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We’re excited to announce the latest addition to our Colorado Avalanche coverage: Eric Lacroix.
His namesake is etched into Colorado’s hockey history through his father, former Avalanche and Nordiques GM Pierre Lacroix, but his personal story in hockey stands on its own.
After eight seasons in the NHL, his endless passion for the game has kept him coming back to hockey time and time again. With experience as a video coach and Director of Hockey Operations, co-owner and governor of a CHL team, VP of Hockey Operations, and pro-scout, his experience brings tremendous value to our beat.
What is your hockey origin story?
“Being from Montreal, you’re born with a pair of skates. It’s kind of like here in the States where everybody plays football and baseball at some point.
In Canada, it is the national sport – not that it’s not gaining popularity in the US, but in Canada it’s a little different. I don’t know what it is. Everybody tries it at some point in their lives.
They’ve all tried to play hockey. That doesn’t mean that by age twelve everybody plays, but everybody plays starting age four or five, everybody’s on a team. You see those pictures, everybody’s given a little hockey stick when they’re little. I’ve always been around it, and we’re a hockey family.
And then my dad was an agent back then, so it was easy for me to be around hockey players. It kind of runs in my family now. My boys, they see that. That’s what we do, and that’s why they play hockey.
I think it’s a little bit of that, and I just always loved it, fell in love with it right away. I never had a moment where I said, ‘I wanna get away from it or do something else.’ For me, it’s been a lifetime thing, and that’s why I always say I love it.
It’s my sanity. It’s what I love talking about, and that’s why I said it gets old sometimes for my daughter and wife.”
Was there a moment where you knew you wanted to get serious about pursuing hockey as a career?
“I was lucky because my dad was an agent. The path to becoming a hockey player or a pro-athlete is really different for most people. People think you buy a book, and this is how you do it, and this all works.
It doesn’t work that way. It’s more natural.
I was a late bloomer. I left home and I went to prep school in Boston. My sophomore year in high school, I was just not in very good shape, not very tall, and I did it for different reasons – it wasn’t about hockey. It was about a life decision to go and learn a new language in Boston and move away from home.
Being a late bloomer, my second year I grew a little bit. By my third year, I was 6’2”, 210 lbs. and got drafted to the NHL. My goal (then) was never to be there, it was more so to have fun with the sport and to enjoy and love it.
There was never any pressure. I do feel there’s a little bit of parental pressure nowadays, and for me, my parents didn’t care if I played. That’s what I tell my boys all the time. If you’re not happy to do something else, I’m not pushing you to play hockey.
It’s got to come naturally. For me it was natural, and I think that’s what kept me going.
All of a sudden by my senior year, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I am decent and maybe I can take this somewhere.’
Then I went to St. Lawrence University. That summer was (the moment I thought), ‘Okay, maybe I can turn this into a career.’
Unfortunately that’s when school took a backseat a little bit. I’m not making the same mistake with my kids. I still push academics, and I’m not saying my parents made a mistake. I was a little stubborn. I felt that that’s what I needed to do, and it worked out.”
Given your dad’s career, what was his influence like on your path through hockey?
“When I got drafted and I went to college, my dad was still an agent. He didn’t leave to be a general manager in the NHL until that 1994-95 season in Quebec.
So for me, I got to be represented by him in my college years and my first-year pro.
(It’s more so about) all those years in my household, I had a different upbringing.
I was very lucky to where my upbringing was: I’m an eight-year-old and I’m eating cereal in the morning with Patrick Roy. It’s unheard of for kids in the neighborhood, and for me, it was normal.
What I took from there was what it took for some of my dad’s clients to succeed and some of them to fail.
‘Why are they failing? Why are they succeeding?’, and a lot of it had to do with the mental side of it.
Everybody has talent, everybody works hard. You kind of look and see, ‘Well, this is weird – this guy was a first-rounder and he never made it, and this guy was a first-rounder and he made it. This guy was Patrick Roy – a third rounder – and then he’s arguably the greatest all-time goalie ever.’
For me it was very beneficial to see those things and take that into my own path, my own career. I’m very fortunate because not many people get to grow up that way.
I’m biased, I thought that he was one of the greatest agents. It was really different. His company was called JANDEC – it was gonna take January to December, 24-hours a day to represent his clients and to be there for them. They all had keys to our house.
He had a special bond with all his clients.
They were like family, and I think he tried to bring that to the Nordiques and Avalanche – a family side of things.
