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Dion Phaneuf seemed destined to become an NHL player. He was born and raised in Edmonton. And like many kids who love the game of hockey, he played on a rink built by his dad out in the backyard. His mom, a figure skater who competed for Prince Edward Island at the 1975 Canada Winter Games, says her son would stay out on the ice until he had frostbite.
Dion grew up in the glow of Wayne Gretzky's Stanley Cup champion Oilers. And although the Oilers ruled his heart, he was drafted by their bitter rivals the Calgary Flames in 2003.
Two years later, he made his NHL debut alongside the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Once in the NHL, Dion impressed with his size (he's 6-2, 215 pounds), his blistering slapshot and his bone-crushing body-checks. A 2007 poll of NHL players voted him the league's hardest hitter.
Then, after a stellar career with the Flames that spanned five seasons, 403 games and more smash-hits than Lady Gaga, Dion joined the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs. This summer, he became one of just 18 players to be named Captain of the storied franchise.
Now his goal is simple: make the playoffs. Something the Leafs have not done in more than five years.