Skip to main content

Andre Lacroix


While the WHA paled in quality comparisons to the NHL, it has a certain intrigue about it. After all, the WHA raided NHL and junior rosters and boasted names like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson among many others.

But it was André Lacroix who may very well be considered the best player during the WHA's 7 year existence.

At 5'8" 175lbs, André was too small for the NHL game. However his immense skill level earned him a full time spot with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1968. André was a shifty skater with good speed. His vision of the ice and playmaking abilities placed him among the game's elite in those two categories. Simply put, André's style of play was Gretzky-like. His stick handling ability was awesome.

A graduate of the Peterborough Petes, the Lauzon, Quebec native scored 85 goals and 154 assists in just 97 games with the Petes. Never drafted by an NHL team, most likely because of his diminutive size, André signed with the AHL's Quebec Aces where he learned to play the professional game. He was on a torrid pace in his second season with the Aces, who were purchased along with all their players by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1967. With 87 points (41+46) in 54 games and an AHL record six hat tricks André was called up by the Flyers to finish the season in the NHL. He scored 6 goals and 8 assists in 18 regular season games. He also appeared in 7 playoff games.

André earned a full time NHL job the following training camp. He would play three full seasons with the Flyers, scoring more than 20 goals in each season. But his size eventually limited him to the role of power play specialist. He centered the team's #1 line in year one. The line was called the French Line, with Jean-Guy Gendron on left wing and first Dick Sarrazin and then Simon Nolet on right wing. The line was small and fast, and André in particular became a fan favorite. However after the team's playoff failure management decided to go in another direction, drafting bigger and stronger players from the western Canadian prairies, building an image that would soon be known as the Broad Street Bullies.

"We had a defensive team then," André remembered. "We were always going for the tie. In fact, we set the NHL record for ties (24) that one year (1969-70). I guess Vic Stasiuk (Philly's coach) just didn't like my style of play. He probably wanted a rough-tough guy and I just wasn't that type of player."

André's role was reduced and then eliminated. André, who obviously didn't fit into the Flyer's "Broad Street Bullies" system, was dealt to Chicago in exchange for gigantic though marginal NHL defenseman Rick Foley. The overweight Foley quickly found his place in the minors.

André Lacroix bombed in the Windy City. He never fit into their system either, and was used sparingly. He scored only 4 goals and 7 assists in 51 games.

"With the Black Hawks, everybody had been there seven or eight years and it was hard to break in," André said.

Following his terrible 1971-72 season, André moved back to Philadelphia, but this time it was with the WHA's Blazers. He became an instant star in the WHA's first season, scoring 50 goals and 74 assists for 124 points - earning him the Hunter Trophy as leading score and the Davidson Trophy as the league's first MVP.

"It never mattered how good you were, confidence was 60 percent of the game. If the coach didn't have the confidence to put you on the ice, you didn't do well."

André set a then-professional record of 106 assists in the 1974-75 season while with the San Diego Mariners. His 106 assists bettered Bobby Orr's 102 assist season of 1970-71. He also added 41 goals to again win the Hunter Trophy.

André played with 5 WHA teams in 7 years, playing 551 games. His 574 assists are a league high, almost 200 more than second place J.C. Tremblay. André's 251 goals ranks 4th all time, giving him a league leading 798 WHA points, ahead of second place Marc Tardif by 132 points, and 160 points more than Bobby Hull.

"For sure, we played wide-open hockey in the WHA but that's what the fans wanted to see," André said years later.

After the collapse of the WHA, André was protected by the New England Whalers as they joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers. He would only play part of the 1979-80 season, appearing in 29 games and scoring 3 goals and 17 points. That upped his NHL totals to 325 games, 79 goals, 119 assists along with 44 penalty minutes.

While a player André and former Flyers teammate Ed van Impe were partners in a $ 600,000 facility in Radnor,PA (a skating rink) where they held hockey schools, public skating and minor league hockey games.

After his playing career was over he did some color commentary and was the Director of hockey operations at the Oakland Ice Center.

Comments

Anonymous said…
In a way, I moved to San Diego because of Andre. I knew the Seals, my favorite NHL team, were going to move so instead of moving back to my native Bay Area, I chose San Diego because of hockey & the beaches...what a combo! And he was a Magician! I didn't realize he was the WHA's all-time scorer, but he deserves the honor. God bless you Andre. My 1st hockey hero was Gilles Meloche, goalie of the Seals. You were my 1st skating hero in hockey followed by Marcel Dionne who I met in 1979. I love hockey, but have only 3 heros and you are one!

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M