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Untapped Potential: Alexandre Daigle

Welcome Back to Untapped Potential!

The NHL is a unique sport in that one superstar can bring hope to a franchise. We’ve seen this with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. All three were the top overall picks in the NHL Draft and are future Hall of Famers. But what happens when that budding superstar doesn’t turn out as you’d expect? Enter Alexandre Daigle.

The Quebec-born center was hyped up as the chosen one, picked first overall in the 1993 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators. In fact, Ottawa was accused of intentionally losing games to get his services, prompting the NHL to institute a draft lottery. So what happened to the “can’t miss” prospect that has him labeled a bust? Let’s dive into why this once-promising star now has an Amazon documentary coming.

Amateur Level Hockey

It was easy to see why Daigle was hyped up to be like McDavid during his heyday. Before playing for the Senators, Daigle was a phenom for the Victoriaville Tigers of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League. He put up 247 points (80 goals and 167 assists) in 119 games for the Tigers before joining Ottawa. Before that, he had 110 points in 42 games for Laval-Laurentides of the QAAA. Putting up 300+ points in three seasons? Yeah, that’ll get you that sort of hype.

That’s not all he brought to the table, though. The former No. 1 overall pick had speed that’d make Usain Bolt blush. Daigle also had incredible hands, fooling defenders with his dangles. Scouts from San Jose and Quebec were salivating over his services like a Tex Avery cartoon. Daigle had all the intangibles to be a generational talent, similar to what Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were.

The Start Of His NHL Career

While Alexandre Daigle was a junior’s phenom and a point machine, the NHL proved to be a learning curve. In his rookie year with Ottawa, Daigle posted 20 goals and 31 assists. Those aren’t terrible stats by regular NHL standards; McDavid put up 16 goals and 32 assists in his rookie season, after all. Plus, the Senators started as a terrible franchise. With a record of 14-61-9 and 37 points, it’d be tough to be successful without the necessary supportive cast.

Daigle put up 37 points in 47 games in 1994-1995, which was a lockout season. While the advanced stats tell another story (28 adjusted goals and 38 adjusted assists), the NHL wasn’t too kind to such a thing. He still lacked the necessary supporting cast to thrive, relying on Alexei Yashin to help provide scoring. The Quebec center did see some spark with his return to Victoriaville that season, putting up 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 18 games. However, his next NHL season would be exceptionally cruel.

Alexandre Daigle’s Downfall

In 1995-1996, the former No. 1 pick started his descent into becoming a bust, putting up 17 points in 50 games. Senator fans started to see a slip in his production, causing some concern. Gone was the glitz from his junior’s play, for he had mailed in every hockey game at the highest level. Many say it was his lucrative long-term contract that was to blame, sapping his motivation.

On top of that, Yashin had soured on Daigle as a teammate. The Russian center felt he deserved a contract as lucrative as the Quebec native’s, pointing to his production as evidence. To Yashin’s chagrin, Ottawa management sided with Daigle, angering the Russian star to the point where he held out the entire 1995-1996 season.

During the 1995-1996 season, head coach Rick Bowness and assistant coach Alain Vigneault were promptly fired. As a result, Daigle was demoted to Ottawa’s fourth line. His potential was fading and the Senators organization started to take notice.

The “Bomb Incident”

It’s common sense to never yell or joke about bombs in a public setting. That’s especially true when President Clinton is on the same tarmac. On September 25, 1996, Daigle did that, telling the Senators’ Director of Team Services, Trevor Timmins, to “watch out for his bomb there.” Of course, he was referencing Timmins’s laptop, which prompted a flight attendant to notify the captain.

This led to police being notified and Ottawa’s fallen star paying a $372 fine. On top of that, he was barred from traveling with the team to Tampa. The fall from grace got even worse for the former prodigy.

The next season, Daigle was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Vinny Prospal and Pat Falloon. He found himself bouncing around to different teams after, with Philadelphia trading him to Edmonton, who traded the fallen star to Tampa Bay the same day.

The Alexandre Daigle experiment in Ottawa was over, with a front office gutted and a franchise stuck in neutral. The aftermath was caused by none other than the fallen prodigy, with a lack of motivation and professionalism being the main culprits.

Taking a Break from the NHL

Daigle himself didn’t last long, finding himself out of hockey at the age of 25. He had a short stint with the New York Rangers before exiting the league in 2000, temporarily ending his disappointing run. His lackluster play stemmed from his lack of interest in being an NHL player, where he desired to be in Hollywood. He even briefly dated Pamela Anderson, boosting his Hollywood power. Sadly for Daigle, fame doesn’t come to a sports star right away unless you’re good.

Just take a look at LeBron James and the hype he received during his beginnings in the NBA. The King had to work at his craft to get to the top. Now, he’s starring in movies (Space Jam 2, anyone?) and investing in solid opportunities like Blaze Pizza. However, the former Senator did start up an entertainment company called Impostor Entertainment with former MLB pitcher Derek Aucoin.

A Second Chance?

Daigle attempted an NHL comeback in 2002, sending in his services for playing hockey again. The Pittsburgh Penguins took a flyer on him for the 2002-2003 season, although there were minimal results. The center produced seven points in 33 games for the Pens, with Daigle getting canned the next season. But there was a glimmer of hope for the fallen star with the Minnesota Wild. In 2003-2004, he scored 51 points in 78 games for the Wild. Could he return to his destined glory and become the star he was supposed to be? The next season said, “Not so fast.”

Daigle produced only 28 points in 46 games the next season for Minnesota. After that year, he had some stints in Europe, with teams such as Davos of the Swiss National League A and the SCL Tigers of the National League. 2010 was officially the last year of the Alexandre Daigle experiment, with the failed prodigy shifting his sights on running movie studios.

The Pressure On Alexandre Daigle As a Kid

Let’s revisit Alexandre Daigle’s days in the junior leagues. NHL scouts weren’t aware of the lack of desire Daigle experienced during his junior years. Scoring 50 goals didn’t resonate with the prospect as it would with others. He was depressed, stating that “he wondered where his career would’ve been if he had gotten the help he needed.

Currently, there’s a wunderkind playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. You might know him as Connor Bedard, who’s already taking the NHL by storm. However, lofty expectations and heavy media coverage can wear on someone so young. Just look at Daigle’s career. Such pressure raises the need for mental health and the topic’s awareness.

What Could’ve Been For Alexandre Daigle

If NHL fans wanted to point to a parallel to Ryan Leaf, Alexandre Daigle would be the perfect fit. The former Senator had all the hype and talent in the world to be the next Mario Lemieux, only to squander it all away.  However, his fall from grace is unique in that it didn’t come from being arrested or dealing with various injuries.

Overall, Alexandre Daigle’s case as an NHL bust will be remembered as one where the failures were self-inflicted. Mid-life crises are often joked about among regular working people. But not caring about being an athlete is one of the perfect examples of a mid-life crisis for a sports star.

Perhaps the fortunes of the Ottawa Senators would’ve changed, where they’d won the Stanley Cup and had their Hollywood ending. Instead, Ottawa fans got screwed over by their star player’s lack of desire and help during his youth.

Be sure to check out next week’s Untapped Potential, where we head to the gridiron!

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