
"I’d been getting ready for this my whole life, and I knew that I had prepared properly to get there," Fast said. "I was ready, I was on top of my game, and having him be able to condense the plan into such simple terms so quickly for me, that was reassuring. It had a little bit of a calming effect on me, and I was ready to roll."
The news of his starting role came as a shock to Fast.
"I knew I was going to be in the lineup, but that was about it," Fast said. "Even if I only got five minutes, it didn’t matter. I was just happy to be in the lineup. But at the end of that meeting, (Laviolette) told me, ‘You’re going to be playing with Sean Hill, and you’re going to be in the starting lineup, so be ready.’ So that kind of jump-started my expectations right away. It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m not just here to get a couple shifts. I’m here to play.’"
Once in the game, Fast says he tried simply to focus on what Laviolette told him and not make mistakes.
"I was pretty aware of what my game was at that point, and I knew that I was there to contribute as much as I could moving the puck up the ice," Fast said. "So I was looking to do the same thing at that level. I didn’t want to change anything. I was there to play responsible defense, and I was there to join the rush whenever I could."
Fast took his first shot during a Carolina power play 4:29 into the first period and was on the ice for fellow MSU alum Rod Brind’Amour’s goal later in the period, the third of four first-period goals for the Hurricanes. Then in the second period, Fast misfired on another long slap shot, his second of the game, and was on the ice for Christian Berglund’s goal for Florida with 4:12 left in the frame, the second of six consecutive goals for the Panthers in the second and third periods.
Eric Staal’s goal with 4:56 to play in the game pulled Carolina within one, and with 2:26 to go Fast added his name to the record book.
"… then I get to score in that very first game. It was just a little too much to take in."
"We were coming up the ice, and I was trying to join the attack as part of the second wave, and I remember following up Brind’Amour and Eric Cole," Fast said. "The play continued behind the offensive net, so I circled through the slot and came back across the top of the circle as they cycled below the goal. As I did that, an opening popped up and I was fortunate enough to be right in the middle of the slot. Rod hit me with a pass, and I took a wrist shot that ended up going over the right shoulder of Luongo.
"I was so excited," Fast continued of the goal. "I not only got to play in my first game, which is all I wanted to do, but I was also able to contribute in the game with some ice time, which is more than anyone could dream of. And then I get to score in that very first game. It was just a little too much to take in."
Unfortunately, Fast never got a chance to follow up on his promising NHL debut.
The Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs that spring in Laviolette’s first season with the team, and the 2004 NHL lockout put Fast’s return to the NHL on hold. Though he originally expected to be part of the Hurricanes’ rotation in 2005, the labor stoppage forced him to spend the 2004-05 season splitting time between Lowell and the Florida Everblades of the ECHL instead. Still, he remained optimistic.
"When I was going through it, I wasn’t really concerned about it shutting any doors for me," Fast said of the lockout. "I was primarily concerned with keeping up the level of play and continuing to be somebody that would be put in a spot to play in the NHL when it resumed. I wasn’t thinking, ‘Man, this lockout is terrible, it’s ruining everything.’ I was just focused on being ready to go as soon as it ended."
Once the lockout finally did end, in July 2005, Fast was a man without a contract. Within a few weeks, he signed a one-year free agent deal with the Los Angeles Kings but spent the entire subsequent season with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. From there, Fast took his game abroad, where he spent a season each in Switzerland and Germany before playing three years in South Korea with Anyang Halla and retiring in 2011.
Eventually, Fast and his family settled back in East Lansing, Mich., where he started a training organization called Elevation Hockey. Most recently, Fast was hired by his alma mater as the Spartans’ director of hockey operations, and though he’ll never know what might have been had the lockout not stalled his career, Fast says he’s content with the historic goal he was able to score.
"I played in the NHL, and I scored a goal on a pretty good goalie with assists from some really good players," Fast said. "I got to be on the ice with the best, even if it was just for the day."
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