Saturday

Dunc Wilson

Dunc was as many other goalies considered to be a little odd. He never seemed to be bothered by anything. Defeat not only rested lightly on his shoulders. Often, it didn't rest there at all. He was always loved by the media because he could always be counted on to deliver the mandatory quote from the loser's dressing room with a smile, and usually it was funny. This attitude was of course not very popular among the coaches and might be one of the reasons why he played for 3 junior clubs in 5 seasons and 5 NHL clubs in 10 seasons.

Dunc was born in Toronto and played for Oshawa, Niagara Falls and Peterborough as a junior. He was claimed by Philadelphia from Boston in a special internal amateur draft. He made his NHL debut for Philadelphia during the 1969-70 season appearing in only one game. He spend the rest of the time playing for the Quebec Aces of the AHL.

The Vancouver Canucks claimed Dunc in the 1970 expansion draft. Dunc spend the next three seasons in Vancouver, a place that he really liked. He loved go fishing in the Pacific and mingle around with local celebrities, especially in the music business.

But Dunc could not find a good barber in Vancouver. He had shoulder length hair, which didn't suit Canucks coach Hal Laycoe at all. Dunc later said that the coach didn't rate him by his ability to stop pucks but judged him on the hair and what he was doing off the ice. Several teammates agreed with Dunc.

The writing was on the wall and soon Dunc got traded to Toronto for Larry McIntyre and Murray Heatley on May 29, 1973. In Toronto he had to share the duties with veterans Eddie Johnston and Doug Favell. The three-goalie system didn't give any of the goalies enough ice time, but Dunc played well during the 24 games, recording a 2.79 GAA.

It didn't take long before a rift developed between the coach, Hall of Famer Red Kelly and his goalie. Kelly even bought Dunc a tie to wear on road trips to conform to a club edict. Dunc ditched the Kelly neckwear and wore one of his own - a boot-lace western style model to match his plaid shirt.

The final blow was when Toronto went on a west coast road trip where they were trashed by Los Angeles 8-0 and California 6-1. Some of the guys had a "first-class" team party between the games and when the team were on their way to Vancouver to conclude the road trip, Dunc was asked if he expected a large contingent of fans at the airport to welcome him back.

" I doubt it," he smiled. "But the boys from the North Vancouver booze store undoubtedly will call."

On top of that Dunc missed a curfew, and when Toronto returned from the road trip he was suspended. The NY Rangers eventually claimed him on waivers.

Dunc played a total of 23 games for the Rangers until it was time to move again. Dunc admitted that he hadn't changed that much. "I can't go around being serious all the time and looking down in the dumps at the appropriate times," he said. "I still live the same. I still like rock music, my family, cracking a jar occasionally and having a few laughs."

Dunc was traded to Pittsburgh at the start of the 1976-77 season and had a splendid season, posting a 2.73 GAA in 45 games. It was probably the comeback of the year. Yet, as always, Dunc lasted one more season before Pittsburgh shipped him back to Vancouver where he first had established himself.

Even though Dunc was happy to be back in Vancouver he only played 17 games in the 1978-79 season. It was his last season and he retired 31-years old. Dunc appeared in a total of 287 NHL games, with a career 3.74 GAA.

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Thursday

Dan Bouchard

Patrick Roy's brilliance in nets, especially while with the Montreal Canadiens, established himself as the hero of a generation Quebecois goaltenders.

But did you ever wonder who served as Patrick Roy's idol?

The answer would be Dan Bouchard, a fiery goaltender out of Val d'Or, Quebec best remembered for playing with the Atlanta Flames and later the Quebec Nordiques. Interestingly Roy's first ever NHL shutout came with Bouchard playing at the other end of the ice.

From an early age Dan Bouchard wanted to be a professional hockey player, just like his father. George Bouchard played defense in the American Hockey League, most notably with the Cleveland Barons and Eddie Shore's Springfield Indians. He quit in 1960 and returned to Quebec to raise his family. George would take a job laboring at a brewery for the next 25 years.

The elder Bouchard always kept hockey close to him. In fact he died while playing a recreational game. He passed on his love of hockey to his family. Dan and brother Guy would both make it to the pros as goaltenders, although only Dan would enjoy a NHL career.

Dan first caught NHL attention as a junior. In 1968-69 he captured the Jacques Plante trophy for lowest GAA while leading the QMJHL's Sorel Black Hawks to a Memorial Cup experience. He would switch to London of the Ontario League the following year before being drafted by the Boston Bruins drafted him 27th overall in 1970.

The next two years Bouchard spent apprenticing in the minor leagues. The Bruins were deep in nets with the likes of Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnstone, so they allowed Bouchard proper time to hone his craft. But Bouchard was in a hurry, and set the league on its head while leading the league in wins and shutouts and leading the Boston Braves to a regular season title in 1971-72.

Bouchard would never get a chance to play in Boston. The NHL expanded and in the summer of 1972 the Atlanta Flames were quick to select the hot goalie prospect in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft. He would go on to become synonymous with Atlanta hockey, and one of their key players.

Bouchard very well may have been the most important player in the short history of the Atlanta Flames. With his effective butterfly stance he was able to post very respectable numbers during the regular season, including a league best 32 wins in 1978-79, but the team was never able to garner any post season success. That fact probably will forever separate Dan Bouchard from the other elite goalies of his era. He holds practically every significant goaltender record in Atlanta Flames history.

