Saturday, August 17, 2013

Francis Lessard Autographed Card

Francis Lessard was a pressure player and terrific zone defender in Juniors - even going as far as making a Memorial Cup All-Star Team alongside Brad Ference -  but when it came to the pros, where players of his type abound, he had to resort to his other skill: fighting. After seasons of 312, 338 and 295 PIMs in Juniors, his numbers went up to 416 in his first AHL season with the Philadelphia Phantoms, and 330 in his second year. That's when he caught the eye of the Atlanta Thrashers and was involved in ''his'' second trade, though the NHL's ''eternal bar code'' system which ties him with the fact that he was the 80th draft pick in 1997 makes it as though this was his fifth, as that pick had been traded three times before being used by the Carolina Hurricanes - first from the Colorado Avalanche to the New York Islanders, then to the Calgary Flames, then to the Canes. And when the Philadelphia Flyers - who love players from Québec, particularly the tough ones - saw what he was made of, they acquired him from the Canes themselves, meaning the 80th pick of 1997 had been traded a total of five times before even playing a single game in the NHL.

But he did manage to play with the Thrashers - 5 of them in 2001-02, a season in which he also won the Calder Cup with the Chicago Wolves. Lessard's reputation was becoming one of a tough guy with discrete leadership skills who could help his teams go far in the playoffs.

Despite signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes, he wouldn't play another NHL game between 2006-07 and 2010-11, this time with the Ottawa Senators, though he spent more time with their AHL affiliate, Binghamton Senators. He played 24 games with the Sens, going 0-0-0 with 78 PIMs.

He played last season in the LNAH with the Cornwall Riverkings, which is how I got this card signed:
I got his to sign this team-issued 2010-11 Binghamton Senators card in blue sharpie prior to a game versus the Sorel-Tracy Éperviers. I try to attend at least one LNAH game per year, usually with my dad. I saw three last year. It's good-time minor-league hockey, with most guys playing to keep in shape - and because being part of a hockey team's the only thing they've ever known.

The talent level in this league is pretty good, with about a third of the players having played at least an NHL game or a few full AHL seasons, the rest all being important players on their Junior teams. It used to be all about fighting, but it's common now to ''merely'' see two fights per game.

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