Eight birthdays to celebrate today, including two notable late former players -- Don Deacon, who scored the first goal in the Fairgrounds Coliseum, and Ott Heller, the player-coach who led the Caps to the 1950 Calder Cup title. Also, former Checkers Randy Johnston and Don Sylvestri, former Checker and Ice Mike Berger, IHL Ice Adam Creighton, CHL Ice Ryan Carter and USHL Ice Drew Fisher.
Don Deacon: Member of the original Capitals team, he was a center for the team in the 1939-40 season. He scored the first-ever goal in the Fairgrounds Coliseum, beating Syracuse Stars goalie Bill Beveridge at 16:40 of the first period in a 5-1 Capitals victory. He would have seven goals and 18 assists in 21 games, but would be traded to the Cleveland Barons midway through that first Capitals season. Deacon had six goals in 30 NHL games, all with Detroit. He retired after the 1941-42 season and joined the Canadian military for World War II. He died at age 30 in 1943 of a fall while on leave. A native of Regina, Sask., he was born in 1913.
Ott Heller: The Indianapolis Capitals' player-coach in their final four seasons, from 1948-52. He led the Caps to the 1950 Calder Cup championship -- becoming the first AHL team to go through the playoffs undefeated. He had been an NHL veteran, having played 15 seasons for the New York Rangers from 1931-46, with 231 points in 647 games. He won the Stanley Cup twice with the Rangers and was their captain three times. In 1948, he became the Caps' coach -- as well as a defenseman. The Capitals went 134-110-32 under his tutelage, during which he coached Hall of Fame goaltenders Glenn Hall and Terry Sawchuk. As a player, he suited up in 131 of those games, scoring 14 times and assisting on 49 goals. He also had one point in eight postseason games with the Caps. He continued as a player-coach through 1955 after the Capitals franchise folded in 1952. A native of Kitchener, Ontario, he was born in 1910. He passed away in 1980 at age 70.
Randy Johnston: Checkers defenseman for four seasons, from 1979-83. He had 15 goals and 96 assists in 289 games with the team, winning two Adams Cups in 1982 and 1983. He had three goals and seven assists in 33 playoff games with the Checkers. He was the Islanders' second-round pick in 1978, and played five seasons in their system. He played four games for the Isles in 1979-80, the year they won their first of four straight Stanley Cups. He retired after the 1982-83 season. A native of Brampton, Ont., he is 56.
Don Sylvestri: Goaltender who played 14 games with the Checkers in 1984-85. He was 5-7 with a 5.06 GAA that season with the Checkers, but did earn a callup to play three games in the NHL with the Boston Bruins that year. There, he had two ties and a 3.53 GAA. He was an All-American at Clarkson University, but only played one professional season, which spanned 23 games at three levels. A native of Sudbury, Ont., he is 53.
Mike Berger: Berger bookended his professional career in Indianapolis. He began it by playing four games for the Checkers in 1986-87 after finishing his junior career -- as well as six playoff games. He finished it by playing one season for the Ice in their inaugural CHL season 14 years later. He had an immediate impact as a rookie, with three assists in those four games plus one assist in the playoffs. The North Stars' fourth-round pick in 1985, Berger was in the NHL in 1987-88, scoring three goals in 29 games with Minnesota. He spent much of his first five seasons in the AHL/IHL, and found a home in the CHL with Tulsa in 1992, where "Bullet" routinely scored double-digit goals. He brought his 100+mph slapshot -- the fastest in hockey -- back to Indianapolis in 1999, and had 10 goals and 26 assists for the Ice in their first season. He also had two goals as the Ice went on to win the CHL's Miron Cup championship. He retired as a player after that season -- and saw the Ice promptly retire his number 44. He remains in Indianapolis and coaches high school hockey. A native of Edmonton, he is 47.
Adam Creighton: An NHL veteran, he played six games with the Ice in 1996-97, his final North American pro season. He had a goal and seven assists in those games. Picked 11th overall by Buffalo in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, he played 708 NHL games, with 187 goals, 216 assists and 1,077 points over a 14-year career that saw him play two stints for the Blackhawks, in addition to years with the Sabres, Lightning and Blues. His best year came in 1989-90, when he had 34 goals and 70 points in Chicago. His family has significant ties to Indianapolis -- his uncle Fred Creighton coached the Checkers to two championships in the 1980s and was later the team's general manager. Today, Creighton is a scout for the Boston Bruins. A native of Burlington, Ont., he is 49.
Ryan Carter: Winger who played two seasons for the Ice, from 2002-04, joining the team after a four-year college career at Iona. He had 26 goals and 30 assists in 125 games, as well as three goals and six assists in 12 playoff games those two years. After the Ice left the CHL, he went on to play three seasons in Corpus Christi, including two 20-goal years, before retiring in 2007. A native of Fort Nelson, BC, he is 37.
Drew Fisher: Forward who played seven games for the Ice in 2004-05. He had one goal in the regular season, and had one assist in two playoff games. He went on from the Ice to play two years in the USHL for Sioux Falls, four collegiate years split between Minnesota and Bemidji State, and recently completed his third minor pro season, all with the CHL's Tulsa Oilers. A native of International Falls, Minn., he is 27.