Jacob Leguerrier

MONTREAL – Looking to buy workout gear and support a great cause this spring?

Well, you can do both with Heartline Apparel, a clothing line for men and women's sports apparel founded by former Canadiens prospect Jacob LeGuerrier.

Fifty percent of profits will be donated to research centers worldwide, starting in Canada for now. The first drop raised a couple thousand dollars for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the next drop, slated for June 7, will see part of the profits go to the Montreal Heart Institute.

LeGuerrier, who was drafted by the Habs in 2019, has always had a keen eye for fashion, but starting a clothing line for charity to raise awareness on cardiovascular issues and support heart health research was certainly not on his bingo card back in 2022.

At the time, the young defenseman had a lot of time on his hands... unexpectedly. The Ontario native was diagnosed with myocarditis, a condition that causes the heart muscle to become inflamed and affects the organ's ability to pump blood. He developed this health issue following a bout with COVID-19.

The doctors' orders? Three to six months of rest and no physical activity.

Tough break for an athlete trying to make his mark in the pro ranks. LeGuerrier was a member of the Rockford IceHogs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the 2021-22 season with four AHL games and 45 ECHL games with the Indy Fuel under his belt.

"I was finally starting to feel good on the ice and in professional hockey, and then everything had been taken away, and none of it was in my control," he admitted.

As the popular proverb goes: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” LeGuerrier took that to heart; with his recovery process limiting his ability to engage in physical activity, especially in the early stages, he became a student of the game and watched as much hockey as he could. Eventually, LeGuerrier even decided to pursue a degree in Health Science at the University of Ottawa.

During this time, Heartline Apparel was born.

"I started making designs just for fun. I wasn't being serious at first," he explained. "But my brother's big in IT, so he kind of helped me build a website, and then we did a mini drop of clothing, just like a small amount of clothing to see how it'd go, and we sold everything in less than a week. So, it was pretty cool. […] I tried to take the positive side out of it and hopefully help people."

LeGuerrier has come a long way since his initial diagnosis, but the path to a full recovery has been more trial and error than one might expect. He has yet to play a hockey game.

"Everyone's different with their heart," LeGuerrier said. "You kind of just see how you feel the next day or after the exercise, or also during [a workout], I can tell if I'm going a little too hard. I've gotten better at that and now I think with the symptoms getting better and my test results are all good, I can push myself easily [physically] and mentally too."

Good days become great days when he can lace his skates with U of O's Gee-Gees varsity hockey team. He joined the U SPORTS squad upon enrolling at the university.

"This year I went to all the home games, and I was practicing with them for most practices, either with them or doing my own thing on the side to keep the intensity lower. […] It really helps to stay in that environment […]. Just forgetting about life when you're with those guys. So, it's been fun,” he said.

Playing hockey at the highest level possible remains his top priority: "All the professionals have told me I'll be able to return, so it's kind of just a matter of when," he said. If all goes well, his short-term goal is to get back into action with the Gee-Gees by Christmas 2024.

In the meantime, LeGuerrier will continue his foray into philanthropy with the hopes of raising awareness for cardiovascular health.

"[This experience] has shown me what people with heart problems have to go through every day. It really alters your life,” he said. “So, I thought I could hopefully make a change one day or grow the knowledge around this still [relatively] new virus that is affecting more hearts, especially in athletes since I'm not the only one this has happened to.”

To support LeGuerrier’s initiative and cardiovascular research, click here. Heartline Apparel ships across North America.