At 35 years old, Dustin Byfuglien has been an NHL defenseman for well over a decade. He has played for the Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Atlanta Thrashers (who became the Jets). It’s hard to overlook the significance of his presence given his size, grit, and skill.
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His role in the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship is especially prominent. As we reminisce about the upcoming 10-year anniversary of that victory, here are some fun facts about “Big Buff”.
1. Family Ties
Hockey is part of Byfuglien’s DNA. His cousin, Derrick Byfuglien, was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2000. Derrick was selected in the fourth round as a defenseman, but he never made it to the show.
Dustin’s stepfather, Dale Smedsmo, also played professionally. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1971. As a left wing, he only appeared in four NHL games for the Maple Leafs.
2. Last Name Pronunciation
Dustin’s last name comes from his mother, Cheryl Byfuglien, who is of Norwegian and Swedish descent. Although the league has pronounced the name Byfuglien as “Buff-Lin”, the Norwegian pronunciation of the name couldn’t be more different. According to Johan I. Borgos, a Norwegian history scholar who traced the name’s origins, it’s pronounced “Bee-Foog-Lee-In”. Everyone who tries to pronounce the name as it’s spelled, apparently you’re not far off.
3. Evander Kane Incident
One of Byfuglien’s wildest stories stems from an incident in 2015 with his then-Jets teammate, Evander Kane. According to the reports, on game day, Kane went on radio silence from the team.
When he finally showed up, he showed up in a tracksuit. The NHL dress code states that players must wear jackets, ties, and dress pants to games. Because he violated the dress code, Byfuglien supposedly responded by throwing Kane’s clothes in the shower to stand up for his teammate.
4. Fishing Passion
Fishing is a big part of Byfuglien’s life. It comes from his summers growing up where everyone took part in it in Roseau, Minnesota. He shared his fishing upbringing with a Canadian outdoor’s magazine, and when he was a teenager, he even took a year off of hockey and used that time to ice-fish. The biggest fish he has caught is a 52-inch muskellunge, also known as a “muskie”.
Byfuglien has even participated in a couple of fishing competitions in the past (from ‘Big Buff Loves Big Fish’, Ontario OUT of DOORS Magazine, 9/16/14). He’s stated that he hopes to have his own fishing show when he retires.
5. Penalty Minutes
One of Byfuglien’s most interesting achievements are his penalty minutes. In four straight seasons, he was a top-10 leader in PIM. In 2014-15, he was seventh in the league with 124 minutes. In 2015-16, he was eighth with 119 minutes. In 2016-17, he was seventh with 117 minutes. Lastly, in 2017-18, he was fifth with 112 minutes.
In his career, he has had 1,094 penalty minutes which coincides with his style of play, because he isn’t afraid to use his stature to lay big hits.
6. Dual Playing Ability
One of Byfuglien’s main attributes is his ability to successfully play both forward and defense. Although he was mainly a defenseman, he played on the wing with the Blackhawks and did so earlier in his career with the Jets too. As a forward, he was most notable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Blackhawks with 11 goals, five of which were game-winning goals.
He is one of only four NHL players who can play both forward and defense. He is in good company with Brendan Smith (New York Rangers), Mark Pysyk (Florida Panthers), and Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks). Players like them are hard to find and lucky for teams to have.
7. Wanted to Be Like Mike
Byfuglien said that his idol is former Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) Hall of Fame center Mike Modano. Byfuglien had this to say about him to journalist Larry Wigge:
To me, it’s not the rags-to-riches story people want to make it out to be. My mom and I got along fine. I grew up cheering for the North Stars and dreaming that I might grow up to be a player like Mike Modano, like a lot of kids in Minnesota.
Another connection to Modano came from Byfuglien being left out of the 2010 USA Olympic Team. He mentioned that he would have loved to have had the opportunity to have Modano as his teammate.
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