Like some other Prairie towns, Raymore has no sign honouring a local athlete on its outskirts. Which is odd, considering Daniel Focht, first ever draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, was born and raised there. While Focht is recognized in the local rink, as the 11th overall pick in the 1996 National Hockey League draft, his mother Valerie Marshall and stepfather Al Hippert are trying to get him recognized with a sign on Highway 6.
Marshall described watching her son play in the NHL as “a dream come true, I was so proud.”
Just over an hour north of Regina, Raymore is a small farming community of roughly 650 residents. Marshall, a retired teacher, has resided in Raymore since 1975.
Her son was born in Regina because Raymore has no hospital. But Marshall wants people to know he was raised in Raymore.
Focht faced some obstacles on his path to the NHL. He was always the biggest kid growing up and often dominated the competition, but he didn’t feel challenged. Being a single mother with little money, Marshall found it difficult to support Focht. She had to borrow money to fund his minor hockey career, paying for skates, ice time, gas and sticks.
He couldn’t move away and play midget under-16 hockey in a competitive league. At 16, Focht got his big break. The Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League came along and signed him.
Tri-City started paying his way. This gave Focht the opportunity to move away from home and play AAA midget hockey, the prime training ground for aspiring juniors, for the Saskatoon Blazers in 1994.
“Without Tri-City, I’m not sure he would have been able to make it big, they paid for basically everything from sticks, to gear to rent,” said Marshall.
Marshall and Hippert said scouts wanted Focht to play an enforcer role as a defenceman. Focht ended up playing three years in the WHL, not primarily as a fighter but as a hard-hitting defenceman, two for Tri-City and one for the Regina Pats. He played 129 WHL games, scoring nine goals, 22 assists and registering 343 penalty minutes. Focht said he never fathomed playing pro until he made the WHL.
“(The thought of making the NHL) had never crossed my mind until about three or four months into playing my first year of WHL,” said Focht.
Focht was part of the first-ever Don Cherry prospects game, now a yearly tradition. Focht’s play vaulted him to ninth-best player in the draft at one point. The Coyotes had moved to Phoenix the summer of 1996 from Winnipeg.
Focht and Marshall described the emotions of the draft as overwhelming. Marshall and Focht were happy to share such a momentous day with their closest family in attendance in St. Louis.
Focht noticed local support picked up upon being drafted.
“I noticed a couple of signs in the windows of some homes and got some messages from local people congratulating me,” said Focht
Focht bounced around in the American Hockey League for a few years before making his NHL debut December 15th 2001 in Phoenix against the Dallas Stars.
Marshall and Hippert would make trips to watch Focht play as often as possible. They made it to Phoenix but never got the chance to watch him live in Pittsburgh. Marshall and Hippert said they watched every game they couldn’t attend on TV and would go to a friend’s house down the street “with some munchies and a case of beer” just to see Focht play.
The Raymore residents would take charter buses to watch Focht play in the NHL. One of Marshall’s proudest moments was when Focht scored his first NHL goal as a member of the Penguins. To this day she has a photo on her fridge of Focht holding up the puck. Marshall and Hippert said that perseverance and determination were what allowed Focht to make it to the pro ranks.
Focht played 83 career games in the NHL, scoring two goals, seven assists and registering 145 penalty minutes. Focht continued to bounce around the AHL for a couple years before quitting professional hockey in 2006.
Looking back on his career, Focht thanks both of his parents for their great support growing up, especially his mom.
“They both made sure I got to the hockey rink anytime I needed to and I remember them driving me many hours and having many long nights,” said Focht.
After hockey, Focht started his own business called “Shaughnessy Appliance” which specializes in appliance repairs. He currently resides in Saskatoon. He runs his business with locations in Saskatoon, Battleford, and Regina. He still continues to play hockey twice a week with a group called the “Old pros.”