Getting To Know: Yvon Labre

Mark Malinowski
labre-archives

Status: Former NHL defensman (1970-1981) for Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ht: 5-foot-11 Wt: 190 pounds

DOB: Nov. 29, 1949 In: Sudbury, Ont.

First Hockey Memory: “Oh my God…that would be in my hometown of Sudbury, when we’d play on any frozen area – the lot across the street, or walk a few blocks to the frozen river. We’d find places on the frozen river where we could play. This was when I was nine or 10, before the outdoor rinks were put up. I never got to play indoors until I was 14 or 15.”

Hockey Inspiration(s): “Gordie Howe. I liked to watch Bobby Orr. There was only six teams back then.”

First Famous Hockey Player You Met Or Encountered: “Getting an autograph from Maurice Richard when he played an exhibition in Sudbury. That was way back in 1963. We each got a stick and he signed his autograph on the stick for us. We were in awe.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “That would have been when they retired my number at the Cap Center in 1981. I was with the Washington Capitals organization for 26 years.”

Most Painful Moment: “That would have been my first year with the Washington Capitals. We only won one game on the road. We didn’t win many games. As down as we were, I remember Ottawa broke one of our records and a reporter called me and asked how I felt about it. I told him, facetiously, I was happy to not be associated with those losses. Then the Capitals made the Stanley Cup final the first year they moved to the new arena MCI Center. Now they sell out every night. I hope they can win the Stanley Cup.”

Most Memorable Goal: “I only had 14. So I can maybe remember them all. My first one was against Tony Esposito in Pittsburgh. I remember another one when Jimmy Rutherford came out, way out and I made the big turn and he was out for lunch, so it was like an empty net for me. It came easy that time. Jimmy probably wouldn’t remember it. When I came back to the bench, my teammates said, ‘Where did you get that one?’”

Funniest Players Encountered: “So many of them. I can’t even think of one off the bat…Joe Reekie had to be one of the funniest I ever met. He was just always joking. When you spoke with him you could never get a straight answer.”

Closest Hockey Friend(s): “Ronnie Lalonde, he came from Pittsburgh. He said he felt sorry for me playing in Washington. Then a week later he was playing with us. He’s still a good friend. We go fishing in the summers, for a long, long time.”

Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “I would say playing against Bobby Orr in Boston. Playing in Philadelphia and having to fight your way out of the building all the time. All the good players. They’re all tough to play against. At that time it was Orr, Guy Lafleur. Montreal would play very hard. Playing against Gary Dornhoefer was no picnic. Him and I would hit each other like crazy.”

Embarrassing Hockey Memory: ”If a goal went in off you. That happens all the time with the game nowadays. My first year in Metro Junior B I won Best Defenseman of the year and I scored three goals for the opposition and one for my team (laughs).”

Favorite Arenas To Play: “I used to love playing in Toronto and Montreal. Let’s face it, they are the Meccas of hockey, as far as I’m concerned. Still.”

Favorite Uniforms: “Nowadays, of all the teams…I’m partial to the Capitals. And of course when they go back to the old retros. I think Chicago has a nice uniform. I like the new Capitals jersey.”

Strangest Game(s): “One of our first games in Washington they had the ice show in town. They had to shave the ice down. They didn’t have enough time. The New York Rangers and we showed up to play at 8:00, but we didn’t start till around 9:00. Another time we played Detroit and had a donnybrook on ice. They brought out the Zamboni and played God Bless America before we finished the second period, with about 2:30 left. Then we came out and finished the second, changed ends and played the third period. That was unusual. One time on Long Island there was fog, it was spring time. The lights went out in the game while we were skating around. I was yelling, ‘Alex!’ in the dark. The referee said, ‘Alex who?’ What are you saying?’ I said, ‘Alex-trician. We need an electrician (laughs).’”

Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: “I still like golf, but I don’t play much with all my injuries. I liked tennis when I could still move, but I haven’t put a racquet in my hand in 10, 15 years. I like American football.”

Worst Injury: “My knees. I had two knee operations. That pretty much ended my career. Now I’m debating to get an artificial knee or just suffer. I can remember the pain from the surgery.”

Personality Qualities Most Admired: “People who are humble, that don’t let things go to their head. That don’t think they’re bigger than the game. Hard workers. You can have all the talent. But the talent has to work hard also.”