1992-93 Score American #486 – Ray Leblanc
Goaltender Ray LeBlanc is not your typical One Game Wonder. Sure, he played exactly 1 game in the NHL, but he was the focus of national attention during the 1992 Winter Olympics, when he lead an unlikely U.S. squad into the medal round.
Hockey fans in America were hoping for another “Miracle on Ice.” LeBlanc’s play almost provided it. In the preliminary round, he posted a 4-0-1 record, a 1.40 GAA and 2 shutouts. During the Quarterfinals game against France, LeBlanc would nearly blank France in a 4-1 win.
Unfortunately, Team USA’s “near miracle” would end when they lost to the Unified Team (comprised of countries formerly from the Soviet Union). The next day, the U.S. would lose the Bronze Medal game to Czechoslovakia. Although they finished 4th, LeBlanc and company captivated hockey fans in the U.S. for those two weeks.
Two weeks later, the Chicago Blackhawks called LeBlanc up from the minors and announced that he would get the start in the upcoming game against the San Jose Sharks. To set the record straight, this was not an “emergency call up.” The Blackhawks had depth in goaltending, with Ed Belfour playing most of the games and Dominik Hasek as the backup. Even their top goalie in the minors, Jimmy Waite, was considered a solid prospect.
But all NHL teams would have to “offer up” a goalie with at least 1 game of NHL experience in the upcoming expansion draft. Playing LeBlanc in a game was both a reward for his stellar Olympic play, but it was also a ploy for the ‘Hawks to expose LeBlanc in the draft and keep their other goalies safe.
On March 10, 1992 – 20 years ago today – LeBlanc played in his first, last and only NHL game.
I was there. I will never forget it.
The Blackhawks fans at Chicago Stadium gave him a standing ovation when he stepped out onto the ice, donning his “Team USA” mask from the Olympics. And if there were any Sharks fans in attendance that night, they no doubt applauded too.
Every time LeBlanc stopped 1 of the 21 shots he faced, the fans at the Stadium erupted in chants of “USA! USA! USA!” After LeBlanc gave up a goal – it was on a breakaway – the fans rose to their feet and gave him another standing ovation. The Blackhawks won the game 5-1. At the end of the game, another ovation. This was our chance to thank our Olympic hero in person.