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by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Center Pierre Turgeon
One of hockey's great ambassadors has left the game after nearly 20 years of service.

Pierre Turgeon announced Wednesday that he would be hanging up his skates.  Leg injuries limited Turgeon to just 17 games last season with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Buffalo Sabres first overall selection in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Turgeon continued as a member of the team until 1991-92.    Wearing a Sabres sweater for 322 games, Turgeon scored 122 goals and added 201 assists for 323 points until his departure.

"I distinctly remember when he arrived in Buffalo out of juniors," commented play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret.  "He was much heralded because he scored a ton of goals in his couple of years in juniors in the Quebec league (165 goals in 168 games over three seasons).

"But the thing that I remember most about him was that he didn't speak a word of English.  He was very, very limited in that regard, and on top of that, he was a shy kid.  It took him a while to blend in with the team."

But once Turgeon became acclimated to his new environment, he thrived. 

The six-foot-one, 199-pound center broke the 30-goal plateau three times in his first four seasons with Buffalo, including a 40-goal, 106-point performance in 1989-90.

"Boy, he could play," said Jeanneret. 

On October 25, 1991, Turgeon's tenure with the Sabres ended when he was traded to the Islanders along with Uwe Krupp, Benoit Hogue and Dave McLlwain in exchange for Pat LaFontaine, Randy Hillier, Randy Wood and NY Islanders' 4th round choice (Dean Melanson) in 1992 Entry Draft.

One of only two players to ever wear the number 77 for Buffalo (Chris Gratton), the Quebec native ended his 19-year career Wednesday with nearly 1,300 contests. 

"It's with confidence that I'm going to begin this new chapter in my life," he told the Associated Press. "Hockey is a team sport, and I admit my teammates will be greatly missed."

The man who inspired Jeanneret to coin the phrase, "Ooh-la-la, Pierre," Turgeon skated away from hockey as one of the Top 50 offensive players in history. 

He finished his playing career ranked 27th in league annals in assists (812) and points (1,327), while finishing 32nd in goals (515).

A consummate professional, Turgeon was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1993 while a member of the New York Islanders for his sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. 

That generous and affable attitude was something that Turgeon carried throughout life away from the rink.

"Pierre struck me as a very friendly and studious guy," said Jeanneret. "In fact, long after I had seen him for the last time since he had left Buffalo, he was playing in Dallas.  Maybe three or four years ago.  I was waiting by the door for the team to come so that we could go to the airport, and this car pulled up beside me.  Out gets Pierre, who proceeds to run around the front of the car to shake my hand.  I hadn't seen him in years.  But he remembered very well and was very, very friendly in that regard.   

"I know he was always well liked by his teammates."

Turgeon was named to four NHL All-Star teams during his career (1990, 1993, 1994, and 1996), but could be remembered best for an on-ice incident.

During the Islanders first round series victory over the Washington Capitals in 1992, Turgeon was checked from behind into the boards after scoring a series-clinching goal during Game Six at Nassau Coliseum by know agitator Dale Hunter.

Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder and missed the ensuing series against the Penguins. Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit.
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