The battle between Quebec Metropolis and Montreal for the celebrity’s companies began in Junior and led to an enormous NHL contract.
Man Lafleur is well-known as one of many biggest gamers to ever don the Montreal Canadiens sweater, holding the franchise report for assists and factors, and coming in second for targets behind Maurice Richard. Lafleur’s quantity 10 was retired after 14 seasons of service to the franchise.
He was a larger-than-life persona; greater than only a celebrity hockey participant. He was a bona fide superstar within the province of Quebec, and past. However the place there was poetry in movement on the ice, there have been frequent difficulties with administration behind the scenes stemming from a 10-year contract he signed with the workforce as a promising younger participant.
Lafleur’s status as a celebrity of the longer term preceded his NHL profession, and started when he was nonetheless in Junior enjoying for the Quebec Jr. Aces of the Quebec Junior A Hockey League. His promise was such that Lafleur was invited to the 1969 NHL Draft as an 18-year-old observer, two years earlier than he was even eligible to be drafted.
That very same yr he was the topic of a large bidding warfare, as as much as 4 Junior groups have been vying for his companies. His desire, as acknowledged to Le Soleil, was to play with the Montreal Junior Canadiens, the place he would definitely be a star participant for his remaining two seasons. Ultimately it was the Quebec Remparts who gained the companies of the generational participant, signing him on June 24, 1969.
“We fought an excellent battle with the Junior Canadiens,” stated the spokesperson for the Remparts to Le Soleil.
Lafleur was represented within the negotiations by his professor Normand Chouinard, nevertheless it was Lafleur who finally made his determination. “He made the choice himself,” stated Lafleur’s father, Réjean.
“He believed that he would be taught extra enjoying within the Ontario league (the place the Montreal Junior Canadiens performed), however I knew he had a desire for Quebec.” The phrases of the deal weren’t disclosed, nevertheless his wage was stated to be “particularly reasonable” given his offensive output and really similar to the Canadiens.
Rumours swirled that he made as much as $20,000 per season, which was extraordinary in Junior as much as that time. (Le Soleil, December 22nd, 1970)
“That my wage is publicly mentioned,” stated Lafleur, “ it doesn’t hassle me in any respect, and if the individuals wish to assume that I make $20,000 a yr, it’s their proper. In the event that they assume that, it most likely displays properly on me. However that’s some huge cash for a junior. Let me inform you this although: if I used to be making $20,000 like they are saying, I wouldn’t be travelling by foot, that’s for certain.”
Reportedly his contract was considerably tied to attendance figures, a sign of his drawing energy, maybe the supply of the talk between potential incomes and precise figures. There was little debate that Lafleur was elevating the profile of your complete league on his personal.
Lafleur would spend two seasons enjoying for Quebec, dominating a league properly beneath his expertise degree. Bernie Geoffrion famously stated that he was “losing his time in Quebec”, and Jean Beliveau added, “I believe it’s a bit ridiculous to cease a teenager with immense expertise from going professional earlier than he turns into 20 years outdated. A hockey profession might be so quick.”
Lafleur’s dominance was such that he took the Remparts all the way in which to the Memorial Cup in 1971, defeating the Edmonton Oil Kings, ending off his Junior profession in grand trend.
“The distinction within the sport was Man Lafleur,” stated Claude Ruel, the chief scout for the Montreal Canadiens. “I hope that those that doubted he was the very best junior hockey participant in Canada now are satisfied that he’s. He by no means lets his followers down and that’s the signal of a star.”
Lafleur was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens first total on June 10, 1971 in a well-known little bit of machination that ensured that Pollock could be first to talk on the podium that day. Pollock had beforehand misplaced out on bringing the large marquee identify to assist market the Junior Canadiens, however he lastly obtained his man. Shedding Lafleur to Quebec Metropolis as soon as was a heavy setback for Pollock, and it will be one thing that Pollock would take some drastic steps to make sure wouldn’t occur once more.
The First Contract
“Within the fall I shall be trying to negotiate a contract of $150,000 for one yr. This features a common wage, efficiency bonuses, and a signing bonus,” Lafleur stated fairly overtly to the gathered media.
He would request that the contract additionally embrace a no-movement clause that will cease the Canadiens from sending him right down to the Nova Scotia Voyageurs farm workforce. Lafleur believed that the retirement of Beliveau and the slowdown of Henri Richard performed in his favour because the Canadiens have been Lafleur to steer the cost at centre for years to come back. He by no means made the change to centre.
Lafleur selected Jean Beliveau’s enterprise supervisor, Gerry Patterson, as his consultant within the negotiations
Lafleur’s first professional contract, signed in 1971, would find yourself being for 2 seasons, 1971-72 and 1972-73, as was the desire of Sam Pollock for first-round picks. There have been no entry degree contracts with set salaries again then, however Pollock made Lafleur the best paid rookie in NHL historical past at over $40,000, and estimated at $100,000 over two years. A little bit of a far cry from Lafleur’s preliminary boasts, however nonetheless a report setting sum for rookie. It wouldn’t be the final time that Lafleur would use the media to publicly set expectations for compensation.
Quebec Metropolis yearns for its star
Lafleur performed out his first contract and headed into the summer time of 1973 as a free agent. Usually Sam Pollock would wait till August to sit down down on the negotiating desk with gamers looking for new contracts, however Lafleur had important leverage headed into the negotiations for his second contract. The upstart World Hockey Affiliation had arrived, and its Quebec Nordiques have been attempting to lure Lafleur away from Pollock.
There have been reviews that the Nordiques initially proposed a three-year contract at $90,000 per season that Lafleur outright rejected. The workforce then elevated their supply which might have paid him $125,000 within the first yr, $135,000 within the second, $150,000 within the third, plus a $60,000 signing bonus. (La Presse, April fifth, 1973)
Clearly a return to Quebec Metropolis weighed closely on Lafleur’s coronary heart. As negotiations intensified, Quebec’s last supply got here as much as $155,000 per season for 3 years. Le Soleil acknowledged that the homeowners could be prepared to go as excessive as $175,000 per season. However it was the preliminary supply of $90,000 per season that left an enduring impression, and made Lafleur hesitant and confused.
Spurning Quebec, Man Lafleur as a substitute selected a outstanding and sudden 10-year supply from the Canadiens. Pollock was not about to lose Lafleur to Quebec Metropolis for a second time. The contract made Lafleur a millionaire and paid him $100,000 on common per season, on a sliding scale. Le Soleil reported on April sixth, 1973 that in yr eight he would make $160,000, and in yr 9 he would make $175,000. Within the first yr of the deal he could be making a mere $85,000.
Evidently that he might have earned extra total if he took the riskier street of a shorter contract with Quebec.
“Patterson influenced my last determination,” stated Lafleur. “I used to be leaning in direction of Quebec Metropolis due to all my pals and my earlier success there, however Gerry made me perceive that I might get higher endorsement offers in Montreal. I hesitated for a very long time, however I lastly understood his perspective. I understand that I’m shedding $55,000 per yr, perhaps extra. However I’ve secured my future for a few years, and that’s vital to me. My cash is assured, so if I break my leg in a yr or two, for instance, my earnings will proceed.”
All the pieces appeared nice in Montreal with Lafleur secured for the long run and the workforce having fun with outstanding success on the ice. However the contract, and the circumstances it was signed below, would quickly emerge to solid an ever-present shadow over Lafleur’s whole profession with the Canadiens.