Pierre Turgeon remembers May 4, 1999 like it was yesterday.
It was Game 7, Blues and Coyotes at America West Arena. Overtime was about to begin and the game was tied, 0-0.
The Blues had already battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the series to get here, and there was no doubt in Turgeon’s mind that the Blues could win one more game.
“We believed we could do it,” Turgeon said. “When (the series) was 3-1 in favor of Phoenix, we had a meeting in the locker room and everyone was talking and took responsibility. You could see at that point the change we had in that locker room.”
The overtime period that day was evenly played. The teams traded chances for nearly 18 minutes. Grant Fuhr bailed out the Blues and Nikolai Khabibulin turned away even more shots for the Coyotes. Finally, with just over two minutes left in the first overtime, Blues defenseman Ricard Persson took a shot from inside the faceoff circle. Turgeon reached out with his stick and deflected it from mid-air past Khabibulin, sending the Blues to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Turgeon threw his arms into the air and jumped up and down like a kid. Most children that grow up in Canada dream of being an overtime playoff hero.
Pierre Turgeon actually was one.
“It was unreal,” Turgeon added. “From losing 3-1 and coming back to win in seven games is on top of my list (of memories), no doubt.”
That says a lot, because Turgeon had plenty of memories from his five seasons with the Blues. A former Lady Byng Trophy winner, he played in St. Louis alongside guys like Al MacInnis, Pavol Demitra, Scott Young, Chris Pronger, Grant Fuhr, Kelly Chase and Tony Twist. He posted 134 goals and 221 assists (355 points) as a Blue. With just 327 games played, he ranks No. 10 on the team’s all-time points list.
“We had some skill but we had some toughness, too. I really enjoyed St. Louis and we had a great team,” Turgeon said. “Being part of a team like that made it easier as far as enjoying yourself. Every time you stepped on the ice, you knew you were going to win. I really enjoyed being part of a team like that.”
Turgeon’s 19-year NHL career had humble beginnings. He found an interest in hockey at an early age when his older brother, Sylvain, took up the sport. Sylvain would have a 12-year NHL career, and while Pierre wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps, he also took up baseball for a bit, making an appearance in the Little League World Series as a member of Team Canada in 1982. As a pitcher, he finished with a 1-1 record, which includes throwing a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. At the plate, he went 5-for-9 in the tournament, recording three doubles, five runs batted in and three runs scored.
“Being 11 years old, I remember a (baseball) game against Taiwan where we played in front of a crowd of 20,000 people,” Turgeon said. “It’s pretty amazing when you’re 11 years old to have that many people watching you play. It was just an unbelievable experience, but hockey was always No. 1.
“I loved playing hockey.”
In 1987, the Buffalo Sabres selected Turgeon first overall in the NHL draft. The Rouyn, Quebec native’s career would take him through Buffalo, Long Island, Montreal, St. Louis, Dallas and Colorado. In 1,294 games, he scored a whopping 515 goals and 812 assists (1,327 points).
“You look at the players with 500 goals and 1,000 points…there’s so many great players and great names, and to be part of that is unreal,” Turgeon said. “At one point, my goal when I started was to play 10 years, to play the game I love and have some (financial) stability with my family. That was my goal. I had a chance to play 19 years and I was privileged to play. It’s a privilege to do something you love.”
Today, Turgeon lives with his wife, Elisabeth, near Denver. Since hanging up the skates, he's been involved with youth hockey and even coached his kids’ teams. His daughter Alexandra is a standout volleyball player at Denver University. His son Domenic is a hockey player who recently signed with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and his youngest daughter, Valerie, also plays organized hockey.
Once or twice a month, he’ll lace up the skates and play the game he loves with the Avalanche alumni, but mostly, he keeps busy by traveling and supporting his children in their endeavors.
“I’m enjoying life and I’m enjoying being part of my family and being around my kids," he said. “I love that.”
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