Friday

Stephane Morin

On October 8, 1998, former NHL player Stephane Morin, died after suffering heart attack during a German league game.

Morin, who had been playing for the Berlin Capitals, collapsed and died shortly after scoring three goals in the game. He was only 29 years old. He is survived by his wife Karen and son Frederick, 2.

Morin played 90 career NHL games from 1989-94 for the Vancouver Canucks and Quebec Nordiques after a spectacular junior career in the QMJHL, highlighted by a 77 goal, 186 point performance in 70 games.

Morin's best NHL season was in 1990-91 with the Nords when he scored 13 goals and 17 assists in 48 games. However most of his NHL appearances were quick and limited call ups from the minor leagues where he excelled. A great puckhandler, Morin's skating was suspect at the NHL level, and his physical game was non-existent.

After being released by the Canucks despite two excellent seasons with their farm team, Morin signed with the Minnesota Moose where he won the International Hockey League scoring title for the 1994-95 season.Morin, a center, had 33 goals and 81 assists for a league-leading 114 points, his first season in the IHL. He was later traded to Long Beach, where he led the Ice Dogs in scoring in 1996-97 and helped then to the league finals.

"He was a very classy gentleman who was a consummate professional," said John Van Boxmeer, who coached Morin while with Long Beach of the IHL from 1996-98.

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Wednesday

Blake Wesley

Blake Wesley is the older brother of longtime NHL defenseman Glen Wesley. While Blake did not last nearly as long as Glen in the National Hockey League, he did enjoy a 9 year professional hockey career that included 298 games in the NHL, plus another 19 Stanley Cup playoff games.

Blake was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta, where he was a standout youth player until he left in 1976 to play WHL junior hockey with the Portland Winter Hawks. He would put in three seasons in Portland, becoming one of their top players ever. Upon his draft year in 1979, arguably the deepest NHL draft of all time, Wesley was ranked as the 11th best prospect by The Hockey News and was drafted 22nd overall (1st pick of the 2nd round) by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers had acquired that pick from Colorado in an earlier trade involving Don Saleski.

Wesley was a red head who tried to play with more fire than his natural temperament desired. He was told he needed to be more aggressive and more physical if he wanted to make it in the NHL. He tried the best he could, but perhaps he could have found a little more success had settled down and concentrated on his overall game a bit more.

Wesley would play 2 seasons in the Flyers system, including 50 games in 1981-82, before being traded to Hartford in the big Rick MacLeish trade that shuffled around a lot draft picks and prospects.

Wesley had a chance to play in Hartford, but it was not the best place for a young defenseman to be breaking in.  The Whalers were a pretty weak team at that time. Wesley was a combined -50 in 100 games over 2 seasons in Hartford.

A quarter of the way into the 1982-83 season Wesley was on the move north to Quebec City. He would find a home on the Nordiques blue line over the next three seasons, though by the third season he was demoted down to the minor leagues.

Wesley resurfaced for 27 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1985-86, but otherwise rounded out his career in the AHL.

Blake Wesley, a notably impressive chef, retired in 1988. In 298 NHL games he scored 18 goals, 46 assists for 64 points. He moved back to Portland after his playing days, where he had run a summer hockey school for many years. He was working for the local Pepsi bottler in the 1990s before becoming a junior hockey coach in the new century. Now he appears to be heading up elite hockey schools in British Columbia's Okanagan region.

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Friday

Jon Klemm

Klemn played his junior hockey with both Seattle and Spokane of the WHL as a forward. In his second season in Spokane and in his second season, he scored 65 points as a forward to lead his team to the WHL Championship and the Memorial Cup Championship.

Jon Klemm signed as a free agent with the Qu├ębec Nordiques on May 14, 1991 and spent most of the next four years in Quebec's farm system. When the franchise moved to Colorado, Klemn was moved from forward to defense in order to play every day in the NHL.

Klemm, who was often paired with the offensively adventurous Sandis Ozolinsh, was part of a very successful team in Colorado, as they won the Campbell Conference Bowl three times and the Stanley Cup twice. On October 17, 1998 Klemm set a club record when he scored two goals nine seconds apart.

After Colorado won the 2001 Stanley Cup, they signed Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Rob Blake to contracts totalling over 100 million dollars and decided not to resign Klemn. Klemn signed with the Blackhawks on the first day of free agency.

After 2 and 1/2 seasons in the Windy City Klemm was moved to Dallas where played close to 3 seasons with the Stars. He ended his NHL career with a brief appearance in Los Angeles in 2007-08.

In 773 NHL regular season games Jon Klemm scored 42 goals and 100 assists for 142 points.

