Curtis Leschyshyn

I watched Curtis Leschyshyn's career with a special curiosity.

The Quebec Nordiques drafted Leschysyhn third overall in 1988. That was a special draft for me, as I eagerly anticipated the first overall battle between Mike Modano and Trevor Linden. I had so immersed my young mind into the debate, hoping against hope that somehow my Vancouver Canucks would get Linden (which they did!), and completely disregarding any other top candidate that when Quebec stepped up to the podium with third pick and announced Curtis Leschyshyn's name with the third pick I anti-climatically asked, "Who?"

It turns out to have been a silly question. He would go on to a NHL career spanning well over 1000 games. Though he never achieved much of an offensive game that may have been expected of him, he was a very competent NHL defender.

Leschyshyn was a jack of all hockey trades, yet a master of none. Without that one specialty detractors increased their argument that he was a draft bust. True, third overall turned out to be a bit lofty, but how do you play in 1000 games and be considered a draft disappointment?

Leschyshyn was a solid defenseman, confidently taking care of business in his own end. He was strong with the puck, making good passing decisions, especially out of the zone, while somehow failing to accumulate a lot of assists. He rarely jumped into the play, and did not take a lot of shots. He possessed very good physical strength, yet did not crash his weight around the rink in any noticeable fashion. He preferred to adequately do his job, keeping the action to the outside of slot. He had a quiet intensity, seemingly playing calm even under the most stormy of attacks. That was Curtis Leschyshyn. Good.

Good enough to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. It was a great reward for Leschyshyn, who had endured both some really weak teams in Quebec and the franchise's transfer to Colorado.

"We had a very young team and we had guys who had a lot of fun,” said Leschyshyn. “I think it was all a part of learning how to play in the NHL and what it took. We played teams some nights and we would get blasted 8-1 and other nights when we competed we were right in it right to the last minute of the game. As I look back at it now I would not change anything. It allowed us to become the team we were in Colorado .”

Born in Thompson, Manitoba, Leschyshyn grew up in the farming town of Langham, Saskatchewan where he was lucky enough to skate for free at the local arena.

"After school, my brother (Kevin) and I would go home, get our equipment and walk half a city block to the arena," remembers Leschyshyn in an interview with Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen in 2002.. "We could play whenever we wanted. It was always free ice. We would even referee games for money. When I was 12, I would referee the seven- and eight-year-old games. I pretty much lived at the rink.

The arena was aged and cold, but the boys loved it.

"It was an indoor rink, but it was natural ice inside a big wooden barn. Man, was it cold. There was no Zamboni, of course. Our Zamboni was having parents with shovels. They shovelled the snow into augers. We had a water tank on wheels. That's how we flooded the ice."

He grew into a top prospect in the hockey crazed province, interestingly as a scoring center. The WHL Saskatoon Blades placed the 17 year old on their protection list and he impressed in his first training camp.

Then an interesting thing happened - two veteran Blades defensemen broke their ankles. Leschyshyn was asked to try skating on defense. The rookie was not about to say no, and gave it his best try. He made the team, and two years later was the highest picked defenseman in the NHL draft

Leschyshyn kept his game simple. When asked, he described his own game as quiet.

“I have not put up huge numbers or created a stir with my play, that's for sure. But I would like to think that consistency has kept me around and I think every night you know what you will get from me. I try to work as hard as possible and lead in that regard. 'Quiet' might be a good description. "

When asked if he ever thought he would last so long in the NHL, Leschyshyn answered:

"I would be the first one to tell you I thought I would never play this many games, that is for sure. I do not think, when I first started, I put a ‘time' down for a goal. You just want to compete and obviously when you are young you want to be around for a long time but you never say 15, 20 years is what you are shooting for. You just want to play each and every game as hard as you can and be around for awhile. I think that was the attitude I had; play as hard as you can and just don't let anything slip through your fingers by being lazy or a lack of effort.”


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