Born: August 27, 1974
Hometown: Shelburne, Ontario
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 210 lbs
If you could quantify a hockey player’s competetive drive in penalty minutes alone, the Providence Bruins’ Aaron Downey would be the American Hockey League’s undisputed leader. Downey, a prospect in the Boston Organization, came to Providence 2 years ago on a try-out agreement after spending 1995-97 in the East Coast Hockey League. In just 2 seasons with Providence, Downey has become something of a legend and is easily one of the most popular players on the Baby Bruins despite his modest point production. Why is this, you say? Well, a quick look at Aaron Downey in action will provide you with an answer quickly enough, as he throws his body around the ice at the opposition with reckless abandon and is able to ignite teammates and fans alike with his chippy, inspired play. Simply put, don’t ever use the words “quit” and “Aaron Downey” in the same sentence, lest you might find yourself on the ice dazed and confused, wondering what zip code you happen to be in.
Aaron Downey is not an imposing physical specimen, appearing to be of average height at a hair under 6 feet tall. Don’t let that fool you. Along with a rock-solid build of 210 pounds, comes a formidable fighter and a player capable of scoring a huge goal or setting up the big play. Make no mistake. Aaron Downey is first and foremost a hockey player and he’s got the scars to prove it. Downey, affectionately known to his teammates as “Diesel”, has traveled a difficult road to get to Providence. After failing to maintain a roster spot in Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League, he played two seasons of Tier II hockey. Ignored in the draft, Downey landed with Hampton Roads of the ECHL, where he spent 2 300-plus penalty minute seasons, while scoring 20 goals and 39 points in 129 games.
Few had heard of Aaron Downey when he showed up to Boston’s Training Camp in Wilmington, Mass in the Autumn of 1997, and fewer still expected him to stick around for long. By the 20th of January, 1998, Downey had shown so much of the drive and fire on display at camp, that the Boston Bruins signed him to his first NHL contract. Although he didn’t see action at all with the big club, Downey had carved a niche for himself with a vengeance. The Providence fans absolutely love him and with good reason. As the team’s enforcer, he often pays the price physically, matching up with oppostion tough guys and would-be gunslingers. Downey, despite his somewhat diminutive stature, is more than a match for anybody. The Swedish heavy metal band “Entombed” sings a song called “Wolverine Blues” In it, they refer to the wolverine as “…pound-for-pound, the most vicious of all.” The same holds true for Downey. His 407 and 401 penalty minute seasons with Providence are a testament to this.
Downey’s 1998-99 season was a special one, as he scored 10 goals to double his output from the previous year. More importantly, he was able to play a regular shift because of his outstanding effort and dedication to doing anything to help his team win. Downey suffered through the nightmare of 1997-98 in which Providence was dead-last in the AHL, finishing with only 19 wins over the entire year. In 1998-99, the Providence team, infused with young, premium talent and superb coaching, rebounded to finish with the best record in the AHL and advance to the Calder Cup Finals. Downey played an important role in it all. Against the Kentucky Thoroughblades in one regular season game, Downey threw a ferocious hit on a Kentucky defender behind the Thoroughblade net. Before the stunned player could react, Downey dug the puck from out of his skates and slid a perfect pass to a streaking Joel Prpic, who fired a snap shot just inside the post short-side for a key goal.
During the 1999 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, the Baby Bruins were down 2-0 to a buzzing Fredericton Canadiens team before Downey challenged Fredericton enforcer Dave Morrisette to a tussle. With his team up, Morrisette should have declined to go. Instead, Downey’s spirited bout not only whipped the crowd into a frenzy, but lit a fire under his teammates who stormed back to win the game. Downey’s contribution didn’t appear on the scoreboard, but those in Providence know the value of his pugilistic abilities. Downey’s dedication to the fans who shower him with praise further endears him to the Providence Community.
Aaron Downey has done just about everything he can to make it to the NHL. Unfortunately for him, Boston currently has Ken Baumgartner and Ken Belanger on the roster and there is no room for a third enforcer with the big club. Downey has earned his chance at the big-time and depending on circumstances, could get a call-up in 1999-2000. Regardless of what happens, Aaron Downey has earned a special place in the hearts of the fans who have seen him play. He’s a guy you would go to war with. And with the AHL Calder Cup Championship Round a few days away, the Providence players are no doubt glad that “Diesel” Downey is covering the flank.
You can check out Aaron Downey’s profile and career statistics on the Hockey’s Future Boston Bruins Page.