Okay, sure, Wayne Gretzky had more points in a few different seasons than Klemm did in his lengthy career, but very quietly Klemm was a valuable member of the Colorado Avalanche teams that won two Stanley Cups. He was willing to do anything and everything the team asked of him. He didn't add much offensively, and didn't have the mean temperament to make the highlight reels with hard hits. He just quietly did his job, nicely filling minutes on the Colorado blue line or on the 4th forward line.

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Alexei Gusarov

Alexei Gusarov was 26 years old when he came to the National Hockey League. The long time member of t he Soviet Red Army and USSR national team found an immediate match on the Quebec Nordiques blue line - Adam Foote.

"I don't think there's another Goose out there," Foote said. "I think he was really undervalued. You go back to the one championship this team has, and he was a big part of it. I think even then, he didn't get enough credit.

"That's another part of Goose's character, though. He kept things quiet. He stayed out of everything and just showed up to play. I don't think Colorado fans saw him in his true prime, and I owe a lot to him."

The two seemingly could not have been more different. Foote was rough and tumble, a stalwart defender. Gusarov was an offensive dman in Russia, but in the NHL he almost instantly became a skilled shutdown rearguard. Using his strong skating skills, long reach and good instincts he became a regular penalty killer and shutdown man. This despite a non-existent physical game and a tendency to over-commit positionally.

Gusarov's game deteriorated by the end of 1990s, but he had found a soft spot in the hearts of Colorado (the Nordiques relocated to Denver mid-decade) hockey fans.

In 607 career games, Gusarov scored 39 goals, 128 assists for 167 points. He retired as one of the few members of the Triple Gold Club, having won the 1989 IIHF World Championship, the 1996 Stanley Cup, and the 1988 Olympic gold medal.

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Adam Foote


When Adam Foote announced his retirement in 2011, he became the answer to a great trivia question: Who is the last member of the Quebec Nordiques to play in the National Hockey League?

The 22nd overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Foote played four seasons in Quebec before the whole franchise relocated to Colorado. It was state side that Foote really emerged as one of the top defenders in the NHL. Best known as the Avalanche's tough as nails defensive throwback blueliner (he sort of reminded me of a poor man's Tim Horton), Foote won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. He was also part of Canada's 2002 Olympic gold medal winning team.

While the Avalanche were about flash and dash, Adam Foote was more about hard work, blood and sweat. He was a foot soldier (pun fully intended), and in doing so became a great leader.

"He was a great leader off the ice and when he played the way he did, how hard he played every single game, in practice how hard he worked, it's easy to be a great leader in the dressing room and to be demanding because he was the perfect example for all the players. Everybody wanted to work as hard as him," said Joe Sakic.

"I bet you can go around and ask any player when (Foote) was young, even now, he was one of the toughest players you'd ever have to play against. We were so lucky to have him on our team. Who was the one guy you had to watch on the other team? 'Here you go, Adam,' and he made it so difficult on him. And with his leadership in the dressing room, you can't replace guys like that."

A warrior who had legendary battles with Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, Foote was a punishing defender. But he was an underrated overall player. He had surprisingly good foot speed in his prime, thanks to great first step quickness. He would often lug the puck out of his own zone, as he was not a great breakout passer. Though he was not much of a gambler, he would make timely pinches and could handle some power play time. But he was far better known as an excellent penalty killer and shut down defenseman.

Foote, who had a most notable hockey nose, has 66 goals, 242 assists, a plus-99 rating and 1,534 penalty minutes in 1,153 NHL games. He has seven goals, 35 assists and 298 penalty minutes in 170 playoff games. He spent 3 seasons cashing in a big free agent offer with Columbus in 2005 to become captain of the Blue Jackets before returning to captain the Avalanche for his final three seasons.

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Wednesday

Jacques Richard

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has produced some of the greatest hockey talent ever produced. Gilbert Perreault, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Raymond Bourque and Pat Lafontaine are but a few.

One of the greatest QMJHL phenoms was Quebec Ramparts' Jacques Richard. Blessed with an overabundance of natural talent and incredible skating ability, Richard was a junior teammate of Lafleur. At the time some scouts insisted Richard was the better player. In his final three years of junior Richard totalled 186 goals and 399 points in 168 games. He added 80 goals and and 165 points in 75 playoff games and helped the Ramparts capture the 1971 Memorial Cup

Richard was selected 2nd overall by the Atlanta Flames in the 1972 Amateur Draft. He jumped directly to the NHL but couldn't live up the enormous pressure of being hyped as "hockey's next Richard," a marketing ploy comparing him to the immortal Rocket Richard and Henri Richard.

