Like father, like son.
The Lemieux's are talented multigenerational hockey players on the ice.
March 24, 2022
Los Angeles Kings forward Brendan Lemieux is a chip off the old block.
His dad, Claude, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, was a skillful offensive threat and also a notorious pest and agitator.
But there was a time when Claude wanted to steer his son, the aggressive 25 year old winger for the Kings, away from pursuing playing hockey.
"I just thought it would be really hard for the son of a dad that played to follow in your father's footsteps," Claude, now 56, said. "Number one, I think it could be brutally unfair at times, and it was and it has been at times throughout his young career. And especially the way I played, I wasn't a player that was very popular aside from the team I played for and the fans that I played in front of, the home fans, so I thought that would be a difficult path."
"But at the end of the day, it's what he wanted to do. I realized when he was around 9 or 10 years old that he was one of the better kids and that he seemed to have what it would take to become a hockey player."
Brendan was around for the last two of his dad's Stanley Cup championships. There are photos of baby Brendan inside the cup after the Avalanche won it in 1996. And his dad recalls how Brendan wanted to sleep with Lord Stanley's Cup after he won it in a second go-around with the Devils in 2000.
Claude - one of 11 players in history to win the Cup with three different teams (he also won with the Canadiens in 1986 and the Devils in 1995) - fondly remembers Brendan slipping into the roller blades of his two older brothers, Chris and Michael, when Brendan was just 18 months old. By the time his second birthday rolled around, Brendan wanted a skating party. But his dad did everything he could to push Brendan toward baseball and golf, away from hockey. His mom, Deborah, was the "catalyst."
"She gave me that initial push and then my dad pretty much took over once he saw a few games," Brendan said.
There were sacrifices along the way - cancelling the family's holiday ski trips in order to travel to Brendan's tournaments, as an example - and it hasn't always been easy for Claude to navigate the relationship with his son. He recalled a time at the beginning of Brendan's professional career when he was critiquing his son's game. Brendan told him, "You have to let me live my life, you have to let me play my career, you can't do it for me. I've got to learn from my mistakes."
"There was only a couple of years where it was kind of a challenge," Brendan said of the pressures of following in his father's footsteps. "But once you're past that, it's gravy from there."
Brendan, often referred to as a mirror image of his father in scouting reports as he developed (both are listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds; Claude shot right-handed, Brendan shoots lefty), was drafted by the Sabres with the No. 31-overall pick in 2014, subsequently dealt to the Jets and Rangers, and then traded to the Kings partway through the 2020-21 season in exchange for a fourth-round choice in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Brendan modeled his game after the way his dad played from watching old tapes and getting to see his dad play during his brief comeback with the Sharks in 2009 at the age of 43. And he knew if he patterned his game after his dad's, it would hurt, recalling the bumps and bruises his dad came home with on a daily basis.
"I look at all the sons of fathers that played and I would say that 9 out of 10 of those boys are all dedicated, hard-working and they play with passion and they know from their dad how fortunate they are to be playing this game," Claude said. "They don't take it for granted."
Now, the roles are reversed as Claude studies Brendan's game, watching his son compete for the Kings. Claude, who is also his son's agent, can't help but ask when he sees other players chirping his son on the ice: 'What are they saying about me?'
"That's always funny," Brendan said. "I kind of like it when they say it, because it really sets me up to let them know ... the guys who are willing to say that are definitely not half as good a player as he was."
Claude said he thinks Brendan is getting closer to the player that he can be, but Brendan won't light up the stat sheet every night, and it's the intangibles - his role as an agitator, coercing opponents into taking penalties - that have made him valuable so far in his career. Those are intangibles that come from an elite bloodline.
"I've always been pretty outspoken about the closest player comparable to myself is my dad," Brendan said.
Currently, Brendan has been placed on Injured Reserve with a lower body injury that could keep him out of the lineup for a substantial amount of time. This is bad timing since he is having a breakout year, anchoring the fourth line for the Kings while they make a strong push for the playoffs.
His teammates and fans hope that he heals sooner than later and once again brings the energy and spirit and continues to be the proverbial sparkplug for the Kings.