As a part of their annual "Legends Series", the Los Angeles Kings honored former right wing Ian Laperriere prior to Saturday afternoon's matchup with the Colorado Avalanche (video tribute shown below). Laperriere played 15 full seasons in the NHL, including nine with the Kings and four with the Avalanche.
The Montreal, Quebec native served as an alternate captain during his time in Los Angeles, guiding the team both on and off the ice with incredible energy and intensity.
Laperriere, who also played for the St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia Flyers, was one of the more popular players during his tenure with the Kings. Although he was never quite an offensive threat with just 165 points (61 goals, 104 assists) in 595 career games with Los Angeles, he always played hard, and his willingness to sacrifice his body and defend his teammates at all costs endeared him to fans and peers alike. Laperriere was voted the Kings most popular player three times (1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03), and also the teams most inspirational player three times (1996-97, 2000-01, 2002-03).
His best offensive output with the Kings came during the 1996-97 season, when Laperriere posted 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 62 games. The Kings made the postseason four times during his nine seasons in Los Angeles, and in 28 playoff games with the team he recorded a total of 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists).
The former seventh-round draft pick played a physical style of hockey, leading the Kings in penalty minutes three times (1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99), and was also voted the teams best defensive player during each of those three seasons. "Lappy" is one of only five players to rack up over 1,000 penalty minutes in a Kings uniform, and ranks fifth in Kings history for most penalty minutes with 1,017.0
Current Kings Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne all played with Laperriere in Philadelphia during the 2009-10 season, while captain Dustin Brown played with the former forward in Los Angeles during his rookie season in 2003-04.
Overall, Laperriere recorded 336 points (121 goals, 215 assists) and 1,956 penalty minutes in 1,083 career games in the NHL. He played his first NHL game with the St. Louis Blues, the team that drafted him, in 1993-94. Laperriere posted a career high in points during the 2005-06 season with 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists) while playing with the Avalanche.
He was forced to retire at the age of 38, after suffering a severe head injury in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New Jersey Devils. Laperriere, who was playing with the Flyers during his final season, took a puck to the face and sustained a concussion and fractured orbital bone after sliding to the ice to block a Paul Martin slap shot. He was back on the ice just over a month later to join his team in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Flyers would fall two games short of winning the title, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Laperriere attempted a return to training camp the next season, but couldn't shake the concussion-related symptoms, and was eventually forced to retire.
Earlier in his final season, Laperriere took a slap shot off the face in a game against the Buffalo Sabres while, again, laying down to block the puck. He lost seven teeth and took over 50 stitches in that incident, yet in an astonishing display of toughness, Laperriere returned to action in the third period of that very same game.
His career-ending injury exemplifies his willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, and almost perfectly summarizes his fearlessness and character as a player.
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