Perry Berezan defines all that is right with the AJHL hockey program

By Marc Ciampa

The player referred to by some as simply “The Bear” played for the St.
Albert Saints from 1981 through to 1983 and judging by his stellar career
both on and off the ice it almost seems like the Alberta Junior Hockey
League mission statement was written for him.

It states in part, “Our League supports its players through assistance in
their academic, athletic and personal lives throughout their pursuit of
individual goals.”

Berezan has certainly excelled both athletically and academically. He spent
parts of ten seasons in the NHL, appearing in two Stanley Cup Finals. He
also took advantage of the scholarship he achieved through hockey and is now
an accomplished financial advisor with Nesbitt-Burns in Calgary.

“The transition from hockey to the business world wasn’t as hard as I
thought. The biggest thing I miss is the bigger paychecks,” he joked.

Berezan’s AJHL career began in the 1980-81 season with the Sherwood Park
Crusaders, though he only played a handul of games that season. The
following year he joined the Saints. In his first year with St. Albert, the
Saints had what is still regarded as the team’s best season ever. In 60
games, the club had 46 wins and 92 points. The team has never had 90 since
(though the last two seasons the team came close with 87 and 86 points
respectively). The club topped off the year with its second consecutive
Championship.

Berezan had an outstanding season that year as well, recording 62 points (16
goals, 36 assists) and 47 penalty minutes. The next season, Berezan 37 goals
and 40 assists for 77 points in 57 games. He also added 110 penalty minutes
and shared the team’s MVP award with team captain Mal Parks.

His stellar season earned him not only a scholarship but the distinction of
being one of the few Saints to be directly drafted into the NHL. The Calgary
Flames selected him that summer at the Entry Draft in the third round. He
would then go on to play two seasons with the University of North Dakota
Fighting Sioux. At the conclusion of his second season at University, he
joined the Flames almost immediately. Perry had a point in each of his first
four NHL games, recording his first goal March 20, 1985 in Toronto.

The next season Perry had a solid rookie campaign, netting 33 points in only
55 games. In the playoffs that year, Berezan scored what is still considered
the most famous goal in Flames history-without even being on the ice! In
game seven of the 1986 Smythe Division final, Berezan dumped the puck into
the Oiler zone and then headed to the Flames’ bench for a change. Edmonton
defenceman Steve Smith picked up the puck, rounded his goal and in a pass
intended to a teammate at the blueline he banked it off goalie Grant Fuhr
and into the Oiler net. Berezan was the last Flame to touch the puck and
thus got credit for the goal.

From Calgary, Berezan moved on to the Minnesota North Stars where he helped
lead the club to its second Stanley Cup Final appearance in history. After a
short stint in Minnesota, he was claimed by the San Jose Sharks in the
expansion draft. Despite playing for such a horrible team, Berezan remained
upbeat about the situation.

“I was very proud to be a part of the Sharks first year,” he said. “There
was so much excitement in Northern California with a new team; it was a
special feeling to be a part of history.”

Upon the conclusion of his NHL career, Perry went back to the University of
North Dakota and finished up his business degree. In addition to his job in
the Calgary business community, he also works as a guest host for Calgary
Flames games on the radio and fills in from time to time as a colour
commentator for televised Flames and Oilers games.

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