Record: 52 – 20 – 10
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2017 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Claude Lemieux has no recollection of playing his first of what would be 1,215 National Hockey League regular-season games back in 1983 for the Montreal Canadiens.
But he’ll never forget watching his son, Brendan, take to the ice for his debut Friday night at Bell MTS Place.
"This is exciting. They kind of throw the kids out, I didn’t know about that," Lemieux told the Free Press moments after Brendan, 21, got the rookie treatment by taking a couple solo laps in the pre-game skate while the rest of the Winnipeg Jets hung back in the tunnel.
Claude, his wife Deborah and their daughter, Claudia, flew in for Brendan’s first game against the Minnesota Wild. They were joined in section 121 by Brett Roenick, the son of former NHL star Jeremy Roenick, who is Brendan’s best friend. There were plenty of smiles and hugs, and even a few tears.
"There’s an old saying, it takes more than family to raise a kid, it takes a village. There’s a lot of people who’ve impacted you. There were a lot of good people around him that helped him get here," Lemieux said.
So what did Lemieux — who scored 379 goals, added 407 assists and took 1,777 penalty minutes over his decorated career — have for his son in the way of advice?
"I just told him just try to calm your nerves. Everybody’s nervous your first game, I don’t care who it is," said Lemieux, who now works as a player agent.
"I watch my clients. It doesn’t matter whether they’re skilled guys or grit guys, they’re nervous. Then they sort of settle. I just hope he gets in the rhythm, after he plays a few shifts.
"I told him focus on the left wing, that keeps him focused on where he should be on the ice and what he should be doing."
Brendan got a warm ovation from the crowd on his first shift and certainly had plenty of noticeable energy playing on a line with centre Shawn Matthias and right-winger Nic Petan. Lemieux said his only concern was that his son might be a bit too amped up.
"That’s what you worry about. Those guys, they’re high. It’s not like some guys you have to kick in the butt. I know he’s not likely going to freeze. He’ll be fine," Lemieux said.
"Whenever he’s been in situations like this, first year junior, first few games with the Moose, he’s always done well."
Brendan said before the game he was looking forward to bringing some "sandpaper" to the lineup.
He’s also been developing his offence in the minors, with three goals and two assists through four games with the Manitoba Moose this season.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice described Brendan as having the potential to be a "new-age power forward" — citing his big, heavy shot, net-front presence and ability to play physical.
"We have lots of room for that here, so if he can get in there and, young players make mistakes, but get that energy level right and not cross that line but be a good physical presence, it should be a good opportunity for him," Maurice said prior to the game.
Claude Lemieux laughed at his own inability to recall his NHL debut, saying he’d have to Google it to refresh his memory.
"I don’t even remember who it was against. I know it was when I was 18. They kept me up for the first couple months, and then in December I was sent down to junior," he said.
Lemieux said a player’s first NHL game is just "one notch" in what could hopefully be a long career.
"This is just one game. But you can’t get to game two until you get game one. So you start from this, you build up and go ahead," he said.
"Playing in the playoffs is another notch, going another step and playing in the Stanley Cup finals is another."
Lemieux certainly knows a few things about that, having won four Stanley Cups in his career with the New Jersey Devils (twice), Colorado Avalanche and Montreal.
Now he gets to experience the thrill of the game again, this time through his son.
"You’ve got to experience it, you’ve got to live it," he said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.