Saturday, January 31, 2015

Steve Larouche Autographed Card

Steve Larouche was a scoring sensation in Juniors, and a 153-point season with the Trois-Rivières Draveurs prompted the Montréal Canadiens to select him 41st overall in 1989; he proceeded to follow that with a 145-point season and a game with the Canadian National Team in which he scored a goal. He capped his time in Juniors with a 33-point postseason in 1990-91 in just 17 games with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, leading them to a participation in the Memorial Cup tournament won by the Spokane Chiefs.

He was just as prolific in the AHL, posting 56 points in his rookie season, followed by a 27-goal, 65-assist and 92-point season with the Fredericton Canadiens in 1992-93; unfortunately, that was the year the Habs won the Stanley Cup, so there wasn't really room on their team for a top-line center, what with Vincent Damphousse, Kirk Muller and Stéphan Lebeau already in place and Guy Carbonneau as the league's best defensive forward and face-off leader also in the mix, which led Larouche to the IHL, and the Atlanta Knights, as featured on this card from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set (card #160 in the collection, with the Blue Chip Prospect mention), which he signed for me in blue sharpie in 2010-11:

That year, he went on to produce 96 points (on 43 goals) in 80 regular-season games, plus 26 more points (16 of them goals) in 14 playoff games, impressing the Ottawa Senators enough to sign him as a free agent. The following season, he played 18 games in the Canadian capital, and gave them 15 points, but he spent the bulk of his time with their AHL affiliate Prince Edward Island Senators, where he was good for 53 goals and 101 points in 70 games.

The next season would be the last in which he spent time in the NHL, but it seems he wasn't given the same chances as before because unlike his nearly point-per-game pace with the Sens, he was pointless in his lone game with the New York Rangers, and was limited to 3 points in 7 games with the Los Angeles Kings.

He spent the next six seasons in the IHL, always finishing among the league leaders in points, both with the Québec Rafales and Chicago Wolves and winning three Turner Cups in the process, but no NHL team was willing to even invite him to a training camp, so he moved to Europe, playing in Germany, Finland, and Switzerland before moving back to his home province of Québec and playing for the semi-pro, goon-friendly LNAH, which is where I met him, as he played for the Trois-Rivières Caron Et Guay in 2010-11.

Nowadays, he's an assistant coach with the Shawinigan Cataractes in the LHJMQ, winning the Memorial Cup in 2011-12.

He's won three IHL championships, scoring titles in both the AHL and IHL, was a First Team All-Star in each (1995 for the AHL, and 1997, 2000, and 2001 in the IHL), and has MVP titles in each league in addition to ''heart and soul'' awards such as the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award (AHL: sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey) and the John Cullen Award (IHL, formerly the Comeback Player Of The Year, for being  a key contributor to his team while overcoming injury, illness, or other personal setbacks); I strongly believe that if there were a minor-hockey Hall Of Fame, he'd be in it.

He averaged nearly two points per game in the 'Q' (both during the season and in the playoffs), had 315 points in 260 AHL games, and 529 points in 416 IHL games (plus 92 more in 80 IHL playoff games), so he was consistently a factor in his team putting pucks in the opposition's net. Which also raises the question as to why a talent-starved expansion team didn't peg him as their second-line center at the turn of the millennium, particularly the Atlanta Thrashers, seeing as he'd starred in the area just a few years prior with the Knights.

2 comments:

  1. I used to watch Larouche when he played for the Chicago Wolves. He was awesome back then. Those Wolves teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s were formidable, winning three championships in six years.

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  2. Yeah, when I was younger, I saw him at training camp with the Habs, then only in the LNAH; I missed all of his prime, save a game or two with the Rafales.

    The Wolves were great when the Hawks were so-so, so I'm guessing there was championship-level hockey in Chicago for pretty much the past 25 years (I wish the Savard era would have brought a Cup, but the Belfour one brought it in Final, then the Wolves while the Hawks were rebuilding, and now the current Hawks).

    Well deserved, for a great hockey city.

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