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May 02, 2015

Ray Fortin

Nestled along the Saint-Francois River east of Montreal sits the beautiful Quebec town of Drummondville. It is a city that is about as French as can be, and it is a city that values the arts, the theatre and culture.

And hockey. They love their hockey.

Over the years Drummondville has contributed no fewer than 16 players to the National Hockey League, including Hall of Famers Marcel Dionne, Yvan Cournoyer and Lester Patrick.

Raymond Fortin was another Drummondville hockey graduate. He was born there in 1941 and never left until signing with the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1967.

It was a wise discovery by the Blues as Fortin was not exactly a top prospect.He never left to play top level junior hockey, instead staying home to play with the Rockets in the Eastern Townships League and attended St. Lawrence college. He graduated the junior ranks to play with the senior Eagles, helping them win the Allan Cup as Canada's national amateur champions in 1967. During the day he worked for his father in the construction business.

With that the Blues sought his services for their first team and their farm team in Kansas City. They purposely filled their roster throughout with veterans. They probably never thought the 26 year old first year pro would play as much as he did.

In the Blues' inaugural season he was called up for 24 games, scoring 2 assists. He also played 3 playoff games, but was the goat in a game six loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Had the Blues won they would have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in their very first year. The Flyers forced a game seven with a weird overtime goal by Don Blackburn that deflected off of Fortin's stick and past goalie Glenn Hall. Fortunately for Fortin the Blues did win game seven and advanced to the Finals, which they eventually lost.

In 1968-69 he only played 11 games, but did score his first NHL goal. At the minor league level that year he was an All Star.

In 1969-70 Fortin played, for the most part, a full season in the NHL. He participated in 57 games, scoring 1 goal and 5 points. He played most of the season with defense partner Jean Guy Talbot, a player Fortin admired since his junior days. He got into three more playoff games as the Blues returned to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose again.

The Blues traded Fortin to the Los Angeles Kings for Bob Wall in the summer of 1970, effectively ending his NHL career. He reported to the farm team but was traded in January 1971 to Montreal, and was buried in their deep system. He was an AHL All Star in 1971, but never got a sniff with the Habs.

Fortin headed back to Quebec after retiring as a professional player. He would return to participate in occassional Blues' oldtimer game.

In the book Tales From The Blues Bench, Fortin's former teammate Bob Plager told a great story of a practical joke he played on Fortin in his rookie season. On one road trip Plager took Fortin's dental plates - both upper and lower - and mailed them home to St. Louis. Poor Fortin had trouble eating during the five day road trip.

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