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Jacques A.G. Richard (October 7, 1952 – October 8, 2002) was a professional ice hockey centre who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Atlanta Flames, Buffalo Sabres, and Quebec Nordiques.[1][2] After an impressive junior career, Jacques Richard was considered a potential NHL superstar, but failed to live up to the promise. Trouble followed him during his career and, tragically, even into retirement. In 2002 Jacques Richard died in a car accident after celebrating his 50th birthday.

Junior careerEdit

Jacques Richard had a spectacular junior career with the Quebec Remparts, scoring 186 goals and 213 assists for 399 points in only 169 games.[3] Playing with Guy Chouinard and Andre Savard he was a significant component of a devastating trio.[4] At the time Richard was considered by some to have equal, if not more, pro potential than teammate Guy Lafleur.[5][6]

Pro careerEdit

For the 1972-73 seaon the NHL added two teams, the Atlanta Flames and the New York Islanders, with a coin toss in June 1972 deciding which team would get the first choice in the draft. Concerned that the new WHA might sign the two top prospects, Billy Harris and Jacques Richard, the two expansion teams held their own "clandestine" coin toss in advance. New York won that toss and chose Billy Harris. This allowed the teams to begin immediate negotiations with the players.[7]

Jacques Richard was drafted 2nd overall in the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft.[1][3] Jacques Richard was slated to be the marqee player by the expansion Atlanta Flames.[5] However, he was to have a mostly indifferent pro career. Troubled at times by serious injuries, facial fractures in 1974-75 and a knee injury 1979-80[8], he also indulged in alcohol, gambling and eventually cocaine.[5]

His rookie year in Atlanta was a disappointment. Richard rarely spoke to anyone that first year, perhaps a clue to problems adapting to the NHL, and he finished the season scoring only 13 goals.[9] Teamed in his second season with Tom Lysiak his prospects seems brighter as he scored 27 goals.[9] However, his play would eventually prove inadequate and he would begin to find himself shuffled between the NHL and the minors. After three years with Atlanta, he was finally traded to Buffalo.

Buffalo Sabre General Manager Punch Imlach in his book "Heaven and Hell in the NHL" recalled his travails dealing with Richard's drinking. On one occasion, Richard was forced to miss a game due to a sprained wrist which had been hurt in a bar fight. On another, he barely missed being shot by a patron in a bar. Imlach describes Richard as "a nice kid, good hockey player" but he was "wasting his talent".[10] Richard spent the next five seasons alternating between the NHL and playing full seasons in the minors. He was finally traded again, this time to Quebec.[8]

Now, in his eighth year as a pro and back in the city of his junior triumphs, the promise shown as a junior appeared to finally be realized. In the 1980–81 season playing on a line with the Stastny brothers[8] Richard tallied 52 goals and 51 assists for 103 points,[1][3][11] to finish 10th in the league in points and 7th in goals.[2] However, this was to be the only time he was to show this potential. The next season he was moved off the line with the Stastnys and his mediocre play returned.[5][6] He retired in 1983.[3]

Retirement and DeathEdit

Richard's troubles continued after hockey. In 1989 he was arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine, with an estimated street value of $1.5 million, into Canada. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.[11] Then, on October 8, 2002, driving home from his 50th birthday party, Richard was killed in a single-vehicle accident when he drove his car into a culvert.[6][8]

Awards and honoursEdit

QMJHL All-Star First Team: 1970-71, 1971-72[3]
QMJHL Beliveau Trophy: 1971-72 (points leader)[3]
Named to QMJHL all-time All-Star team by the Canadian Hockey League in 1999.[8]

Career statisticsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1967–68Quebec Jr. AcesQJAHL50181836?
1968–69Quebec Jr. AcesQJAHL5023406378
1969–70Quebec RempartsQMJHL5262641261701511142530
1970–71Quebec RempartsQMJHL5553601131251418173542
1971–72Quebec RempartsQMJHL6171891601001511263723
1972–73Atlanta FlamesNHL7413183132
1973–74Atlanta FlamesNHL782716434540002
1974–75Atlanta FlamesNHL6317122931
1975–76Buffalo SabresNHL731223353191127
1976–77Hershey BearsAHL442025454263032
1976–77Buffalo SabresNHL2120216
1977–78Hershey BearsAHL5425234829
1978–79Buffalo SabresNHL611015252631010
1979–80Rochester AmericansAHL3713233637
1979–80Quebec NordiquesNHL14312154
1980–81Quebec NordiquesNHL78525110339524614
1981–82Quebec NordiquesNHL5915264177101019
1982–83Fredericton ExpressAHL1916153116
1982–83Quebec NordiquesNHL3591423640002
NHL totals 556 160 187 347 307 35 5 5 10 34

ReferencesEdit

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