Author’s note: with the Chicago Blackhawks locked in to the No. 8 pick for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, we’ve shifted the focus of our weekly “Former Blackhawk of the Week” series to players the franchise previously selected with that eighth pick. Up first is Chicago’s first-round pick in the 1987 NHL Draft, Jimmy Waite, pictured above while playing during the 2017 Winter Classic festivities.
Just a few months after he became a member of the Blackhawks organization after being selected eighth overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Jimmy Waite was on an organizational depth chart that featured two future Hall of Fame goaltenders, and he was not one of them.
Chicago signed Ed Belfour as an undrafted free agent in September 1987, mere months after drafting Waite. Already in the system was Dominik Hasek, a tenth-round pick in 1983 who wouldn’t arrive in the US until 1990 due to political issues that kept him from leaving his native Czechoslovakia.
With that much talent in the organization, Waite’s ice time in Chicago was never consistent, although he brought a worthy resume with him to the NHL. Waite was named the best goalie at the 1988 World Juniors, leading Team Canada to the gold medal.
But Waite appeared in just 32 games during his first four seasons in Chicago, spending more time with the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL.
When Hasek was shipped off to Buffalo after an incredible set of circumstances that could’ve ended with the Blackhawks getting another future Hall of Fame player in Eric Lindros, Waite became the backup to Belfour. His numbers that season were less-than-stellar: a save percentage of .881 and goals-against average of 2.95. Waite was traded to the San Jose Sharks in the summer of 1993, came back to the Hawks in a February 1995 trade, was claimed off waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes in September 1997 and then signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 1999-00 season but never appeared in a game for them. By the 2001-02 hockey season, he was playing in Germany, where he remained for nine seasons before retiring in 2010.
Waite then became a goaltending coach, starting with the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens from 2011-14 before taking over with the Blackhawks for the 2014-15 season. Waite’s brother, Stephane had also served as Chicago’s goaltending coach during the Cup-winning seasons in 2009-10 and 2012-13.
In Jimmy Waite’s first season as goaltending coach, the Blackhawks tied for the league-low with 189 goals allowed, winning the Jennings Trophy. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford had nothing but positives for Waite in this February 2016 article from the Chicago Tribune.
As recently as last October, Waite wasn’t afraid to put on the pads during a team practice, either:
Tracking Waite’s hockey lineage can connect the current Blackhawks with the Miracle on Ice. That’s because Waite’s goaltending coach while with Chicago in the 1990s was Vladislav Tretiak, widely regarded as the best goalie in the world during his playing career in the 70s and 80s. Tretiak was the Soviet goalie during that 1980 game at Lake Placid. And it’s not hard to see how Crawford has become one of the game’s best goalies, with many things he’s learning from Waite originating with one of the greatest hockey goalies of all-time.