Quebec roots run deep for Team Cherry trio
Quebec City hasn’t been home to an NHL hockey team since the departure of the Nordiques in 1995, but three young men have returned to a city their fathers once called home.
Cal Foote, Jake Leschyshyn and Nolan Patrick are revisiting their Quebec roots this week, competing in the 2017 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in the same city their fathers once played as members of the Nordiques in the mid-80’s and early 90’s.
The WHL trio will line up together for Team Cherry on Monday night, looking to leave a lasting impression on the hundreds of scouts in attendance at the state-of-the-art Centre Vidéotron.
“It’s probably the nicest rink I’ve ever been in,” said Patrick upon his arrival on Saturday. “The place looks great, the ice looks good, I’m excited to get out there.”
The top ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings, Patrick recently returned from an injury that has limited him to just 11 games this season. The right-handed shooting Brandon Wheat Kings pivot shoots the same way his father, Steve Patrick did during his playing days with the Quebec Nordiques during his final NHL season in 1985-86.
While the elder Patrick had a cup of tea in Quebec, defencemen Curtis Leschyshyn and Adam Foote were once franchise cornerstones of the club. Now their sons return for what stands as a golden opportunity in their young hockey careers on Monday night.
“My dad has told me a lot about the Quebec fans and how much they loved their team,” said Jake Leschyshyn, a forward for the nationally top-ranked Regina Pats. “He has had great things to say about his time playing here. It’s where he got his start in the NHL.”
Curtis Leschyshyn was Quebec’s first round (3rd overall) pick in the 1988 NHL Draft from the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. He went on to play seven seasons with the Nordiques from 1988 until their exit in 1995, joining Foote in hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche a year later in 1996.
While Curtis patrolled the blue line in his playing days, his son Jake has embraced a role up front in Regina, registering 17 goals, 23 assists and 40 points over 45 games this season.
“I’ve learned a lot from my dad,” said the younger Leschyshyn. “He’s given me a lot of good advice over the course of my career, but he’s also never pressured me or thrown me into the fire. He’s always emphasized being a good person off the ice and continuing to work hard on your game when you’re on the ice.”
Team Cherry teammate Cal Foote of the Kelowna Rockets is another coveted prospect out of the WHL, recording 38 points (5-33–38) in 49 games from the back end this season.
Like Leschyshyn, he’s heard good things about Quebec from his father.
“Oh he loved it here,” said Foote. “He has told me that it was a great place to play and he always appreciated how passionate the fans were during his time with the Nordiques.”
Foote and Leschyshyn both played in the Quebec Peewee Tournament a few years ago, but haven’t been back until now as they prepare to share the ice with the CHL’s other top draft prospects.
While their fathers laid the groundwork, the lights will shine brightly on Foote, Leschyshyn and Patrick Monday night in Quebec City when the puck drops on the 2017 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.