As first-round busts go, if Jason Bonsignore, taken fourth overall by the Edmonton Oilers at 1994 NHL Entry Draft, doesn’t rate as the worst case of a swing and a miss by the franchise, he’s close.

Taken from the Niagara Falls Thunder two picks before the Oilers called Ryan Smyth’s name with the sixth overall selection, Bonsignore would play just 20 games with the Oilers and 79 in the NHL.

A lanky centre with unquestionable skills but a dubious work ethic, Bonsignore added cups of coffee with the Tampa Bay Lightning and with the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL farm team before retiring after the 2007-08 season, a campaign he spent with the Trenton Devils of the ECHL.

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Promise unfulfilled is the chapter and verse story of Bonsignore, who is 35 years old now, retired from hockey and operating an amusement park in the Eastern U.S.

Gene Principe of Rogers Sportsnet, who’d not net arrived on the hockey scene in Edmonton when Bonsignore was here, and yours truly, who had at the Edmonton Journal, got a hold of the former Oiler when we hosted the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260 Wednesday.

While the death of Wade Belak was the news of the day, Bonsignore delivered a memorable rant when we asked him about his time with the Oilers, a period in his life that clearly still cuts close to the bone some 17 years after Edmonton drafted him.


The following are excerpts of the interview we did with Bonsignore. For the full interview, including the questions asked and full answers, please follow this link: and click on the third hour of the Jason Gregor Show podcast.

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"Ya, you know, part of the reason I agreed to come on today is because Gene had spoken with me last year and he seemed to sincerely appreciate my story and had some interest in it. A lot of people say ‘Jason was a bust.’

"My version of a bust is someone who maybe didn’t deserve to be in the situation they were in. I kind of feel like up until the point where I played for Edmonton I kind of deserved to be where I was and was in the right situation there as far as where I was drafted and everything.

"I was proud of that. It just never got off on the right foot with Edmonton, and that’s not to say that I wasn’t excited about going there or the opportunity or the history it’s just for whatever reason it didn’t work."


"There were a lot of things behind the scenes that a lot of people didn’t know about that happened and I just never really felt like I belonged there, like I was really wanted there. There were a few great people that really stretched out their necks for me and made me feel welcome and tried to help me.

"Teddy Green was one of them and Kevin Prendergast, but it just seemed like there were only a few people that were really there to help me and whether the approach from other people was meant in the wrong fashion it just was a harsh and kind of negative way of handling things.

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"And I guess to touch on what you were just talking about, when you’re 18 or 19 years old, you don’t notice at the time, but now, I notice how young and impressionable you are.

"You look at some of the other people that were drafted in certain situations around the time I was and they struggled their first few seasons — Jeff O’Neill and Radek Bonk, some of the guys that were drafted in my draft year. But their teams stuck with them and nurtured them along and never really got down on them. They basically just helped them to progress and learn and mature. I guess I just never went through that process and never got to the opportunity where I got that point."


"I certainly regret it. I had nothing against the fans in Edmonton. They’re great hockey people. It’s a great hockey city and it was kind of a bummer later on to see, like Ethan Moreau ended up there for a lot of years. Him and I were real good friends and had kind of a magical connection when we played junior hockey as line-mates.

"I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have played with him in the pros. Marty Reasoner was there who was a good friend of mine. I wish things had been different but there was a lot of stuff that happened behind the scenes and there was a lot that was going on in my personal life that was pretty difficult to deal with at that time and just for whatever reason, it didn’t work out.“


"I don’t mind talking about this stuff now but it’s been a sensitive issue for a lot of years. I mean Glen (Sather) just never seemed to, I mean one of the first things he ever said, I mean he never even said hello, was, ‘I’m not going to give you a million dollars.’ It was like, nice to meet you, too.

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"Ryan Smyth is a great guy, awesome player and he’s had a fabulous career, but right there around draft time, I mean his family were good friends with Glen and his mom and dad were hugging Glen and were close to him at the draft and it never really felt like he wanted me there.

"He (Sather) called me to the office one time and told me I was fat and overweight and that I was going to get fined if I didn’t lose 10 pounds in three days. And it wasn’t going to be $50 or $500, it was going to be $100,000 or $200,000 and I was going to have to move in with him. It was an abrasive way of handling things and some people kind of, later on, talking to me about it said that it was kind of like mental abuse.

