March 11, 2013

Robert Picard Delivered

This is Robert Picard. He was a pretty good NHL defenseman, surviving the league for 14 seasons.

While he proved to be a solid NHL citizen, he entered the league as a much hyped defensive prospect. He played junior hockey in Montreal of the QMJHL in the mid-1970s. He was a defenseman who did it all - scoring a point a game and averaging 300 PIMs per season.

The lowly Washington Capitals quickly snapped up the promising blue-liner 3rd overall in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft. The Capitals signed him to a contract, but Picard signed a second, higher-paying contract with the WHA Quebec Nordiques later that summer. Controversy erupted over the playing rights of the prized rearguard, though the WHA eventually ruled the Nordiques contract illegal due to the pact Picard already had signed with the Capitals.

To make this story far more interesting, Picard surprised many when he said "I'd rather deliver pizzas in Quebec than play for Washington."

I'm sure Picard was even more surprised when it was announced the Capitals would play the Nordiques in a cross-league pre-season exhibition match. A Quebec fan threw a pizza on the ice to greet Picard!

Picard went on to play 899 regular season games in the NHL. Picard played just three seasons in Washington. Twice he was named as the team's top defenseman and once as the team's MVP. He didn't much like all the losing in Washington in those days.

He was moved to Toronto (for Mike Palmateer), then Montreal (for Bunny Larocque) and then Winnipeg, where he teamed nicely with Randy Carlyle. Montreal didn't mind that Picard seemed to do better in Winnipeg as they were pretty pleased with their return - a draft pick used to select Patrick Roy.

In 1985 he finally got a chance to play in Quebec, joining the Nordiques, now of the NHL of course, for four and a half seasons. There is no word on whether he ever delivered any pizzas, however.

Picard, the nephew of former NHLer Noel Picard, rounded out his career with a final 20 games in Detroit.

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