Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Born on this date in 1963 in Montreal, Quebec, Normand Leveille played his junior hockey for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens beginning with the 1979-80 season. There, the left winger scored 24 goals and 12 assists for 36 points during his rookie Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season.
During his second season, armed with more confidence and experience, Leveille made a big step forward with 55 goals and 46 assists for 101 points, good for third on the club while his 55 goals were 7th in the league. Once in the postseason, Leveille led the "Sags" in scoring with 11 goals as well as 15 assists in 12 games for 26 total points.
This performance led to his being drafted in the first round, 14th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins, ahead of future NHL talents as Al MacInnis and Chris Chelios.
The 5' 10", 175 lbs winger made the Bruins roster out of his first training camp and made his NHL debut on October 8, 1981 as the Bruins hosted the Quebec Nordiques.
Leveille scored his first NHL goal, as well as his first point, during his fourth game on October 14th just 36 seconds into the Bruins game at Chicago against the Black Hawks, igniting a 8-5 Bruins victory.
He would miss several games after straining his MCL in his left knee on November 1st, but return in time to play in 66 of the Bruins 60 games, during which he scored 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points. He also racked up 49 penalty minutes and finished the season at a +16.
His second season started out promising, as Leveille scored 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in his first 9 games, but tragedy struck on October 23, 1982 when he suffered an aneurysm between the first and second periods of the Bruins game in Vancouver against the Canucks.
The 19-year-old Leveille was taken immediately to Vancouver General Hospital, where neurosurgeons performed surgery for seven hours to save his life. Doctors determined that his hemorrhage was a congenital issue caused by a defective blood vessel in his brain rather than being due to any hockey related injury.
Although he had complained of shoulder pain and a headache prior to the game, Leveille had scored twice during the first period and had been checked once, but showed no ill effects following the hit.
It was during the first intermission that Leveille told assistant Bruins coach Jean Ratelle that he felt dizzy. Fearing Leveille had suffered a concussion, Ratelle escorted Leveille to the Bruins trainer Jimmy Kausek. There, he began to lose consciousness. The Vancouver team doctor Ross Davidson came in to see Leveille and ordered that he be rushed to the hospital immediately.
Following the operation, Leveille was in coma for three weeks and remained hospitalized for several weeks after regaining consciousness. Having lost a degree of motor skills and control over his speech, his hockey career was over just as it was about to begin.
He returned to Boston Garden for the first time 16 months later on February 11, 1984, where he, able to walk on his own but with difficulty, stepped onto the ice wearing his #19 jersey to a standing ovation from the Bruins fans.
Leveille returned to the Boston Garden one final time 11 years later on September 28, 1995 for the Garden's closing ceremonies. Aided by former teammate Ray Bourque and his Bruins coach Terry O'Reilly, Leveille skated on the Boston Garden ice for one final time in a moving moment that no one in attendance will soon forget.
He has since become an advocate and fund raiser for the disabled and founded the Centre Normand Leveille, a 200-acre recreational camp for the disabled in Quebec.
Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Chicoutimi Sagueneens Normand Leveille jersey from happier times, when Leveille, full of youth and promise, scored 101 points in 72 games prior to leading the Sagueneens in playoff scoring.
The franchise was founded in 1973 and has won the President's Cup as QMJHL champions in 1991 and 1994. The most notable Sags to have gone onto the NHL are Guy Carbonneau, Alain Cote, Felix Potvin, Stephane Richer and current Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Chicoutimi has since retired Leveille's #16.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1982-83 Boston Bruins Normand Leveille jersey worn during his abbreviated second season with Boston and once again in February 1984 when he made his emotional return to the Boston Garden following his recovery from his aneurysm.
Our video selection today is the One Last Skate around the rink at Boston Garden, with such icons as Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, Phil Esposito, Cam Neely and Johnny Bucyk, as well as Leveille being helped around the ice by Bourque and O'Reilly.