"I don’t know, I’m not saying that he abused me. I’m just saying, it’s like later in life you wonder why did I have to get treated like that. I was a young kid just trying to fit in."


"I didn’t have the greatest work ethic the first couple of years there. I didn’t understand what it took to play at that level. I mean when you’re a junior hockey star and you’re playing 35 minutes a game you don’t have to worry about conditioning and it comes naturally when you have the puck half of the game.

"When you’re scoring a bunch of points and you’re on the power play and you’re in control of things you don’t end up playing a lot of defensive hockey and your defensive skill aren’t what they need to be to get to the pro level.

"There were a lot of things that I needed to learn and it just, for a stretch there, they had me going to the rink at 5:30 in the morning, alone for an hour, an hour-and-a-half with the strength and conditioning coach, just getting skated into the ground. And they’d put 300 pucks out in front of the net and I would shoot 300 pucks, then go into the corner and hit the heavy bag after every shot and then get wind sprinted for 45 minutes straight as a 19 year old kid by yourself."


"When it gets to the point where it wasn’t fun for me whatsoever, it’s hard to be successful at it; regardless of how much money you’re making. For me it was never really about the money it was about, I mean sure it was great and I had a fancy car at one point, but it was about doing something you love and wanting to be good at it. All of my confidence went completely out the window.


"There was one time in Hamilton I was the 2nd leading scorer on the team as a 21 year old and we made it a little bit of a ways in the playoffs and Glen came down to catch a game and I had been scratched for that game, or for a couple of games at that point.

"One of the scouts had told my agent how well I had played the last time I was in the line-up during the playoffs up to that point. Then Glen corners me in the press box and says ‘Do you know why you’re not playing tonight?’ And I had to say ‘Mr. Sather, no I don’t. I really don’t understand what’s going on. You’re scouts said that I played well the last time, I was the second leading scorer on the team this year.’

"Well he said, ‘You’re not good enough to play right now. You’re not good enough to play at this level.’ And I said ‘Well I feel like I am.’ I had 21 goals as a rookie, and he says, ‘You’re just not good enough.’

"At this point, this is after years of just knowing that it wasn’t going to work out. Three or four years of camp and I went to camp that year in the best shape of my life. I remember Kelly Buchberger telling Dougie Weight, because Dougie came late that year and I was living with Dougie, how well I was doing at camp and how good of shape I was in.

"They played me one exhibition game, and I had a really nice assist in that game, I thought that I played pretty decent. I got sent to the minors the next day. So I kind of knew the writing was on the wall no matter what happened at that point, that it just wasn’t going to work out. So then I got back to the minors there and it’s just kind of the same stuff again."


"At this point in the press box I just said, ‘Well Glen why don’t you just trade me?’ And he says, ‘Nobody wants you, nobody wants you.’ And at this point my agent told me that three or four teams had made some really attractive offers for me at this point with some big name players involved which I was quite honoured to hear and Glen tried to tell me I was lying.

"I just knew it was going nowhere. He just sort of pushed me and said ‘Have a nice career.’ I was obviously pretty angry and I thought that if I tried to get back at him, or to try have a push and shove contest, or take a swing at him, that this is definitely the end of my career. And, I walked away. Then, two days later, my agent called me and said that Glen wants to have a meeting with me and apologize and I appreciated it, but they wanted me to come to camp the next fall? I mean how am I supposed to come back to camp after all of this and feel like I’m going to get a fair chance again or like its water under the bridge.

"I’m really sorry, I feel like I let everyone in Edmonton down and people think that I just didn’t care or didn’t want to play, and it’s not the case and it bothers me. I tried to block it out, but it’s something that lingers forever. I wish that I could go back in time and go back and play for them again and erase everyone’s doubts and make everyone happy. I know I’m never going to get that chance again."


I contacted John Rosasco, VP of public relations with the New York Rangers, told him about the interview with Bonsignore, provided a link to the audio on the TEAM 1260 site and offered to have Glen Sather offer his version of events, if he so desired. Rosasco has informed me the Rangers won’t be offering any comment.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • RCN

    You really gotta feel for this guy, and I can relate. I mean hell, if my Jr. Coach wasn’t such a meanie, I have no doubt in my mind that I’d be taking a run at some of Gretzky’s records. Now, because of him, I’m stuck working in the real world. If he would have just played me 1st line minutes with all the gravy powerplay time, I surely would have been a 1st round pick, rather than the 2000th ranked prospect in my draft year. Feel sorry for me.

