This weekend, the Haydars are traveling to New Hampshire one more time because of their son’s hockey career. But instead of re-enacting those 1,200-mile round-trip drives along I-90, Frank and Pauline rode on a plane Thursday with Darren and his wife, Sara.
The occasion? Haydar, along with five others, will be inducted into New Hampshire’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon at Lundholm Gymnasium. He was an easy choice for the honor after piling up 102 goals, 117 assists, and 219 points (all top three on UNH’s career lists) in 158 games for the Wildcats.
“I’m just excited to go back,” Haydar said. “It’s going to be a nice weekend. It’ll be great to see the coaching staff. Our coach (Dick Umile) is still coaching and our assistant (Brian McCloskey) is the head coach of the women’s team.”
New Hampshire reached two Frozen Fours during Haydar’s career, which included a trip to the national championship game in 1999. He was among the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award in 2002 after a remarkable senior year (31 goals and 45 assists in 40 games). And it won’t be as a surprise to Chicago Wolves fans that New Hampshire’s fans voted Haydar as the team’s most exciting player following each of his final three seasons.
“I think I always made time for the fans,” Haydar said. “I think that goes a long way. And it probably helped that I burst on the scene as a freshman and people were aware of who I was.”
When Haydar showed up on New Hampshire’s campus in the fall of 1998, the team’s best player and co-captain was a senior by the name of Jason Krog. It didn’t take long before a connection blossomed on the ice and a long-standing friendship developed off the ice.
“He was a really good prospect coming out of juniors,” Krog said. “He had some crazy numbers (for the Tier II Junior Milton Merchants). When we first met for captain’s practices that fall, we developed a little bit of chemistry. We think the game the same way. We see plays developing the same way.”
Krog and Haydar joined forces instantly on New Hampshire’s first line and led the Wildcats all the way to the national championship game. UNH reached the Frozen Four on a Haydar overtime goal that was set up, naturally, by Krog.
“I had to do all the hard work for him,” Krog said with a laugh.
“Believe it or not, Jason was working hard in the corner,” Haydar joked. “But seriously, he won a battle in the corner and threw the puck in front of the net. I just chipped it in. The goalie wasn’t sure where the puck was.”
After that overtime win against Michigan, UNH knocked off Michigan State (the other finalist for Haydar’s collegiate services) 5-3 in the semifinals. Then came the team’s fifth meeting of the year with Maine. They split the first four, though the Wildcats felt they had the momentum after crushing the Black Bears in their two most recent games. Despite a Haydar short-handed goal, Maine earned the NCAA title with a 3-2 win in double overtime.
Krog wrapped up his career with the 1999 Hobey Baker Award while Haydar kept going. During his senior year, UNH reeled off 10 straight wins to reach another Frozen Four. Once again, Maine ended the Wildcats’ season.
“We had some unlucky bounces early in the game and never caught up,” Haydar said.
Shortly thereafter, Haydar launched his professional career that has seen him become one of the most prolific scorers in American Hockey League history. In 10 seasons – including four with the Wolves --- Haydar has stacked up 272 goals and 459 assists in 709 regular-season games. He also ranks as the league’s all-time leader in postseason points (143 in 110 games).
“Nothing’s changed about him,” said Krog, who teamed up with Haydar on the Wolves for three seasons, including the 2008 Calder Cup championship team. “He’s very down-to-earth and modest. He’s as great a guy off the ice as he is on the ice.”