John LeClair was in his fifth NHL season when he feels his career really began.
On Feb. 9, 1995, LeClair, a depth forward with the Montreal Canadiens, was traded, along with defenseman Eric Desjardins and forward Gilbert Dionne, to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Mark Recchi.
LeClair was installed at left wing on a line with center Eric Lindros and right wing Mikael Renberg, and developed into one of the top U.S.-born goal-scorers in NHL history.
"I turned into a different player, getting traded and having the opportunity," LeClair said. "Being able to play with them, confidence is a big thing. You play with them, you have some success and your confidence grows."
LeClair (6-foot-3, 233 pounds), Lindros (6-4, 240) and Renberg (6-2, 235) became known as the "Legion of Doom," using their size, strength and skill to overwhelm opponents.
LeClair said he felt that chemistry in their second game together, when he scored a goal in a 3-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils.
"We played New Jersey up in New Jersey, that was the game where things started to go with [Renberg] and Eric," LeClair said. "We had a game with lots of chances. I scored my first goal as a Flyer, and you could tell there was some good chemistry there."
The line helped the Flyers end a five-season absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and reach the 1995 Eastern Conference Final and the 1997 Stanley Cup Final. From the day of the trade through the 1996-97 season, LeClair scored 126 goals, third in the League behind Jaromir Jagr (134) and Peter Bondra (128), and his 243 points were seventh.
"When I came to the Flyers I got the confidence in me as a player," LeClair said. "Playing with Eric and Mikael, I had some success and built that confidence."
The line was broken up after the Flyers lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1997 Cup Final, but LeClair still excelled. He became the only U.S.-born player (St. Albans, Vermont) with three straight 50-goal seasons (1995-98), part of a run of five straight seasons with at least 40. His 235 goals between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 were more than any player in the League.
LeClair finished his 16-season NHL career with 829 points (406 goals, 413 assists) in 967 regular-season games with the Canadiens, Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. He ranks ninth in goals and 15th in points among U.S.-born players. He helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1993, scoring overtime goals in Games 3 and 4 of the Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
He also helped U.S. win the gold medal at the 1996 World Cup and the silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
LeClair, 47, brings those experiences to his current job as a consultant with Sports Professional Management, the agency that represented him during his playing career, which ended after the 2006-07 season.
"I'm not an agent," LeClair said. "I do a lot of scouting for them. And a lot of consulting on what I think as far as potential clients and that kind of stuff."
Among the client list LeClair helps work with are Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, forward Brandon Saad of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug and forward William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Being able to play college hockey [four seasons at the University of Vermont], played Olympics, played for USA Hockey," LeClair said. "When I do talk to our guys I've got some basis of reference, because I've played a lot of stuff. I don't know everything, but I think through my experiences I can relate to some of the stuff they're going through. … Some of the times you're talking to these guys and you're looking for different ways to get through to them to phrase it that, 'It's not the end of the world,' or 'These are the kind of steps that happen as you progress through your career,' because I've been through it and countless other payers have been through it. But when you're going through it for the first time, it seems like it'll never end. It does help a little bit."
LeClair also recruits for the agency, advising on prospects from the bantam level through college. He said it requires some travel, but one benefit is being able to tailor his schedule around any family needs. That means he gets to spend quality time at home with his wife, or see his three children when he wants.
"My daughter is in college and the two boys are at prep school [in Connecticut]," LeClair said. "I've got a senior and junior in high school and a junior in college. … I get to spend a lot of time with my boys and my daughter, which I didn't when I was playing. Now I get a chance to catch up with those guys a little bit more."
LeClair coached his sons when they were younger and didn't rule out returning to coaching now that he and his wife are empty-nesters. But he said his current job keeps him satisfied and involved in the game.
'I enjoy meeting the kids and there's some real good kids out there," he said. "And I like the college game a lot. I think the college game is exciting. It's fun to go to. And you've seen the quality of play the last 10 years; it's good hockey at every level."