    Puh-lease. Waah! Waah! Waah! Poor me.

    • stevezie

      To be fair, while it does sound like sour grapes, this isn’t exactly Robbie Schremp circa 94′

      This guy was 4th overall, and was seriously talented. His laziness killed him. But imagine if what he said is true, and apply that to someone like Messier, who has the same backstory as Bonsignore (atleast off the ice, obviously not statistically)

      ~You’re a flames fan, how could you possibly be unbiased~

      I’m interested to see if Slats will respond though, if all of this is true, the guy literally killed Bonsignore’s confidence.

      • RCN

        Yes, I am a Flames fan. One that despises Glen Sather. And yet here I am saying it wasn’t Sather’s fault. By today’s standards, did he treat Bonsignore right (if at all true)? No. But Ryan Smyth didn’t seem to have the same problems. But that’s just because Slats liked him, right?

  • RCN

    Oh, what could have been! I still think about those late 90’s teams, losing to Dallas year after year because we could not match their secondary scoring. If Jason could have been a player for us, that would have shifted the balance significantly.

    Jason had a poor work ethic. He was ranked #1 earlier in his draft year but began sliding when questions about him arose. It sounds like Glen thought he needed to give Jason some tough love. And at the end of the day, there were no winners in this debacle.

    In Jason’s defence, I think teams are much more adept at coping with the different personalities that you bring into the lockerroom. there is still a franchise first mentality, but I don’t think they are as unforgiving as they were in the past. Still, Jason has to admit that he played a large part in his failure to get to the next level.

  • If you’re looking for the “other side of the story” about Jason Bonsignore, I’d suggest you run down to your local bookstore and pick up Gare Joyce’s “Future Greats and Heartbreaks.” It’s must-reading for hockey fans and draft geeks who are looking for an inside look at the NHL scouting world.

    I think it was published around 2006 or 2007, so it’s fairly current. Anyway, there’s an entire chapter or most of one dedicated to just how bad the Oilers’ pick of Bonsignore (and, to be fair, the scouting world’s read of him) was.

    There’s an anecdote in the book talking about how Bonsignore’s junior teammates in Niagara Falls (??) burned his Team USA jacket and sweatpants when he hung them on a hook after coming back from the WJC one year. And it sounded like he had it coming…

    That said, Bonsignore may have been a lazy, petulant, spoiled man-child when he was 18, 19, or 20, but I don’t think he was a lost cause. And that’s where the Oilers utter lack of prospect development in the mid-1990s ultimately failed him. I don’t doubt for a millisecond that Glen Sather would have played the kind of mind games with Bonsignore that the latter claims because Slats played mind games with a lot of other young players – Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Andy Moog , to name but a few.

    Of course, they all turned out pretty good but eventually Sather’s schtick was going to cost the organization, big-time, and I’d argue it probably did with Bonsignore. Underneath that spoiled kid was a very talented hockey player. His style of play was compared to Mario Lemieux and if you watched him you’d agree (no, I’m not saying he was going to be as good as Mario).

    That’s why I didn’t really read the excerpts above so much as a “rant” by Bonsignore but more the unspun, non-agent-filtered side of things from a guy in his mid-30s who has finally developed some hindsight but still has a lot of bitter memories.

    Anyway, kudos to Robin and Gene for scoring a great interview. Bonsignore was obviously in the mood for candor and self-reflection this week and you caught him at the right time.

    And I’d love to hear Slats’ side of the story – although I’d be quite surprised if he’d bother to comment on the bleatings of a failed prospect drafted 17 years ago.

      • No surprises, there, but good-on-ya for trying.

        As we all know, Slats isn’t normally given to shying away from wars of words. But I don’t blame him if he figures he’s long since moved beyond having to get into verbal dustups with NHL-busts-who-now-run-go-cart-tracks.

        Any plans to chat with Nick Stajduhar or Mathieu Descoteaux?

        Or how about the Swiss Miss?

        • Greg Stink | ESPN

          Thumbs down
          That was a really good interview and there was a significant story there that made this more than just a story about a bust.

          And who doesn’t like go kart tracks.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Ha! That mad me laugh.

