PHILADELPHIA – Guy Lapointe is legendary for being the ultimate prankster and life of the party, which means he’s in his element during draft week when he can catch unsuspecting Wild colleagues off guard.
“You’ve got to be careful you know where he is at all times,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said of Lapointe, the Wild’s chief amateur scout. “If you’re having a beverage and go to the bathroom, he’s been known to put Tabasco on the rim of your glass or fill your coat pocket with forks and knives and salt.”
Lapointe is the king of the shoe check, where he’ll smear somebody’s shoe with ketchup or some other substance. He’ll somehow get longtime amateur scout Paul Charles twice a night. At the 2009 predraft dinner, Lapointe had owner Craig Leipold’s youngest son, then-13-year-old Fordie, crawl underneath two tables to stick a butter packet in somebody’s shoe.
“We’ll be at a dinner, and we’ll even talk about how he’s going to get somebody, and he still gets somebody!” Leipold laughed. “How in the world he gets that butter packet into the heel of your shoe is beyond me.”
Lapointe, one of the best defenseman in NHL history, could do it all as a player. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens’ “Big Three” with fellow Hall of Famers Serge Savard and Larry Robinson, Lapointe won six Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
“In today’s game, he’d be a very wealthy man,” said Fletcher, who idolized Lapointe while growing up a Habs fan. “You look at some of the great two-way defensemen, guys like [Drew] Doughty — that’s who Guy Lapointe was.”
Last week, Lapointe learned his No. 5 will join 17 other Canadiens’ sweaters on the rafters of the Bell Centre. The jersey retirement date hasn’t been determined, but two dates being talked about are Nov. 8 when the Wild is in town or March 21 when San Jose visits. If it’s March 21, Robinson, the Sharks associate coach, could attend.
“They came to my house in St-Lazare [Quebec],” Lapointe, 66, said of learning the news. “Tears were shed by me and my wife [Louise]. As a kid, growing up and born in Montreal 45 minutes from the old Forum, my idol was Jean Beliveau. I thought I had accomplished everything when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Now, this? You don’t dream this stuff.”
Lapointe, a former teammate of former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, was one of his first hires in 1999. Lapointe has been on the stage for every first-round draft pick in Wild history.
During the season, he focuses on the top 50 players in each draft, was a big proponent of recent Wild draft picks such as Nick Leddy, Matt Dumba and Tyler Graovac and will be alongside Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr at this weekend’s draft table.
“He’s a great resource for Brent and I to lean on,” Fletcher said. “His opinions are usually spot on. He’s a tremendous judge of talent. He can project their skills as well as any scout I’ve seen.”
Added Flahr, “As good a player as he was, there’s zero arrogance to him. You go scouting with him in Quebec, people come up to him constantly, he shakes everybody’s hand, takes pictures. He’s a great person and loves what he does.”
And Lapointe is not afraid to play practical jokes. There are some infamous ones, such as the time he shook Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s hand with Vaseline all over his right hand.
“Like, who does that?” Flahr said.
A few pranks
In the 1976 Canada Cup, teammates were supposed to wear the same outfits to practice, including black socks and black shoes. One morning in Ottawa, Lapointe showed up wearing brown socks and brown shoes. It didn’t take long for teammates to give him flak.
“I don’t know what I was thinking. I woke up late and was rushing,” Lapointe said.