WHEELING - They don't make hockey players in the mold of Darren Schwartz anymore. Hit. Fight. Score. Darren Schwartz combined the three arguably better than anyone that has put on an ECHL sweater.
Seems the league noticed that, too. That's why on Monday, Schwartz, a former member of the Wheeling Thunderbirds and later the Nailers, was named to the sixth class of the ECHL Hall of Fame, along with Dave Craievich, Marc Magliarditi and Steve Poapst.
''The game's totally changed now,'' said Schwartz, who these days resides in Saskatchewan with his family. ''You just squared off, no cheap shots and there was room in the game for that. They're taking that away from the guys who can't score.''
The four will be formally inducted at a luncheon ceremony that will be held in conjunction with the 2013 ECHL All-Star Game in Loveland, Colo., on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
Schwartz, who was inducted in the Wheeling Hockey Hall of Fame four years ago, said he never dreamed of days like this during his playing days.
''I was very, very happy just to be mentioned,'' Schwartz said of finding out he was up for election.
''If I didn't make it, that would be fine.''
Schwartz put up some astronomical numbers while in a Wheeling uniform. He's the club's all-time leading scorer and still ranks seventh in ECHL history with 313 goals, is 13th with 571 points, is tied for seventh with 32 postseason goals and is 11th with 70 postseason points. Schwartz was named to the All-ECHL first team in 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95, and upon his retirement following the 1998-99 season, held the ECHL career record with 490 games played.
''We are very excited for Darren,'' Nailers vice president of business operations Craig Bommer said. ''He is very deserving of the honor.''
Schwartz came into the ECHL during the league's second season in 1989-90 and played eight seasons with the Johnstown Chiefs, Winston-Salem Thunderbirds, Wheeling Thunderbirds, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks and the Nailers. Schwartz made his biggest mark during Wheeling's inaugural season in 1992-93 when scored a team record 62 goals in 62 games, becoming one of just eight players in ECHL history to score at least 60 goals in a single season. He set the ECHL record with a 16-game goal streak, scoring 25 goals from Jan. 14-Feb. 21, 1993; tallied a hat trick in a span of 30 seconds on Dec. 20, 1992; and was named the Most Valuable Player of the league's inaugural All-Star Game with four points (2g-2a).
Somehow, Schwartz managed to put up those numbers despite spending 1,926 minutes in the penalty box.
''I don't know how that worked out,'' Schwartz said with a laugh. ''Lots of fighting and scoring and everything kind of came together.
''I didn't even realize the numbers until I was looking at them the other day with my son and daughter.''
The numbers and honors are nice, but what he recalls most fondly is his time in the Ohio Valley.
''What can I say about Wheeling?'' he asked. ''My wife is from there.
''My kids were born there.
''Still to this day when we come down - we try to make it down once a year - people still recognize us around town.''
In hockey circles, a guy who is difficult to play against is said to have 'sandpaper' to his game. That word wasn't invented for Darren Schwartz, but he certainly personified it.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net