          In all honesty, this just reads as a guy who’s still bitter about being a “bust”, and more shockingly, one who still refuses to realize it, admit it, or take responsibility for it.

  • 1993 Jason Arnott

    … and the immortal Nick Stajduhar with the second first-rounder that year, 16th overall.

    Add me to the list of folks who was delighted to hear John Short yesterday, if all too briefly. I just picked up the last few minutes of the show after my afternoon shift, the interview with Derek Laxdal, and had just enough time to go “Hey that’s good ol’ John Short!” and just like that it was over. Sorry to have missed it, hope he will be back real soon. A true gentleman of the airwaves.

  • paul wodehouse

    Anyone who remembers seeing this guy play knows how useless he was. He played a one-way style of game and didn’t produce points. Is Sather to blame for trying to motivate him? I dont think so. He was lazy and is looking for someone to blame.

    • D-Man

      That’s an excellent point, Rick.

      As I noted earlier, the Gare Joyce book (Future Greats and Heartbreaks) does allude to the fact that so many scouts seemed to miss the boat on Bonsignore’s shortcomings during his draft year. I don’t remember the specific implications but I believe the jist of it was that if the scouts had done a little more digging (i.e. talking to people who played with/coached Bonsignore), they would have found several obvious red flags and probably steered clear.

      And yes, obviously it would have been hard to do very much digging in Mexico.

      I can remember the Hockey News Draft Preview for that year, which is published in April, saying that the Oilers were “enamored” of Bonsignore (in fact, it said that right in Bonsignore’s profile). Joyce’s book noted that as well – the Oilers were bound-and-determined to pick Bonsignore when it became clear they were going to have a top-five pick.

      So that tells me that either the OHL scout was not doing his homework or Fraser wasn’t as close to the process as he needed to be.

      I think Bonsignore was a spoiled little jerk who made his own bed, but let’s not let the Oilers prospect development system off the hook.

      Tom Barrasso was a jerk when he was a young player (and later on, too). So was Marc Savard. And others, no doubt.

      For some reason, the Oilers couldn’t make it work with Bonsignore. And I’m just not convinced that it was 100 per cent his fault.

  • Mitch

    While some of it is no doubt on Bonsignore, it is startling that only 4 players turned out in 20 first round selections from 1984-2000. One cannot discount that fact. Some of it is on the Oilers. A lot of it actually.

    Arnott, Smyth, Rucinsky, and Devereaux.

    Arnott was run outta town, not properly handled by management.

    Smyth grew up near Slatz and had a different relationship with the team as a result. Why did it work for Smyth? Different relationship have anything to do with it? I’d say so.

    Rucinsky was trade a year after being drafted and developed by the Nordiques.

    Devereaux was a 3rd/4th liner plug.

    That’s a horrible record, period. Along with others chased out like Satan, the Polish Prince, etc.

    The Koolaide chugging gang of all things Oilers have a hard time offering critisism when diserved. Bonsignore is not all wrong there. Players worked hard to get drafted as high as they did, and most players who got drafted in the first round to the Edmonton Oilers did not pan out.

    And that’s on the Oilers and their management. No question.

    It looks like things are getting better in that department. The old “break ’em down and build them again” way seems to be gone.

    The kid was 18 and on his own, nobody in his corner by the sounds of things. When hockey becomes no fun, it’s over. Confidence shot.

  • D

    There are two sides to every story. I was a little surprised that Principe and Herbalife Brownee didn’t go on longer with this compelling interview with Bongsignore even with Grant Fuhr to follow. Someone should investigate this a little more ie. interview some of his Oiler teammates at the time to corroborate either side.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I have a kid who’s 19 so can relate to who Bonsignore WAS, and he should have been handled better. They’re CHILDREN just in grown-up bodies (most of them). This is why I think RNH, like the VAST majority of players who aren’t ‘can’t miss studs’, should be back in junior this year.

    For Bonsignore, I actually think calling out Sather for being lousy at his job, to me, means that Bonsignore was actually ahead of his time. Sather had about 3 good years, and was [email protected] lucky for most of them.

    At the same time, for Bonsignore at 35 or whatever to still be ‘poor me’ is beyond lame.

    ….and ’64’ is the worst number ever unless your name is Commodore.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      He was ahead of his time yet it took how long to call him out?

