Monday, March 3, 2008

Noel Picard

It is perhaps the most famous photo in hockey history. Bobby Orr flying through the air, like the Superman he almost was. His arms up in victory, as he just scored the Stanley Cup winning goal of 1970.


Those in the background are also immortalized. Glenn Hall is the goalie who gave up the goal. And a young defenseman named Noel Picard is guilty of hooking Orr's leg's, propelling his jump into flight.

Noel Picard seemed destined to be immortalized, though not necessarily in a great light. A couple years earlier the towering rookie defenseman was the laughing stock of the league. Playing against the same Boston Bruins in 1967-68, a tired Picard hustled to bench head down, yelling for his replacement. The gate opened up and he quickly took a spot on the bench, only to find all the players were laughing uncontrollably.

After looking up he realized exactly why they were so amused. Picard had jumped on to the Bruins' bench!

The play was still alive, and a St. Louis player quickly jumped on the ice to even the playing field. Picard didn't care. He immediately vacated enemy territory and made a b-line to the Blues bench, which in those days was on the opposite side of the rink. He dove in over the boards, hoping no one would notice, but the observant referee was forced to blow his whistle and call a "too many men on the ice penalty."

Despite these gaffes, Noel Picard was emerging as a pretty dependable defenseman in his 335 NHL game career. The Quebec born Picard - who was given the name Noel because he was born on Christmas Day - was buried in the Montreal Canadiens system for most of the 1960s. Come expansion in 1967 he joined the Blues for 5 seasons, and became a fan favorite.

Picard would likely have enjoyed a longer NHL career, or definitely would have caught on with a WHA team, had he not severly injured his foot in the summer of 1971 in a horse riding accident that kept him out of much of the two seasons. Doctors had even considered amputating his foot. Much to his credit he worked his butt off to get back into the NHL, but the already slow-footed defender lost considerable mobility and greatly hampered his game.

After a season in Atlanta, Picard retired in 1973.

7 comments:

Drcat July 23, 2008 at 1:34 PM  

The night that the Seattle Totems played the Chicago Blackhawks, I helped organize the exhibition. After the game I went in to the Totem locker room and as I approached my friend Noel he hit me in the stomach with a blow so hard I saw stars in Seattle. I did not let him know how hard he hit me till now.

Anonymous,  November 6, 2009 at 2:21 PM  

Noel is also remembered in St. Louis for his color commentary on St. Louis Blues broadcasts. His thick French-Canadian accent made him almost unintelligible, but his enthusiasm for the game was great, and he was a fan favorite.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2010 at 10:00 AM  

I remember Noel Picard as the BAD GUY playing for the Omaha Knights! As St. Louis Braves fans, we could easily rattle Picard. He would swing wildly at the puck when he was mad. Of course he never really swung at us, but he had a scary way of skating along the board with stick extended into the seats as he raced past us. For you sissies: there was no 'glass' nor "chicken" wire between us and the combatants. Three bucks for a seat on the ice, and beer was cheap. A few years later, back visiting and watching the Blues, I then found myself cheering for the now St.Louis Blues stalwart. Somehow he was now the hero not the goat! Signed, a member of the O'Fallon Tech. evening gang.

Gerry June 14, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Picard at a Father-Daughter function with my high school. He signed everyone's program for the event. My father, a big German man by heritage, went to shake Mr Picard's hand, and was surprised to see his hand being swallowed by this hockey player's hand. He was an awesome player back in the day, when the Blues were contenders. Let hope those days return.

Anonymous,  January 1, 2011 at 6:22 PM  

We had our season tickets, 1970-1980 next to his wife, Vivian and Children Annie & Danny . . They were awesome people. Noel was a favorite of ours and he took the time to say "hey tiger" to the kids - they loved him. Sometimes he would skate on the pond in our subdivision along with Bob, Barc and Al Arbour. They were not prima donas, they were real guys and real hockey players. Our boys grew up in the Picard, Plager, Sabourin hockey schools and Noel was ALWAYS on the ice. One time Noel came into a local lumber yard where my husband was and asked for "duce by quarters", they finally figured out he was wanting 2x4's! We had flown in from CA for the 1988 All Star
Game and when Barc died our plane had just touched ground - to hear Annie sing and to see the tributes by Noel and Bob - this is where hockey is supposed to be - not a sport, but a WAY OF LIFE. Nicki, now in CA

Rick Buker,  August 12, 2011 at 8:18 PM  

Apparently Picard was a pretty tough customer. At 6”1” and 210 pounds, he was a huge player for his day. Noel took special delight in pounding the Flyers, who were stocked with small, peace-loving types during the early years of expansion. During the 1968 playoffs he sucker-punched Philly forward Claude LaForge, an incident widely regarded as one of the most brutal muggings in NHL history.

It was largely because of Picard (not to mention the Plager brothers) that Flyers’ owner Ed Snider decided to create the "Broad Street Bullies." After the Flyers had been wiped out by the Blues in four straight games during the 1969 playoffs, Snider told his scouts, "I want size, and I want meanness."

A few years later Picard--now serving as a color analyst for the Blues--interviewed the Flyers’ Simon Nolet. “Simon Nolet, een de early eestree of de Flyer an de Blue, dere be many fight,” Noel noted in his fractured English. “How come?”

“You ought to know, Picard,” Nolet shot back. “You start dem all.”

Robert Fleming December 22, 2011 at 2:48 PM  

During high school, my future wife worked for Noel and his wife, Vivian, at their Cuba, Missouri restaurant - "Midway." Having grown up in St. Louis, I was anxious to meet Noel, whom I idolized as a youngster following the Blues through the early years.

We were introduced at the restaurant (this was circa 1979), where Noel held court at the bar each night. I'll never forget extending my hand to shake his, only to have him totally engulf my hand like a hydraulic press. I swear, if I hadn't stopped squeezing, he would have crushed my hand, and he wasn't even trying. This was years after he played. Imagine how strong he must have been during his playing days! I can still recall the sensation of having my hand squeezed and fearing it would be crushed. There are those of us who mess around playing sports, and the raw strength of athletes like Picard. No wonder he was feared by other NHL players. He was the ultimate "policeman."

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