Though he was and still remains a fan favorite in Atlanta, he was not always a favorite of his teammates and coaches. He was very fiery, very argumentative and admittedly too cocky. He quickly gained a reputation as a troublemaker and a poor leader. He never warmed himself to the media either, often ducking interviews. In many ways Bouchard was his own worst enemy.

Through it all, even the franchise's relocation to Calgary, Dan Bouchard remained the Flames goalie. That changed soon after the team's arrival in Alberta. He was playing less frequently and he was frustrated with what he called communication problems with the team. As the team left on a two week road trip, Bouchard was left behind and told to wait for a trade.

That wait may have been the best thing that ever happened to Dan Bouchard. Even though he was spiraling into a deep depression, he quickly found his salvation in the bible. He had always attended church as a kid, in the same way many of us did - reluctantly. But now he was actually reading the scriptures and suddenly finding inner piece.

This turn around was all rather quick in happening. Before the Flames' returned from their road trip Bouchard began practicing with a Calgary area junior team. Soon enough he found he was traded to the Quebec Nordiques.

From 1981 through 1985 Dan Bouchard was the Nords top goaltender. Again, playoff success was not to be found, and his numbers ballooned like most goalies in the high scoring 1980s. But armed with a new found inner peace, Bouchard enjoyed his time in Quebec.

The Nordiques brought in young Mario Gosselin in 1985, pushing Bouchard back to the sidelines. He would play another year in the NHL with Winnipeg before a short stint in Switzerland in 1986-87. He would retire and relocate back to Georgia.

Nowadays Dan Bouchard, along with former Bruins star Cam Neely, has invested into a credit card processing business. He also remains very active in hockey, teaching hockey to kids in Atlanta.

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Sunday

Reggie Lemelin

Rejean "Reggie" Lemelin was one of a number of goalies from the 1980s that always perplexed me.

Though goaltending in the 1980s is historically regarded as weak at best, Reggie was an above average goalie who was capable of great performances. Yet he was never able to truly establish himself as an elite goalie, like say Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith and Ron Hextall. Instead Lemelin was regarded to be a level below that, along with names like Bob Froese, Bob Sauve, Brian Hayward, and former teammates Pat Riggin and even Andy Moog. I'm even inclined to include Pete Peeters on this list.

Lemelin was an old-school stand up goalie. That style is basically instinct today, but it was still accepted practice back then, and Lemelin excelled at playing his angles and directing pucks into the corners. In many ways he was blocking shots rather than saving them. By virtue of his playing style he often made stops seem easier than they probably were.

The problem with that theory of goaltending of course is the goalie is very susceptible if he has to move around. Force the goalie to move and he will lose his angles, and Lemelin fit this textbook definition of stand up goalie to a tee as well. Though he had great balance and was quick when forced to scramble while off his feet, he was slow in moving across his crease and often relied on the unreliable stacked-pads attempt to stop 2 on 1's.

Drafted by Philadelphia way back in 1974, Lemelin signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Flames in 1978. He did not become a Flames regular goalie until 1980-81, the first year the Flames relocated to Calgary.

Though he was a constant in the Calgary crease for much of the 1980s, he could never secure himself the #1 starting goalies job. Not even after his magical 1983-84 season where he went unbeaten in 19 straight games and was voted as runner up to Buffalo rookie sensation Tom Barrasso for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the league. Lemelin was even asked to play for Team Canada at the 1984 Canada Cup following his 21-12-9 season, and would improve his numbers in 1985-86.

Correctly believing organizational depth was a key to success, the Flames always had someone pushing Lemelin for playing time. There was Pat Riggin, Don Edwards, and finally Mike Vernon, who would finally establish himself as the undisputed king of the Calgary crease.

In 1987-88 Lemelin was moved to Boston where he was essential in their voyage to the Stanley Cup finals. Most people will of course remember the Bruins started Andy Moog for the final series against Moog's old Edmonton Oilers teammates. But Lemelin actually played the lion's share of games that post season, posting a 11-6 record in 17 post season games.

Lemelin would remain in Boston until 1993. As time went by his status as the back up goalie behind Moog was cemented. Regardless, the Bruins featured one of the strongest tandems and therefore strongest teams in the early 1990s. The Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup finals in 1990, but would once again fall short to the Oilers.

Lemelin would hang up his skates for good in 1993, famously saying that he knew it was time to retire when his teammates were asking him for permission to date his daughter. (by the way, Lemelin's daughter is actress Stephanie Lemelin.) In actuality, Lemelin chose to retire rather than accept Boston's decision to demote him to the minor leagues.

Lemelin would go on to the world of coaching after his playing days. In 1993-94 he was the goalie coach in St. Louis before moving the next season to Philadelphia where he would serve as the long time goaltending consultant.

I guess history will not be as kind to Reggie Lemelin as perhaps it should be. He was an above average goalie, and for a couple of seasons he may even have been elite. But success and therefore that magical defining moment was tough to find. Consider this - Lemelin was the back up goalie for 3 Stanley Cup finals. Perhaps that is his defining moment.

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