Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Jean-Yves Leroux Autograph Card

You read a similar story just a few days ago: Montrealer gets drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid-to-late 90s, forced to retire in his prime due to back pain. Except today, it isn't about Éric Dazé, the 1993 fourth-round pick (90th overall) who became one of the best shooters of his era; no, it's Jean-Yves Leroux, a second-round pick in 1994 (40th overall) whom the Hawks thought may become a power forward (he stood at 6'2" and 210 pounds on his draft day) who became a point-per-game player in Juniors but would be thought of more as a tough bottom-six player and part-time pugilist upon reaching the NHL.

He had an assist and five penalty minutes in his first game with the Hawks (the final game of the 1996-97 season) and would finish with 16 goals, 22 assists and 38 points in 220 games spread over five seasons with Chicago before the team let him go after failing a physical exam - he had injured his back doing squats in his summer training.

While it hurt at the time, he now credits the Hawks for making him a professional and a team player, and for giving him the opportunity to live his lifelong NHL dream. Furthermore, they suited him up during the 1996 preseason with fellow Quebecers Christian Laflamme, Enrico Ciccone, Dazé, and Denis Savard for a game at the then-Molson Centre when they truly didn't have to, allowing 20% of the line-up to play an away game in front of their friends and families.

Upon retiring, Leroux moved to Québec City and enrolled in classes to obtain a construction worker's license, then started a construction company and now co-owns and operates a full-blown housing development company.

Unable to help himself, he also signed on to play in the province's semi-pro league, the LHSPQ, mostly-known for having three times the number of fights than goals per game; he stayed on when the league became the LNAH - a more serious lower-level pro league on par with today's ECHL. He retired from paid hockey for good after the 2009-10 season and now just plays in a beer league with other former NHLers.

Here he is wearing #23 on the Blackhawks' black (away) uniform on the signed insert version of card #45 from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set:
It features a black sharpied on-card autograph with his number tagged at the end.

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