If you talk to any of the players, they’ll tell you right away. Even though the reception was that he was kind of a shutdown guy, he just didn’t really appeal to the media.
Everybody was really tight, and to this day I think that the Avs are still trying to honor that legacy.”
Were the lines sometimes blurred between Pierre Lacroix the GM and Pierre Lacroix the father?
“It is an unusual situation, playing for your dad. I do believe the only two are Peter McNabb and myself in the history of the league that played for their dad. Peter was there for me and we talked about that a lot.
I do think he was fair to everybody. A story that pops to mind (involves) Keith Jones, now the president of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jones was a dry guy with a dry sense of humor.
I remember him one day after a meeting with Pierre. He came back on the bus and we were going to the airport. He sat next to me and he goes, ‘Boy, I feel for your childhood. I just got spanked. He really gave it to me.’
Guys were open about it. We had a good time. Some way, somehow that was his recipe of winning. It was all family and that’s how he did it with his own kids.”
He was known as a tough negotiator, was that something that you had to contend with at times growing up?
“Yes, my dad was a salesman. He jumped onboard with a job after being married and having a kid at 20. He was (around) 21 when I was born, so the second kid.
He’s never had a cigarette in his own life, and he worked for Rothmans Cigarettes as a salesman. (They) loved him because he could sell packs of cigarettes. He went on to work for Carling O’Keefe the beer company, and he’s never had a beer in his life.
My dad was always a guy that could sell. It was an art, and he always took care of it. He always had a plan, and he was good at executing.
When he went on the other side, it was easy to see on the flip-side what he’d gone through for 25 years.
He (also) surrounded himself with great people. Charlotte Grahame was the brains with him, and he always gave credit where credit was due.”
Was there a piece of advice that you received in your career that had a big impact on you?
“My first coach in the minors was Marc Crawford. He was tough on guys. For me if I didn’t have that coach, I’d probably never make, so I raise my hat to him.
He made me into a player that had a career.
I remember walking in his office and he’s like, ‘So what are you, what type of player are you now?’
You come from college like, ‘I’m the powerplay guy. I can score a goal here and there.’
I remember he stopped me right there and he said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing, if you’re on the powerplay, I’m getting fired and I got a wife and kids. That’s not gonna happen.’
‘You’re not a power play guy. You’re a plumber, and that’s what you are, and there’s nothing wrong with being that.’
And I remember saying, ‘Wow, this guy’s crazy. He’s just not very nice. I don’t think this guy likes me.’
I was a scratch six games out of the first ten then and I didn’t really understand what he wanted from me.
I think he was trying to break me. And then one day we won a game, and I played one shift the whole game: I blocked a shot, I hit a guy.
That game was a big game for us. (At the end) he was in the hallway giving high fives to everybody. Then he sees me and says, ‘Great game, kid.’
I dropped my stick and my helmet, I turned around and went right back to him. ‘Is this guy playing with me?’
I said, ‘I don’t get it, I don’t understand what you want from me. I played one shift and you tell me ‘great game.’’
And he said, ‘Oh I know, but it was a hell of a shift. If I want you to play ten shifts, I want you to play 30 shifts, 40 shifts or zero – I’m in charge. You can’t control that. Control the controllables and you’ll play.’”
You’ve worn many hats, first and foremost as a player but also numerous roles including Director of Hockey Operations, video coach, and beyond – what have these experiences taught you about how you want to be involved with hockey now?
“You play hockey because you wanna reach the highest level, you wanna reach the summit, and then you wanna stay there. You wanna make sure that you’re not gone. At some point we all end up in beer leagues, right?
It’s just the way it is, but you try to stick around.
I feel fortunate to be able to stick around the National Hockey League for so many years. This is what we know.
As a player, there’s plenty of time. As management, there is no time. That is a grueling job away from home.
You get back in some way, somehow.
I’ve always taken pride in making sure that you connect with people and then opportunities come.
I always said I liked a logo. DNVR from what I’ve seen seems like a nice family, a nice logo.
It’s important to be part of the logo, and I’m excited. You get to talk hockey all day long.”
Where is home for you?
“It’s an easy one – Colorado. Getting traded here, then my parents being here, and then meeting my wife Jill and the kids being born here – I’ve been married 25 years now and Colorado’s always been home.
Colorado has a huge place in our hearts. My mom still lives here.”
We’re excited to lean on Eric Lacroix’s valuable insights all season long. He joins DNVR full-time as an analyst and host. You can also expect to see him around the rink plenty, so be sure to follow along with our coverage.
Catch the full interview on YouTube.