Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Claude Lapointe Autograph Card

In the 11 years that my blog has been active, there were a few instances of my covering cocaine-related stories and/or suspensions, but none of them - not even Grant Fuhr's one-year purgatory at the height of his prime with the Edmonton Oilers - comes close to Claude Lapointe's punishment: a lifetime ban from playing after the disastrous 2003-04 season where he tested positive twice and refused to undergo treatment via rehabilitation.

Lapointe, among the league leaders for face-off percentage in each of his 15 NHL seasons, was always more rock'n'roll than many of his contemporaries; his favourite film is Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear and his favourite band has been Guns N' Roses since the Appetite For Destruction album came out in 1987.

Cocaine falls right in line with that, as being a beloved "star" player with the New York Islanders brings forth bad influences, and a move to the Philadelphia Flyers did nothing to keep him from cities with lively downtown cores full of late-night partying opportunities.

He was forced to retire at the age of 35, but he's the type of player that was in such great shape, and he played a defensive role in the Dead Puck Era, so he was at an advantage, so much so that it would not have surprised anyone who knew him in his 20s and early 30s if he's played past 40 years of age.

Instead, he took a couple of years to hit rock bottom, then rehabbed for over a year, and he was back in the periphery of the game, helping 15- and 16-year-olds reach the higher ranks of Junior hockey as a hockey instructor. He also served as a warning tale about the dangers that lie with getting involved with the wrong crowds and keeping a level head.

It was said in the mid-1990s that only someone high enough could conceive and/or enjoy the Islanders' infamous "Fisherman" jersey, which can be seen clearly on the hard-signed insert version of card #200 from Pinnacle's 1996-97 Be A Player set:
I've got to be honest, I'm feeling a tad nostalgic for it these days.

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