The former NHL forward, who is currently an executive with the Colorado Avalanche, played for Los Angeles on two occasions – from 1994-96 and again for a short period during the 1998-99 campaign, the club’s final one at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood. In all he totaled 144 games with the Kings while recording 49 points and 176 penalty minutes.
A feisty forward (see irritator; see agitator; see get-under-your-skin) who played a physical game, Lacroix overall played in nearly 500 career NHL games with the Kings, Avalanche, Senators, Maple Leafs and Rangers. During one three-year stretch he recorded 50 goals total and during the ’96-97 campaign he played in 17 postseason contests with the Avs.
A native of Montreal, LAKings.com recently caught up with Lacroix and asked him these questions:
Q: What was your fondest memory of playing in Los Angeles?
A: “For me it all was great. It was all new. It was really my first time playing in the NHL. I only played in Toronto for a few games so being here everything was the best. Wayne Gretzky obviously comes to mind; Barry Melrose and Rob Blake and all those guys. Just being a part of this. The fans are so great. They make you feel right at home. Being a kid from Montreal, being in LA was something new for me. Just the interaction with the fans and probably playing on the same team as Wayne Gretzky, is probably the biggest thing.”
Q: How did you develop as a player while in the Kings organization?
A: “I was very lucky. Barry Melrose gave me a chance right away and I felt good about that. I think when you feel wanted and appreciated by your coach it always makes your play on the ice develop a little quicker than if you’re going out there and you’re scared to make mistakes. I felt good about that. Barry kind of pushed me out there and I’ll always be grateful for Barry Melrose, that’s for sure, because he gave me that chance... There were definitely great memories for me. I’ll never forget my years here for sure.”
Q: What is your proudest moment in hockey?
A: “For me it’s probably scoring my first NHL goal as an LA King. I think you always remember that. It was so surreal and outstanding and fun at the old Forum there. I’ll always remember that and I’ll say that’s probably my biggest memory.”
Q: You’ve held a number of hockey related jobs since retiring. What is it like to remain involved the sport?
A: “I’ve always said I’ve wanted to stay in hockey and I’ve been very fortunate to stick around. Obviously with the family relationship there in Colorado it’s always been good to go back home, sort of speak. My wife’s from there and my father [Colorado Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix] is there. Obviously with kids now it’s a great thing to have their grandparents around. It’s been good. From the coaching side of things to the hockey operations side of things, it’s always been good to me. I love being part of a team. It’s not as good as playing on the ice, but you still feel part of it and part of the rush of the wins and losses and I think that’s what keeps me ticking. I don’t know any different. I’ve been fortunate, like I’ve said, to work in this league for a long time though.”
Q: What is your role now as the Director of Hockey Operations with the Colorado Avalanche?
A: “It’s kind of an extension of the coaching staff a little bit when you think about. I’m with the team 24 hours a day, whether at home or on the road. I’m the eye in the sky during the games for the coaches. I also deal with everything that relates to the day-to-day operation with the club. It’s fun. We’re a tight knit group here. It’s not a very big staff, but it’s a tight knit group and it’s fun.”
Q: How is being in the front office different from playing?
A: “I’d be lying to you if I said I don’t miss playing. I do miss playing. It’s the greatest thing. It’s the greatest job in the world, if you want to call it a job. Being a part of the camaraderie of the players and in the locker room; just being part of a group to go out there and win hockey games is hard to beat. Being part of the front office is kind of the same thing more on a miniature scale. Instead of having 23 teammates or friends it’s more six or seven. It’s on a smaller scale but it’s the same thing. You go through the same brushes, but obviously nothing beats playing.”
Q: What have you learned now that you’re on the other side of an organization?
A: “It sounds cliché but you’ve got to stay even keel. You can’t go with the highs and you can’t go with the lows. You’re going to have highs and you’re going to have lows as a franchise. I think it’s the same thing as a player. Sometimes you’ll go through slumps and you can’t panic. As long as you try to stay even keel, you’ll get out of your slump somehow. I think it’s the same thing in management.”
Q: Have you set any goals for yourself for the future?
A: “I’ve never won a Stanley Cup, as a player or part of a franchise. My father’s got two up on me so it’s always a big subject. I’m down two so it’s hard. I would say it’s the ultimate goal. I think that’s why you get up in the morning; to one day win that Stanley Cup and have your name on it. That would be a great achievement for sure.”
Interview conducted by Ryan Kantor
•Another former King – Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy – will be featured on LAKings.com on Thursday