By Tom Archdeacon
Dayton Daily News
FAIRBORN, Ohio – The NHL jerseys, he said, are “worth more than gold to us.”
There are five of them — the ones his dad wore when he played for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Quebec Nordiques and Los Angeles Kings — and they now hang in his closet. One day, he said, they’ll be framed and displayed in his home.
Back at his place in Victoria, British Columbia, Dan Lapointe said he also has some of his father’s hockey sticks, a dozen or so tapes of his NHL games and some old photos of his dad — including the one from St. Louis, where Rick Lapointe is on the ice, staring dumbfounded as a streaker comes sliding by butt naked while his Blues’ teammates howl from the nearby bench.
And come this Saturday night, Oct. 18 — just before the Dayton Bombers take to the ice to open their season against the defending Kelly Cup Champion Cincinnati Cyclones — Dan will take a private moment in the Nutter Center dressing room to reconnect with Rick:
“Before every game I say a prayer, just hoping he’s watching down and maybe, if he can, he could give me a few quick hints before I go out there.”
As he looks ahead to the new hockey season, the 24-year-old center can’t help but look back as well. The past, as they say, is prelude and one of the newest Bombers has some old hockey ties that go back three generations.
His grandfather, Ron Maxwell, was a legendary junior coach in Canada, best known for his stewardship of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Victoria Cougars.
His uncle Brent Maxwell played 10 seasons in the NHL, most with the Minnesota North Stars.
And his dad played 11 years in the league — 664 NHL games — before retiring in 1986. Thirteen years later — when he was just 44 — Rick died suddenly from a heart attack. His son was just 15.
“The worst day of my life,” Dan remembered as he sat outside the Bombers dressing room Wednesday after practice. “It was a Sunday morning. I was at my friend’s house when the call came. I rushed to the hospital … but he already was gone.”
The last memory Dan has came from the night before. His Triple A bantam team was playing in a tournament in Nanaimo, British Columbia:
“Dad came down to the (dressing) room before the game. He brought me some new laces and after he laced me up, he said. ‘ Now go get ’em, Buddy.’
“And you know, I went out and had a great game. Scored three goals. It was almost like a fairy tale ending.”
It certainly was a fairy tale beginning — at least if you believe that story his dad told him when he was just a kid:
“He said he was sitting in the penalty box — this was during his junior hockey days with the Victoria Cougars — and the door swings open and he sees Mom walking in the place. Her dad was coaching the other team, so that’s why she was there. (Dad) couldn’t take his eyes off her.”
Rhonda Lapointe laughed when she heard that story Wednesday. “So that’s what his dad told him,” she said by phone from her desk at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia where she works as a secretary in the business school. “Well, he and his dad shared a lot of stories. They were best friends.”
By the time Dan was born — following his two older sisters — his dad was winding down his NHL career with the Kings.
“We went to every game, though I don’t really remember much. My dad would bring me out on the ice with the guys sometimes after practice.
“I had a pair of skates by the time I was a year old and when I was about 3, they say I’d only skate with one leg. I kind of drug the other one behind me and my dad knew it was important for me to be a good skater, so they put me in figure skating instead of hockey.
“That only lasted two or three weeks because I wanted to play with the little Gretzkys. I wanted to play hockey, not just skate around.”
And he didn’t.
With his dad’s initial help, he developed and advanced through an amateur career that included four seasons in juniors — with Western Hockey League teams Seattle, Portland, Prince George and Spokane. — two years at the University of Calgary and last season with Oklahoma City and Rio Grande Valley of the Central Hockey League.
“I always wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Dan said. “It’s too bad he passed away when he did because I could still use his help and guidance now.”
And yet the foundation is there. That already was evident right after his dad’s death:
“It really shocked everybody. My dad was pretty well liked in the community. More than 3,000 people came to the funeral. But I went to school the very next day after he died. I just knew how he was — and how I was — and I was going to carry on and follow his lessons.”
And along with Dad’s lessons, there are Mom’s.
“Oh yeah, she knows some good little tips,” he said with a laugh. “With her dad and her brother and with watching my dad play for 11 years, she knows pretty much about the game.
“Some of it’s actually kind of funny. This summer she gave one of my best friends — Ryan O’Byrne, he plays with the (Montreal) Canadiens — a little advice.
“She said, ‘If you’re a defenseman and you get scored against, don’t ever skate in front of the net after the goal. All the cameras are behind the net and that’s where they’re focused and they’ll all be right on you. So if you get scored on, skate to the corner and get out of the way.”
Yet for all that pedigree — from his dad’s storied play to his mom’s practical tips — Dan is a Bomber, not for past, as much as what he may be able to offer in the future.
“Since he’s been here (just nine days), he’s conducted himself pretty well,” said coach Bill McDonald. “I don’t think he’s a high-end offensive power play guy, but I believe he’s real responsible on the other side of the puck — which is defensively, killing penalties, things like that— and he’s probably a real good second or third liner at this level.”
As he makes his way in his pro career — and like all his teammates dreams of making the NHL — Dan said he remembers something his dad told him:
“He always told me, ‘Just keep working hard toward your goal —keep things on track — and if you’re good enough one day they’ll find you wherever you are.”
And on those times when you don’t want to be found — when the opponent has scored and the TV cameras are rolling — he remembers Mom’s advice, too.