Despite his average size, Ian Laperriere provided true grit. He was an obnoxious player who always - ALWAYS - battled hard for the puck. He had no fear - despite several scary injuries - and would pay any price to help his team.
"Lappy" was a very reliable defensive player, a good penalty killer and faceoff man, and, perhaps most notably, a great momentum changer. Every coach would love to have him on their bench. They could send him out at any time knowing he would go out and cause all sorts of mayhem with his physical, inspiring play.
“For me, it’s leading by example on and off the ice,” he says. “I think that’s the main thing.”
The example set by Laperriere makes a simple statement. Play hard and never get down. Not on yourself, not on your teammates.
“I’m a positive guy by nature and I just try to stay positive if things don’t go well,” Laperriere says. “When things don’t go well, there’s a tendency to be negative, but you’ve got to remember that you’re a team leader and you have stay positive.”
“If things aren’t going well, I’ll try to get a big hit out there or try to get involved with someone. Kelly Buchberger does that too, he’s great at it. It’s part of our job, we’re grinders and we think it’s time, we’ll do it. You have more jump the next shift. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose the fight, it’s still an inspiration.”
Laperriere, who fought often but rarely won, learned about inspirational leaders from the master, briefly playing along Mark Messier in New York.
“He’s not afraid of challenging guys,” Laperriere says. “He’s a great leader. I wasn’t there for too long, maybe three months, but I could tell the presence he had in the locker room. He was leading by example, big time. I was 23-years-old and when you’re around someone like Mark Messier, you learn from him. I feel lucky I played with someone like him.”
Another great leader Lappy learned from was Guy Carbonneau.
“Carbo wasn’t a captain when I played with him in St. Louis, but he’s Guy Carbonneau,” Laperriere says succinctly. “He’s a leader by nature. Carbo had always been one of my heroes when I was young and I learned a lot from him.”
Laperriere grew up idolizing Carbonneau and studied him well. You could see some of Carbo's game mannerisms, particularly in the face-off dot where he excelled.
If staying positive was a Laperriere trademark, the hockey gods sure tested him. Severe concussions. Brain contusion. Broken orbital bone. Slap shot to the mouth (losing 7 teeth). He broke his nose so many times that he vowed that there was no point in getting it fixed until he was done playing hockey, because he would likely just do it again.
Ian Laperriere never took the easy way out. He was won of hockey's hardest working warriors. Despite all of the injuries, Lappy played in nearly 1100 NHL games (over 16 seasons with 5 teams, most notably Los Angeles and Colorado), scoring 115 goals and 336 total points.
Even as he retired due to serious injury, Ian Laperriere kept a positive spin on things.
"I have no regrets and I had fun playing for 16 years. I left everything on the ice and I was lucky to always play in beautiful cities. I played my last game at age 36 and to be honest, I did not think a player like me could stay within the circuit as long.”