      Again why was Bonsignore on the radio? Was there really not any relevant players that are training in Edmonton right now that could’ve come on?

  • Zamboni Driver

    Sather is too much of an Ass to admit any guilt. He wants it done his way or the highway. If you don’t play ball by his rules, too bad so sad. He’s a jack-ass…

  • Zamboni Driver

    “They played me one exhibition game, and I had a really nice assist in that game, I thought that I played pretty decent. I got sent to the minors the next day. So I kind of knew the writing was on the wall no matter what happened at that point, that it just wasn’t going to work out. So then I got back to the minors there and it’s just kind of the same stuff again.”

    Played one good exhibition game…. That deserves a spot in the line up. Nothing like giving up after you finally got your fat a$$ in shape and showed them you could at least compete. To bad you never had any heart.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    When a player fails like this it’s the failure of the entire organization. Luckily, teams have gotten better at helping kids acclimate to the pro game and that there isn’t just one way to turn a kid into a hockey player.

    Not much consolation to Bonsignoire but there it is.

  • Stack Pad Save

    “…..And I’d love to hear Slats’ side of the story – although I’d be quite surprised if he’d bother to comment on the bleatings of a failed prospect drafted 17 years ago…”

    Glen Sather
    Appointed GM Rangers June 2000.

    Rangers Playoff history since….

    2011- lost to Washington 4-1 first round

    2010-Did not make.

    2009-lost to Washington, 4-3, first round

    2008-lost to Pittsburgh 4-1, 2nd round

    2007-lost to Buffalo, 4-2, 2nd round

    2006-lost to New Jersey, 4-0, first round

    2001-2005 (presalary cap) – Did not make.

    But Slats is not running an amusement park so….

    • Zamboni Driver

      Wow, I knew it was bad but it’s worse when it’s all laid out like that and you know he spent max. cap the whole way through. Suddenly, Milbury doesn’t seem so alone in the awful NY GM group.

      Is Sather morphing into the NHL’s version of AL Davis?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Without a generational player with him in New York, Glen Sather looks fairly run of the mill as General Managers go. There’s no way he would get away with that act in New York.

  • Greg Stink | ESPN

    The JB saga (and other failed top picks from that era) is why teams inerview top prospects, their family, team mates, coaches and just about anyone else who might give them some insight. Highly rated young players are likley nutured much more now than before, but eventually a successful player must make it on his own performance in a very competetive world. The nuturing can only last so long.

    Utilmately JBs lack of success lies with him. Altough the Oil might have handled him better, I get the impression that he didn’t think he should hsve to fight and earn for his spot in the NHL. I’m sure many other successful NHL players have had tougher roads than JB.

  • Lofty

    As an Oiler fan I have no problem with Sathers job with the Oilers. I dont care what he does with the NYR, he managed the Oil to become a dynasty. Pocklington is the one who messed up what he had built and he could never get it back.

    The guy took the team to 5 stanley cup finals and won 4 of them. We had him in his prime; when he found the best players.

  • Mitch


    This was great radio with Gene the other day. I can feel for Jason, I think that the oilers crushed his confidence, if you listen to Jason talk. I don’t think the kid was gonna be a superstar but then you just never know. What if Glen had done things a bit differnt could he have had a better career, well that is the $64,000.00 dollar question. This is a good example of why Glen had to move onto New York, you can’t run a NHL team with this way and expect any success, society is differnt.

    • Sather did things his way and it didn’t work with some players. Clearly, Bonsignore is one of those.

      Bonsignore didn’t fail because of Sather, but Glen’s approach obviously did little or nothing to improve his chances of success. Sather’s style unnerved Bonsignore as opposed to motivating him.

      Some players respond to an aggressive approach with “I’ll show you.” Others wilt. Bonsignore is one of those.

  • stevezie

    Didn’t Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey both have openly hostile relationships with Sather? He was an unreasonable dick, which really does motivate some players.

    I remember an interview with Guy Boucher right after he got hired by Tampa and someone asked him what his style for dealing with players was. Was he coddling? An old school hard ass? he said something to the effect of “I have 23 different styles. It doesn’t make sense to treat everyone the same way, people are different. You figure out what gets the best out of each player and treat him like that.”

    Obviously Bonsignore failed primarily because of Bonsignore, but maybe he could have succeeded. Wouldn’t the team have been better off with him succeeding?