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Laperriere a whole different guy off the ice

Sunday, 03.22.2009 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

The Colorado Avalanche dressing room was more crowded than usual following a recent practice, though not because of a surplus of media members, many of whom abandoned the struggling team weeks ago.

About a dozen current and former patients from The Children's Hospital in Denver, along with family members, strolled through the room to pose for pictures with players who happily chatted with the youngsters and signed autographs.

Not surprisingly, forward Ian Laperriere's locker was the most popular destination for the kids. A hard-nosed agitator on the ice, "Lappy" is a soft touch away from the rink, especially when it comes to children.

"Everybody stopped by and talked to the kids and put a smile on their face," he says. "I just can't imagine being in their shoes. For me and my teammates, we know we're lucky in life, being in the NHL. If we can change these kids' lives for even a minute ...

"My dad passed away with pancreatic cancer five years ago. When he got sick, it made me realize that I had to do more. It made me realize that I was in a situation where I can do more.

"If I can help a kid go through a day or a week or a month without thinking as much about an illness, I'll do it. But all my teammates will do it, too. That's what great about hockey players, I guess."

Laperriere freely admits to having, well, a split personality. There is the rugged, in-your-face pest that skates for the Avalanche, and there is the sensitive family man that is heavily involved in charitable causes.

"You can't be a (jerk) on the ice and a (jerk) off the ice," he says. "I don't want to be like that. I want to be the best human being I can be. On the ice, it's a game, a job. Off the ice, I can be whoever I want to be, and who I want to be is the best person I can be.

"I'm just a regular guy off the ice, a family guy. But when I put my skates on, I know I have a job to do and I do the best that I can, to be an energy guy. If I stop hitting guys, I'll be out of a job."

Whether speaking in English or French, the Montreal native is never at a loss for words. His outgoing nature has helped make him a favorite among teammates, fans and reporters.

"He's one of the best teammates I ever played with," says Minnesota Wild forward Andrew Brunette, who spent three seasons with Laperriere in Colorado. "He's always in a good mood. He's lively, he's upbeat.

"He's contagious. He's fun. He knows when it's time to get serious, but one of his best traits is making fun of himself. It's fun to be around a guy that enjoys laughing at himself. I miss playing with him. I had a lot of fun playing with him for three years."

Laperriere, 35, is in his 14th NHL season, his fourth with the Avalanche after signing as a free agent in July 2004. Though he scored a career-high 21 goals with the Avalanche in 2005-06, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is hardly an offensive machine.

He's netted as many as 10 goals in a season only three times and, through 64 games this season, has 7 goals, 11 assists and 126 penalty minutes, eclipsing the century mark in that department for the 11th time.

Laperriere's main duties include providing energy on the fourth line -- he can play all three forward positions -- killing penalties and using his fists to stick up for teammates when he feels the need.

He takes his role as an assistant captain seriously, constantly talking to teammates on the bench and in the dressing room, using encouragement and constructive criticism to get his points across.

"I like to be a leader on and off the ice, especially with a young team like we have this year," Laperriere says. "You want to push them on the ice, but I think it's more important to push them the right way off the ice. I know what it takes to be a successful NHL player, how to behave off the ice, to stay out of trouble."

"If I can help a kid go through a day or a week or a month without thinking as much about an illness, I'll do it. But all my teammates will do it, too. That's what great about hockey players, I guess." -- Ian Laperriere
Laperriere credits his parents, Michel and Francine, for the way he carries himself and would be thrilled if he and his wife Magali influence their two young sons, Tristan and Zachary, in similar fashion.

"I am who I am today because of my parents," he says. "If I'm half the dad that my dad was, I'll be a hell of a dad. And my mom's a great mom. Even today, if I say something she doesn't like, she'll call me on it."

Though he amassed impressive numbers in junior hockey, averaging 43 goals, 127 points and 169 penalty minutes his final two seasons with Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Laperriere has survived this long in the NHL on grit and hard work.

"'Lappy' doesn't take the NHL for granted," Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote says. "He's worked hard for it. He knows what hard work is all about and he's been rewarded for it. He knows how to carry himself as a pro. He plays with a lot of passion and he wants to win. I think everyone can see that by the way he plays. He'll take a puck in the face -- anywhere -- for you. He'll stick up for a teammate.

"He's a pain in the butt to play against. You'd much rather have him on your side, but I respected him as an opponent. He respects the game."

Says Brunette: "You know he's going to play hard every night, every shift. You know he's going to stick up for every guy on his team. He's a good player. People kind of forget that about him. They see him as a penalty killer or as an agitator, but he can play. I think his hockey IQ is very high."

Because the Avalanche are likely to miss the playoffs and Laperriere is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, his name was often mentioned in trade rumors before the March 4 NHL trading deadline.

No one was happier than Laperriere, or his legion of fans, when the Avalanche chose not to swing a deal.

"People kind of stood up and they were saying, 'No, don't trade him.' It made me feel really good," he says. "I've liked it here right from the get-go and this is where I want to finish my career. When people came up to me and they said they liked me and didn't want me to leave ... it was very flattering.

"I guess maybe a lot of NHL players don't like me, which is part of my job. But when you're liked by the fans and your teammates, that's all that really matters to me."

Quote of the Day

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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