The NHL Lockout is such a burden on things. It’s lame. It’s killing the sport we love. It’s unfortunate. It’s been 12 days since the NHL locked its doors, but it feels like it’s been much longer than that.
Without hockey, all we really have is an opportunity to reminisce. As an Islanders fan, especially as an Islanders fan, it’s probably the last thing we want to do. We want results now, and the only thing the NHL is doing for us is delaying the now.
Taking a look into the past, there were several Islanders that always stuck in my mind. I started going to games during the 1995-96 season, and although there were several terrible teams since then, it never stopped Islanders fans from separating the good and the bad players. Even on these terrible teams, we still had our fan-favorites. Some of these guys have been long gone, and some have been long forgotten.
Well, in my room, I have two hockey sticks signed by the entire 2000-01 Islanders team. One of the sticks belonged to fan-favorite Steve Webb, who I’m not going to talk about today. The other stick? It belonged to Claude Lapointe. Ah, Claude. He was always one of my favorite Islanders, and he’s also one that hasn’t been mentioned in years. For those who remember him, let’s take a look back, and for those who never got a chance to watch him, let me say that he was a true Islander.
When I see #13 on the Islanders, I don’t think of Bill Guerin or Rob Schremp. I think of Claude Lapointe. The first Islanders player to wear #13, Lapointe was the heart and soul of the New York Islanders during his tenure in New York.
His tenure began when the Islanders were coming off a 22-win, 54-point 1995-96 NHL Season. Captain Patrick Flatley left the Islanders to play for the Rangers, Mike Milbury and Rick Bowness made appearances as the Islanders head coach, and the Islanders had Todd Bertuzzi in the line-up. There was not much to look forward to on Long Island, yet Claude came over from the Calgary Flames organization after he had been acquired from the Avalanche, who drafted him, when they were still in Quebec, 234th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
When Claude Lapointe first stepped on to Nassau Coliseum ice, Islanders fans were immediately introduced to his desire and willingness to work hard. Claude was the heart of a team that featured Zigmund Palffy, Robert Reichel, and Derek King.
He was tireless. He was the Islanders energy player before Jason Blake arrived on the Island. He was the little guy. At 5’9, Lapointe played with the bruisers in the NHL, and put his body and soul on the ice every single night.
Lapointe was also consistent. In his 15 NHL Seasons, Claude Lapointe ranked top-3 in the league in face-off percentage. In his 6 full seasons with the Islanders, Lapointe scored no less than 9 goals, and at least 10 goals during his first 4 seasons. Lapointe scored a career-high of 37 points during the 1998-99 season. He was the ultimate role-player on a very bad team.
He also stuck with us. In 2000, Lapointe had every opportunity to bolt the Islanders, but instead, signed a 3-year extension. When the Islanders turned it around during the 2001-02 Season, Lapointe was only 1 of 3 Islanders that remained from his first year in New York. The Islanders made it to the Playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Lapointe was named one of the three stars the night the Islanders clinched against the Capitals. The other two stars were the other two guys remaining from his first year: Kenny Jonsson and Steve Webb.
Lapointe cried. He was part of a team that turned the corner. That season was still the Islanders best season since I’ve been watching this team.
“It was tough at some times, but sometimes the grass is not greener on the other side.”
Claude Lapointe stated this when he was talking about his decision to stay here. He showed loyalty to this franchise, something that several other players are showing as they sign for long-term deals to play on the Island.
One day, despite his troubles that landed him in the NHL’s substance abuse program and then out of the NHL, I hope to see Claude Lapointe in the Islanders Hall-of-Fame. He was the heart and soul of this team through the good and bad. He was there when the Islanders drew 1,000 people, and then again when they drew 16,247. Never forget #13.
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Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants