Luck was not on Pascal Leclaire’s side during his NHL career.
Throughout a six-year career, Leclaire suffered numerous injuries that held him back from cementing a a No. 1 goaltending job in the NHL for more than a handful of seasons.
Following the 2010-11 season, Leclaire was a free agent, trying to find a fit for himself with an NHL team. The phone didn't ring as he'd hoped, and after a long, fruitless wait for the right opportunity, Leclaire decided to retire before the 2011-12 season.
His next step was to give back to the people who had been his eyes and ears in the ‘less fun’ parts of his playing career: he became an agent and remains in practice today.
“I started working for Newport Sports as an agent out in Quebec,” Leclaire told BlueJackets.com. “These guys were taking care of me during my career, so when I retired I wanted to help (other players). We take care of the young players in Quebec and Toronto.”
Leclaire is currently assisting with an orientation camp for young hockey players in Canada, which falls under the "giving back" category and also gives him a rare opportunity to lace up the skates again.
“We’re doing a three-day orientation camp, just exposing them to some training and a whole bunch of different stuff,” he explained. “We can give them a chance to see what to expect at the different levels that they’re going to have to face, so it’s good for them, and it’s good for us. That’s pretty much the only time I’m on the ice, when we do work with some of our guys.”
Leclaire played for just one other team other than the Blue Jackets (Ottawa), and he looks back fondly on the five years spent in Columbus with the Blue Jackets.
He served as a backup to Marc Denis for just one season, but the two still remain close friends to this day. They aren’t able to see each other very often because of their hectic work and travel schedules, and now especially so after Leclaire got married just two weeks ago.
Leclaire was frequently a dinner guest of the Denis family, a gesture that gave him the comforts of home while living an uncertain life as a young NHL player.
“I have a great relationship with Marc and I still see him every once in a while,” Leclaire said. “He works on RDS covering the Canadiens on TV, so whenever I go to the Bell Centre and watch a game, I usually see him.
“I think we had a great relationship. He was really generous of his time and was never shy to share anything with me to give me a break or help me out. He’s a great guy too, even off the ice. His family will welcome me a lot for dinner when I was living at the hotel. He became a great friend quickly.”
A regular topic brought up by former Blue Jackets players has been the fans’ enthusiasm through the thick and thin. Leclaire is no different, and said he loved the atmosphere that Nationwide Arena and the Arena District brought to the city and the organization as a whole.
Leclaire said that he doesn’t necessarily follow the Blue Jackets as intently as he would like to, but the Blue Jackets still remain important to him and he hopes for continued success for the entire organization.
“I always look at the scores in the mornings and see where they are in the standings,” Leclaire said. “I followed them quite a bit when Rick Nash was still there...we were roommates for four years, so he’s still a real good buddy of mine."
Leclaire said that Blue Jackets fans deserve nothing less than a winner on the ice, and he believes that they’re on the right track to do so.
“I think it’s great for the city, they’ve waited a long time for this,” Leclaire said. “Hopefully it can create a buzz, I think Columbus is a great hockey city, the fans are passionate there. Obviously when you have a winning team on the ice, it’s awesome. It will keep people coming back to the rink as long they keep winning.
“I have only good things to say about Columbus. I really want the organization to do well. It’s a first-class organization that deserves to be in the mix every year. The fans that watch the games deserve to have a good team so they can enjoy themselves. The future looks great for them.”