Richard faltered badly on the ice. He was used sparingly as he was a defensive liability, and 57 goals over three years was just not enough to justify keeping him. To make matters worse, Richard was a headache off the ice, as he was a heavy drinker and gambler, and would soon experiment with cocaine.

The Buffalo Sabres hoped to salvage something out of Richard's career, but were disappointed with him. He scored just 12 goals in the 1975-76 season, and after only 2 goals in 21 games in 1976-77, he was banished to the minor leagues for the next season and a half. He would unceremoniously return with the Sabres in 1978-79, but was released soon after.

Richard returned home in 1979, joining the Quebec Nordiques. He continued to struggle until 1980-81 when he was teamed with brothers Peter and Anton Stastny and exploded for 52 goals and 51 assists.

Richard's success was short-lived. His off-ice habits continued to mess with Richard the hockey player. He quickly fell into decline and by 1983 was out of hockey.

His demons continued to curse him after hockey. In 1989 he returned from a vacation to Colombia with $1.5 million worth of cocaine hidden in a golf bag. He was sentenced to seven years in jail.

On Oct. 8, 2002, when his car struck a culvert near Issoudun, Quebec, killing him instantly. He was just 50 years old.

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Friday

Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart is mostly known as the hard-nosed NHL referee who officiated over 1000 NHL games. But before Stewart began enforcing NHL rules and regulations, he used to break them on a very regular basis.

This Boston native was every bit as tough when he was a player. In his first pro season (1975-76) with the Binghampton Dusters (NAHL) Paul picked up 273 PIMs in only 46 games. In October 1976 he signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA, but he only played two games for Edmonton and spend most of the 1976-77 season playing for Binghampton where he collected 232 Pim's in 60 games.

Paul got his first real taste of WHA action when he was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Stingers (who also later signed a 17 year old Mark Messier) in December 1977. Cincinnati's coach Jacques Demers had a tough guy on his team named Willie Trognitz who had been banned from the IHL for life after he had tried to remove the head of Archie Henderson. Demers and the Stingers gambled that "Wild Willie's" reputation after that incident would be enough to keep the opposition out of the corners,well it wasn't and Trognitz was released and in came the 23-year old Paul Stewart.

Paul was an instant hit with the Cincinnati crowd and media. He would talk to anyone, anytime. Paul was quotable, patient and colorful. He knew the importance of publicity and admitted that he would do anything to help his club fill the seats. Paul racked up 241 PIMs in only 40 games for Cincinnati during the 1977-78 season. He could play both as a left wing and as a defenseman and although he wasn't a big scorer his presence was felt all the time.

Paul played with the Stingers in the WHA sporadically for the next two years, alternating his playing time between Cincinnati and Binghampton Dusters / Philadelphia Firebirds (AHL). At one time he almost ended up playing for the Minnesota North Stars in the NHL. He actually signed a contract with Minnesota but ripped it up before sending it back to the North Stars management. Paul simply got second thoughts and didn't want to leave Cincinnati because they gave him his first real shot among the "big boys". Paul concluded that "you've gotta dance with the one who brung you" - typically Paul Stewart.

On June 9,1979 Paul was claimed by the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA dispersal draft. He made his NHL debut on November 20,1979 against his hometown team, the Boston Bruins. And what a splashy debut it was! Paul didn't waste any time and fought Terry O'Reilly, Stan Jonathan and Al Secord in that game picking up 29 Pim's in his first ever NHL game. The guys that he fought were no slouches. Paul's NHL career was brief though and he only appeared in 21 games, scoring two goals and having 74 Pim's.

He played in the AHL and then briefly in the ACHL before hanging up his skates as a player in 1983. He didn't leave the NHL scene for long though and returned as an official in 1987. He was an instant hit among the players and gained league wide respect for his hard-nosed attitude the same way as in his playing days. Tough but fair.

Paul's perspective on life took a drastic change when he in January 1998 saw a program on TV that had a segment on colon cancer. He recognized some of the symptoms given in the program and decided to arrange an appointment with his doctor. It was revealed that he had stage III colon cancer, one step away from the worst on the scale. Paul had a three hour operation and in typical Paul Stewart manner refused to be transported to his room in a wheelchair despite having tubes in his nose, genitals and arms. He walked instead. He eventually had a couple of complications and had to be operated again. Luckily Paul survived his battle with death and got back to officiating in the NHL again at the start of the 1998-99 season to the delight of all the players who gave him a warm welcome.

Paul was a fighter as a player and as a fighter as a referee and as a person.

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