Monday, March 10, 2014

1999-00 Jacksonville Lizard Kings Ray LeBlanc Jersey

Massachusetts native and goaltender Ray LeBlanc played junior hockey for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League in Canada in 1983-84. He then crossed back into the United States for 1984-85 for two seasons in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, first with the Pinebridge Bucks and then the Carolina Thunderbirds for the 1985-86 season, where he had a stellar 33-9 record on the way to the playoff championship.

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LeBlanc while with the Kitchener Rangers

He moved up to the IHL the next season, joining the Flint Spirits for the next three seasons, highlighted by being named Rookie of the Year in 1987 and posting a 27-19-8 record in 1987-88. After 15 games with Flint in 1988-89, he moved first to the Saginaw Hawks for 29 games and also made one appearance for the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL that same season.

He settled back into the IHL for 1989-90, splitting time between the Fort Wayne Komets and the Indianapolis Ice, where he found a crowded crease, as future NHLers Darren Pang and Jimmy Waite were also on the roster which would go on to win the Turner Cup that season. LeBlanc was 15-6-2 in 23 appearances for Indianapolis.

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LeBlanc with the Ice

LeBlanc began the 1990-91 season with the Ice, but after 3 games he found himself back in Fort Wayne for the majority of the season where he was one of six goaltenders to see time for the Komets.

He had the highest profile season of his career in 1991-92 when he was with the United States National Team for the early part of the season in preparation for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. He played in 17 games in preparation for the Games, going 5-10-1.

The US was placed in Group A, which they won with a 4-0-1 record with a wins to open play over Italy, a shutout against Germany, a 4-1 win over Finland, another shutout, this time 3-0 against Poland and a 3-3 draw with Sweden, giving many hopes of a repeat of the gold medal of 1980. The US had an easy time of it in the Quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over France, but then a 5-2 loss to the Unified Team, consisting of several former members of the recently disbanded Soviet Union and a 6-1 thumping by Czechoslovakia left the US just shy of a medal in fourth place. Having started all 8 games, LeBlanc finished the tournament with a 5-2-1 record with a 2.20 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.

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In goal for the United States

Following the Olympics he was back with the Indianapolis Ice, but was called up by the Chicago Blackhawks, making his NHL debut at the age of 27 on this date in 1992, leading Chicago to a 5-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately for LeBlanc, the depth of the goaltending situation in Chicago was stacked against him, with no less than Waite, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek in line in front of him! Chicago's plan was to play LeBlanc in an NHL game so he would qualify to be the goaltender they exposed for the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft, allowing them to protect the three incumbents.

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LeBlanc's NHL debut with the Blackhawks

Following his win for Chicago, it was back to Indianapolis for the rest of the season and all of 1992-93. He opened the following season with the Ice, but was sent to the Cincinnati Cyclones after just 2 games. With the Cyclones he was 17-9-3.

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During his time with the Cyclones

For 1994-95, LeBlanc found a home back in Chicago, only this time with the Wolves of the IHL where he would spend the next four seasons.

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LeBlanc back in Chicago, but still in the IHL

After 14 appearances with the Wolves in 1997-98, he joined the Flint Generals of the United Hockey League, where his veteran experience led to a 12-4-5 record.

For the final two seasons of his career, LeBlanc played for the Jacksonville Lizard Kings of the ECHL before retiring at the age of 35 with just the single game for the Blackhawks on his NHL resume.

Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 Jacksonville Lizard Kings Ray LeBlanc jersey, which is based on the template of the Washington Capitals jerseys of the era with the "checkmark" waist striping.

The Lizard Kings lasted from 1995-96 through the 1999-00 season after moving south from Louisville, Kentucky where they were known as the Ice Hawks. The club suspended operations in hopes of returning when a new arena was completed in 2003, but never were revived.

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Jacksonville Lizard Kings 99-00 jersey photo JacksonvilleLizardKings99-00B.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1995-96 Chicago Wolves Ray LeBlanc jersey. The Wolves wore this classically styled jersey for the early years of their existence, having been founded in 1994-95 in the IHL. playing there until the league's demise in 2001, having won the Turner Cup in 1998 and 2000. They were one of the teams absorbed into the AHL, where they have won the Calder Cup in 2002 and 2008.

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Chicago Wolves 1995-96 jersey photo ChicagoWolves1995-96Bjersey.jpg

Today's video section are highlights of Czechoslovakia at the 1992 Olympics, which includes footage of the bronze medal game against the United States with LeBlanc in goal. Not much LeBlanc, but it's the best we could do.

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