Dennis Vaske was a solid, stay at home defenseman. He played only 235 NHL games (plus 22 in the playoffs) as his career was cut short with some serious concussion issues.
The Rockford, Illinois native was a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he majored in Communications. The 6'2" 210lb defenseman's future was in hockey, however. The New York Islanders drafted him in the 2nd round (38th overall).
Vaske didn't leave school and turn pro until 1990. After a couple of seasons shuttling between the NHL and the minor leagues, he became a reliable regular defender with the Islanders by 1993.
Vaske was a solid hitter, though he lacked the quickness to explode into an opponent for the spectacular hit. Instead he was strong guy who excelled in close, one-on-one battles in the corners and in front of the net. Not a fighter or much of an offensive player, Vaske was a solid positional defender who could give his coach and teammates a solid 16-20 minutes a game.
Vaske's career highlight probably came in the 1993 season when he surprised many by cementing his arrival with a great 1993 post-season. The Islanders surprised everyone, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and knocking off the two time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins en route.
Vaske unsuspectingly played a big role in the signature moment of that series against the Pengs. In overtime of game seven it was Vaske who broke up a Pittsburgh rush and headmanned the puck to spring Ray Ferraro and David Volek on a 2 on 1. The rest, as they say, is history, with Volek becoming part of Stanley Cup lore.
The following season was his first full season and he did well, with 13 points and very respectable +21. Vaske's future appeared to be bright.
That's when his concussion history started to plague him. It started with a hit from behind by LA's Eric Lacroix costing him much of the 1995-96 season. The following year a second concussion allowed him to play in only 17 games total. A third concussion limited him to just 19 games in 1997-98.
Vaske retired after that season, though he did, against the advice of doctors, attempt a comeback in 1998-99. He played only 3 games with the Bruins, though did show progress with their minor league affiliate in Providence.
Satisfied that he was leaving the game on his own terms, Dennis Vaske hung up his skates for good at the end of that season. In 235 NHL games he scored 5 goals and 46 points.