Normand Rochefort

Hockey fans love statistics. But do statistics tell the story of just how good a player was?

If you knew nothing of Normand Rochefort and looked at his career statistics, you'd assume he was a defensive #5 or #6 d-man. You'd see very few points and not a whole lot of penalty minutes. You'd notice he missed a lot of games and finished his career in the minor leagues.

The stats don't give Normand Rochefort his due.

Rochefort was one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League for a time during the mid 1980s. Don't believe it? Well he played in the 1987 Rendez Vous tournament against the Soviet Union, and later that year was a nice part of Team Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup.

Rochefort was a bone crunching bodychecker. Though he took few penalties, he was one of the most feared physical players of his time. He loved to rattle a player along the boards and at times would go out of his way for an open ice hit. He was also a menace in front of his own net, punishing any opposition forward who dared to enter the slot. He was also a premier shot blocker.

Playing such a physical style can be tough on a guy's body - no one knows that more than Rochefort. However Rochefort just absolutely loves to play, which is why he came back from repeated severe injuries and why he continued to play in the minors for years after his NHL days were done. Rochefort, who wasn't the fleetest skater to start with, had several major surgeries on his knees, including reconstructive surgery in 1988-89.

Though his skating wasn't impressive, his puck skills were. He rarely jumped up into an offensive attack, but he had this knack of always clearing his zone with a perfect pass to a breaking forward.

Normand, a nephew of former NHLer Leon Rochefort, was the 24th overall choice by Quebec in the 1980 Entry Draft. For the French speaking Rochefort it was quite a thrill to be picked by the Nords. Rochefort would go on to play 8 seasons with the Nordiques as a standout defenseman.

As mentioned earlier, Rochefort began getting acclaim for his fine play by 1987 when he played in the Rendez Vous and the Canada Cup tournaments. Playing in Quebec was like playing in Hawaii - no one really knew about the players. Even greats like Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny were under-appreciated. Rochefort's inclusion in the two prestigious tournaments was a surprise to many who knew little of him until that time. Rochefort played in 1 of the two Rendez Vous games and played in 9 Canada Cup games, even scoring 1 goal and 2 assists in addition to his stellar player. He didn't look out of place playing amongst the world's best.

However by the 1987-88 season his knee troubles were causing serious problems for him. He was able to play in just 46 games after becoming a well known commodity after the Canada Cup tournament. At the same time he was having differences with the Nordiques management, and asked to be traded. The Nordiques granted Normand his wish when he and Jason Lafreniere were traded to the New York Rangers for Bruce Bell, Jari Gronstrand, Walt Poddubny and a draft pick.

Rochefort's knee allowed him to play in 11 games at the beginning of the 1988-89 before he had to undergo complete reconstructive knee surgery on his right knee. The operation kept him out of action for the rest of that season and the first 50 or so games of the next. He ended up coming back to play in 31 games in 1989-90. Rochefort's injury woes would continue to plague him. He only played in 44 games in 1990-91 and 26 games in 1991-92. It was obviously a very frustrating time for both Normand and the Rangers.

The Rangers didn't offer the injury plagued blueliner a contract at the end of the 1992 season. In fact no team did, and he ended up playing that year in Germany. The Tampa Bay Lightning gave Rochefort his invitation back to the NHL but it was short lived. He only played in 6 games with the Bolts, and spent most of an injury free season in the minors.

Normand Rochefort loved to play the game. And he only knew how to play one way - full out. However his fragile body wouldn't allow him to thrive at the style. However Rochefort came back from several rehab stints because he loved the game so much.

After his NHL days were done he continued to play in the IHL. Rochefort enjoyed some relatively injury free seasons while in the minors. Well many scoff at long time ex-NHLers who extend their career by playing in the minors, Rochefort could care less. He just loved to play hockey, no matter what the level.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP