John LeClair was a second-round draft pick in 1987 for the Montreal Canadiens, 33rd overall. He joined the Canadiens straight out of college and spent five seasons with the team. His tenure peaked in 1993 with a conquest of the Stanley Cup, scoring four goals and adding six assists in 20 playoff games that year.
On February 9, 1995, Canadiens general manager Serge Savard traded LeClair to the Philadelphia Flyers with Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionne for Mark Recchi and Philadelphia’s third-round choice in the 1995 Entry Draft.
At the time, the trade was justified by the fact that the Canadiens were getting a 40-goal scorer in Recchi, something that the team had been looking for since being eliminated the previous season in the first round against the Boston Bruins. Giving up defenceman Desjardins was considered the primary piece in the deal.
Despite two consecutive 19-goal seasons in Montreal, LeClair was unable to shake the reputation of a player who could not find the next gear, and therefore he was seen as throw-in for the Flyers to sweeten the deal.
Few could have predicted that the trade would go down among the worst by the Canadiens ever. After the move, LeClair went on to have three consecutive 50-goal seasons with the Flyers as part of the feared Legion of Doom with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg, while Desjardins continued to be a top-pairing defenceman. Recchi, for his part, would never hit the 40-goal mark with Montreal, and was traded back to Philadelphia four years later for Dainius Zubrus.
On February 2, 2019, almost 23 years after the trade, LeClair will once again be wearing a Habs jersey when he plays in his first game with the Montreal Canadiens Alumni Association. It will be in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni in Belleville at the CAA Arena.
The game will be raising proceeds for the United Way Hastings & Prince Edward and will include two full rosters of recognizable names.
Coach: Guy Lafleur
Goaltender: Richard Sévigny
Defencemen: Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Dandenault, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mike Weaver
Forwards: Guy Carbonneau, John LeClair, Oleg Petrov, Chris Nilan, Pierre Dagenais
Maple Leafs Alumni
Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Wendel Clark, Steve Thomas, Gary Leeman, Rick Vaive, Al Iafrate, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus, Ric Nattress, Mike Zigomanis, Mike Kostka, and Nik Antropov.
Of note, Leeman, Daoust, and Nattress also played for the Canadiens, and should feel bad for wearing the Leafs’ blue and white.
As part of this Super Bowl Weekend celebration of the storied history between the Habs and Leafs, we’re giving away a jersey signed by the alumni. To enter the contest, leave a comment below discussing your top memory of one of the players who will be participating in the game.
(Note that the jersey was signed at a previous Alumni game and may not be signed by all players above. Likewise, some players not listed may be on the jersey)