Prankster Lapointe is no joke in assessing talent for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2014 - 9:58 AM

Team’s chief amateur scout has a Hall of Fame pedigree.

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Prankster Guy Lapointe had the tables turned on him during a news conference announcing the Canadiens will retire his No. 5 this season. Lapointe was joined by “Big Three’’ defensemen teammates Larry Robinson and Serge Savard, who gave the bunny ears treatment.

Photo: Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press via Associated Press,

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– 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.”

Valuable voice

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.

Lapointe made sure to be the last player on the ice. He took everybody’s black shoes and socks and mixed them in a bucket in the middle of the room. After practice, “I just grabbed my brown socks and shoes and left,” he said.

During former Wild assistant coach Mario Tremblay’s rookie year in Montreal, Tremblay was so excited about buying a new Grand Prix. He wanted to show it off after practice. As a rookie, Tremblay had to stay on the ice longer than everyone else, so Lapointe left the ice first, dug through Tremblay’s pants, ran across the street and hid Tremblay’s car.

“He brought us out to show us the car and no car,” Lapointe said. “Sheer panic. He called the police. I gave the car back two days after. Poor Mario.”

A big kid

Scouts are infamous for buying 50-50 raffle tickets at junior rinks. One time, longtime Kings scout John Stanton was waving his ticket as he spoke. Lapointe saw this, so he secretly wrote down Stanton’s number on his program. Later, when Stanton asked if anyone had the winning number, Lapointe nonchalantly read off Stanton’s. Much to the delight of the rest of the scouts who were in the loop, the excited Stanton sprinted through the crowd and down to the score clock to collect his money. He’d soon be disappointed.

“My wife wonders if before I pass away, if I’m going to grow up,” Lapointe said. “I try to bring some fun.”

Having been with the Wild since Day 1, Lapointe admits there have been good picks (Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns and others) and bad (from 2004-08, the Wild selected A.J. Thelen, Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, Colton Gillies and Tyler Cuma in the first round).

But Lapointe is delighted to see the Wild turning the corner.

“Like a ballplayer, you’re going to miss the ball. We try to do that as little as possible,” Lapointe said. “But I like the direction we’re going. I still have the same passion I did as a player. I look forward to keep doing this.”

But if you find yourself next to him, watch your back — and your shoes.

 

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