"Conor McClennon" by bclocalnews.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Wainwright’s Lecuyer Fought The Great One

When Wainwright’s Connor McClennon was selected 178th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2020 NHL entry draft, it was a history-making moment. McClennon was the first player from the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice to be chosen in an NHL draft class. It was also a history-reminding moment. McClennon was just the second player from Wainwright to be chosen in the draft. The other was Doug Lecuyer in 1978.

Few athletes in sports can boast of the sporting resume of Lecuyer, both in its expansiveness and impressiveness. He played 126 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins. A two-sport star, Lecuyer also made it as a pro on the golf links. To this day, he remains the youngest winner of the Alberta Amateur. Lecuyer played in the same foursome with U.S., British and Canadian Open winner Lee Trevino, and also played in the Canadian Open himself in 1984.

Oh yeah, Lecuyer also fought Wayne Gretzky. In fact, he was the first player in the NHL to duke it out with Gretzky. Teeing it up with Super Mex and duking it out with The Great One. For sure if you were to play that parlay in the Canada Sports Betting market you’d get yourself some long odds.

"Conor McClennon" by bclocalnews.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0
“Conor McClennon” by bclocalnews.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Little Big Man

Playing the WHL at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, the undersized Lecuyer never shied away from a tussle. The left-winger accumulated 1,337 penalty minutes over five WHL seasons, twice topping the 330-minute plateau in a single season. That mean streak must have caught the eye of Blackhawks management, for they made Lecuyer the 29th overall pick in the second round of the draft. 

Also Read: Does Max Verstappen Finally Have Lewis Hamilton’s Number?

Lecuyer got into two games with Chicago in 1978-79, scoring once. In 1979-80, he broke training camp with the big club and was in the lineup on opening night at Chicago Stadium on October 10, 1979 as the Blackhawks played host to the Edmonton Oilers in what would be the first NHL in the history of the Oilers franchise. There was a bit of role reversal on this night. Defensive-minded defenseman Kevin Lowe scored the first goal in Oilers NHL history, while Gretzky was assessed Edmonton’s first NHL penalty.

It was during Chicago’s March 14, 1980 visit to Edmonton when Lecuyer would play the role of the villain in his home province, dropping the gloves and tangling with Edmonton’s favourite son.

Just past the seven-minute mark of the third period. Lecuyer and Gretzky came together behind the net. Their sticks came up and the gloves came off.

“It started earlier when he took a dive in the first or second period,” Lecuyer told the Edmonton Journal. “I jokingly said he dives as well as he scores points. 

“I guess I was annoying Wayne. I was in pretty good shape and was able to stay close enough to him to give him a hook or interfere with him. I started taking the body on him. I guess he got frustrated.”

Once the fight started, Lecuyer wasn’t sure what he should do. 

“I remember thinking (Oilers tough guy Dave) Semenko was on the ice at the time, now what?,” Lecuyer recalled. “But Dave almost had a smirk on his face. I know I didn’t want to fight Semenko, or Wayne.” 

Lecuyer quickly recognized that he’d placed himself into a no-win situation. If he beat up Gretzky, Semenko would be coming around for retribution. If he lost to Gretzky, he’d be mocked. 

“I didn’t expect Wayne to ever fight,” Lecuyer said. “I wound up wrestling, holding on to Wayne for quite a while. I wound up getting five minutes for hanging on.

“And I had total respect for Wayne, what he’d done for hockey. I did lots of stupid things as a player, but I wasn’t fighting him.”

"Conor McClennon" by Christopher Mast/Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0
“Conor McClennon” by Christopher Mast/Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Hitting the Links

A knee injury scuttled Lecuyer’s NHL career in 1983 at the age of 25. That’s when golf became his meal ticket. At the age of 17, he won the Alberta Amateur, enabling Lecuyer to achieve the unique double of being the province’s amateur golf champ and the penalty minute leader of the WHL Oil Kings in the same year. 

Turning pro, Lecuyer won a record three PGA of Alberta titles in 1984-85-86. Lecuyer also won the 1983 Canadian PGA Assistants’ championship, six Edmonton Opens and Edmonton Golf Association two-man best ball titles.

He played in the same foursome with golfing legend Trevino in a 1984 charity event. And no, they didn’t fight. 

“I remember Lee saying, ‘Just get out of my way,’” Lecuyer recalled. “He said it nicely, though.”