The Blue Jackets drafted Pascal Leclaire in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft as the eight overall pick. Through five years with the organization, he played 125 games for Columbus. His strongest season was 2007-08 when he earned the fourth highest save percentage in a season among all Blue Jackets goaltenders (.919), tied for the franchise's fourth highest number of wins by a goalie (24), and the second most shutouts (9).
After his time in Columbus, Leclaire played for the Ottawa Senators before eventually retiring due to injury. Today, he lives in Quebec and works in player development for Newport Sports Management.
We caught up with him while he was, of all places, at a rink watching a hockey game.
BlueJackets.com: What are your favorite memories as a Blue Jacket?
Leclaire: The first memory that comes to mind is my first official day as a Blue Jacket when I heard my name at the Draft in Florida. It was such a big day for me. It's special because you're surrounded by your family and friends and now you know "this is going to be my team."
There are a lot of memories of being part of that team. We were a young group, and we were coming in and trying to get better every year. These are things that, hockey-wise, were really fun.
I also remember my first game in Phoenix (on February 20, 2014). We lost that one, but the first weekend there when it becomes official that you're playing in the NHL, that was very special.
BlueJackets.com: After your on-ice career ended, you found a new way to work in hockey. What do you do today?
Leclaire: I work as an agent with Newport Sports Management. They are the company that represented me when I played. When I retired, they asked me if I wanted to get involved and help the players at the junior level.
I focus on player development. I go watch the players play and try to share my experience not only with the players but with the family so that it will one day help them find that first NHL contact so they have a chance to play professional hockey.
BlueJackets.com: Your time with the Blue Jackets started some special friendships for you too. Who are you still in touch with?
Leclaire: Marc Denis and I became friends during my time in Columbus. Now Marc works for RDS, the TV station that covers the Montreal Canadiens, so I see him once and a while. He's also involved in junior hockey so I see him through my work. We catch up every time we see each other.
Rick Nash and I roomed together for four years and we became pretty good friends. We still text each other, we both have kids now, (Leclaire and his wife are the proud parents of an 19-month-old daughter), so we don't talk about hockey as much as we talk about baby tricks and the little ones. Our wives get along well. We try to see each other once a year, it's not always easy but we try.
BlueJackets.com: Working with young hockey players, what are the most important lessons you share with them?
Leclaire: The first thing is it needs to be fun. Hockey is a game at first. Sometimes it becomes a business at an early age and that's a bad thing. It should stay a game first, and I'm a strong believer that if you love what you do, you're going to have no problem working hard at it, so take it step by step and be patient with it.
After that, you've got to work hard at the sport like anything else. It's no different than someone who wants to work at a bank and become president of the bank, you've got to work hard and make sacrifices. You have to be passionate about it and have fun. That's all you can control and then see what happens.
BlueJackets.com: Are you able to keep tabs on how the Blue Jackets are doing?
Leclaire: With how the team performed last season, it was good to see them have a lot of coverage. Being in Montreal, it's a hockey crazy city and obviously the Blue Jackets were talked about a lot more frequently than the past few years.
I couldn't keep in as much touch as I would have liked because I spend so much time watching hockey games that I don't watch as many NHL games as I used to. After all, I try to keep my life level, I need to do baby sitting and help with my daughter!
Fans can meet Leclaire at the Dublin Irish Festival on August 4th and 5th! Click here for more information.