Vince Riendeau became the first North American player with NHL experience to play in a Russian hockey league.
"Why? Because I've always thought of this as a magical place," said the former NHL goaltender. "I remembered back to '72, when I was a boy in school," he said. "Canada played Russia, and it was such a big deal. They stopped school for us to watch it. Right from then, I was always interested in the Russian players. I was amazed at the skills the Russians had. There was just something magical about them, how they played."
North Americans Mike Muller and Tod Hartje played in Russian leagues before Riendeau, however Riendeau is the first NHLer to play there.
Riendeau played 7 years in North America after graduating from the QMJHL. Never drafted, the Montreal Canadiens signed the St. Hyacinthe native to play for their farm team. He shut down the AHL with the Sherbrooke Canadiens by winning 27 games against 13 losses with 3 ties. He posted a league leading 4 shutouts and 2.67 GAA.
Riendeau was traded to St. Louis in a big deal in the summer of 1988. Packaged with Sergio Momesso, the Habs got Darrell May, Jocelyn Lemieux and a draft pick. Riendeau went on to a solid 3 years in St. Louis. By his third year with the Blues Riendeau had become a legitimate NHL goaltender. He posted 29 wins with 9 losses and 8 ties with a 3.01 GAA and 3 shutouts.
However his future in St. Louis wasn't great as the Blues had a young hotshot named Curtis Joseph as their number one goalie. Riendeau was traded away to Detroit in exchange for Rick Zombo.
Riendeau's days in Detroit were certainly far from memorable. He only played two games for the Wings in 1991-92 due to injuries. He rebounded to play 22 games in 1992-93 but was playing second fiddle to Tim Cheveldae. The Wings dumped the seldom used Riendeau to Boston on January 17, 1994 for a late round draft pick.
Riendeau played parts of two years in Beantown, posting 10 wins, 12 losses and 1 tie over the two years. He finished his last year with the Bruins farm team in Providence Rhode Island.
After 1995, Riendeau was without an NHL contract offer. He opted to go to Germany for a year before he returned to North America with the Manitoba Moose for one year. He returned to Germany and later played in Switzerland, Great Britain and then Russia.
"I guess you could say I'm a traveling man." joked Vince. "I did it for the experience, that's all. I like to do that, try something that I never would have experienced otherwise. Just a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Riendeau would also play in Great Britain and Alaska before hanging up his goalie pads for good.