Tracers: Normand Lacombe

This is Norm Lacombe. He was the subject of one of the NHL’s biggest trades at the March, 1987 deadline. Edmonton sent two veterans–Mark Napier and Lee Fogolin–to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Lacombe and a minor leaguer, plus future considerations. Looking back on his career and the boxcar numbers, one might ask what all the fuss was about in regard to Lacombe. Why did the Oilers deal two veterans for Lacombe? The answer after the click.

Normand Lacombe was a throwback hockey player. Tenacious, aggressive and a punishing hitter. How punishing?

  • Glen Sather, fall 1987: "He’s a shy, quiet kind of guy who doesn’t show a lot of emotion but he’s so strong. One time in Boston he came off the ice and had 5 Bruins yelling at him because he hit one of their guys so hard. I think it’s that he’s so strong that when he hits people he hurts them."

Lacombe combined that asset with solid checking and made himself into a useful NHL player. He made his NHL debut on October 11, 1984 and played for a Stanley Cup winning team (Edmonton) before being forced to retire due to injury in 1992.

Lacombe arrived via the NHL Draft and the Buffalo Sabres. In photo (L-R) are Tom Barrasso, John Tucker, Scotty Bowman, Lacombe and Adam Creighton. Tucker was a 2nd round pick the day of this photo (1983), the other three kids went in the first round.

Lacombe was ranked #7 NA skater by Central Scouting and #9 by the Hockey News (which was the only available ranking fans could follow at the time). He’d already completed two seasons at the University of New Hampshire (he enrolled at age 16) and was destined to become the highest drafted player from an ECAC roster in that league’s history.


Among the known injuries to Norm Lacombe:

  1. Missed remainder of 1983-84 season with knee injury, suffered during Rochester’s Jan. 14, 1984, game at Binghamton. The injury needed season-ending surgery.
  2. Missed remainder of 1985-86 season with broken jaw, an injury suffered during Buffalo’s Feb. 21, 1986, game vs. N.Y. Islanders.
  3. Had postseason surgery to correct chronic exertional compartment syndrome in April 1987.
  4. Missed part of Edmonton’s 1988 training camp with knee injury, suffered in September 1988.
  5. Missed parts of 1988-89 season with two broken fingers on right hand, an injury suffered when he tripped and crashed into the boards in Edmonton’s Dec. 14, 1988, game at Toronto, and with sprained right shoulder, an injury suffered in January 1989. 
  6. Missed part of 1989-90 season with chronic shin splints, an injury suffered in March 1990. The injury required postseason surgery on both legs to correct chronic exertional compartment syndrome on April 6, 1990.

During a recent edition of Nation Radio, I had a chance to talk to Norm Lacombe about his NHL career, those wonderful Oiler teams (there’s a great anecdote about Norm and Glenn Anderson) and what he’s doing now.

That interview is the first segment here.

  • EasyOil

    @ LT: Looking at Lacombe’s stats and knowing what I know about him, he seemed to have a very similar (eerily, even) career to that which Gilbert Brule is having now: high draft pick, smallish player, good shot, hard hitter, injury prone, traded by original team 2/3 years after being drafted, puts up 4th line numbers but with a spike year culminating in 17 goals. Now if Brule can make himself as useful as Norm did, and I believe he can (and already has to some extent, injuries aside), then I wouldn’t complain about having that type of player on my team. You need those guys.

  • Lowetide

    Lacombe was a plugger … and I mean that with a tremendous amount of respect. You could tell he was strong and a good checker but, beyond that, I don’t really remember him sticking out all that much.

    Then again, on a team whose first- and second-liners contained four or five of the best players in the world, the third- and fourth-liners were obviously overshadowed and I was probably a bit too young to catch on to the value of a guy like Lacombe.

    But yeah, I do remember him being hurt a lot. And I don’t remember him playing that much beyond, say, the 1988 Cup win. Or maybe he did and he didn’t stick out.

    I do remember meeting Lacombe at a card signing in Grande Prairie in the early 2000s. He looked like he could still play. He was in great shape.

  • Reggie

    Back when they made the trade, I remember hearing how highly ranked Lacombe was as a midget player. I can’t locate a source, but I remember hearing he was the top ranked player in Quebec going into the midget draft.

    I managed to locate the following info: Was Shawinigan’s first-round pick, No. 5 overall, in 1981 QMJHL midget draft.

    Obviously he was well thought of at midget age.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    News out of the Calgary Flames office today is Curtis Glencross has been signed to a reported four- or five-year contract with a significant raise on his $1.2 million salary and a no-movement clause. It was noted Glencross is coming off a career season.

    One would think NHL GMs have finally smartened up and would refrain from locking themselves into these toxic deals! Particularly Calgary, with its back already against the salary cap.

    The Oilers are living proof with three of them: Souray, Khabibulin and Horcoff.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        I don’t think he meant the amount is toxic but the fact that Calgary already has a host of NMC and decided to add another one that’s a fairly long term deal (4 years) isn’t the smartest decision in the world. Feaster is likely to drop Langkow, Sarich, and either Hagman/Jokinen this summer.

        What are the chances the Oilers can take Sarich for a middling pick. Offer Calgary cap relief and the Oilers get a physical defender who can actually play defence and take a top 4 role.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Now that Glencross has got his juicy contract, I think we’ll see him settle into the 3rd liner, 16 goal/season, decent player with occasional lapses type. This contract is better than the Pisani contract, but still, another boat anchor to keep the Flames at mediocre for years more.
    Btw, LT, great article on Tom Gilbert at your site. Every toolbox that keeps saying Tom Gilbert is the worst defenseman on the planet should go read it. Our best defenseman after Ray Whitney? Who’d have believed that?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I had the chance to work with Norm in the early ’90’s when he opened up a store here in Edmonton. I’m really glad you’re doing a piece on him, Lowetide and I just want to say a few words about him if I may.

    He has to be the nicest and most humble pro I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, not counting the wonderful friends I grew up with who also made it and were really important in my life.

    Norm and his wife made sure they were kind to everyone and always treated others with dignity and the utmost respect that makes one wish everyone was like they were. His whole family was so nice to everyone it was unbelievable, and his kids were really cute and fun racing all around the store. They were the most giving and generous people, and never let on that they were celebrities in town, even though they were.

    As far as him as a player, he was one of my favorite Oilers of all time, if not my favorite just because of how physical he was. During his time here in Edmonton no one ran more Flames through the boards and you would see highlights of his hits for many, many years afterwards. He may have been the strongest Oiler, pound for pound, that ever played here…and he wasn’t a little guy either. I remember during training camps when they would talk about who was the most fit Oiler they would say it wasn’t even close, every year it was Norm by a mile. They would talk about how imposing he was physically, and the saying I heard that stands out to this day is that he had a bodybuilder’s physique and was ‘built like a brick sh-thouse’.

    Kind of a funny story, one I hope he won’t mind me telling, is that after he retired he did try out for the Oilers again a little later. Even though he hadn’t played and was just coming back he still won basically all the fitness and strength tests again…and by a wide margin, too! At least that’s how I heard it – but never from Norm, he was much too humble to ever mention something like that!

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    This trade was after Semenko and before Dave Brown I believe. The Oilers needed a tough guy and got Wayne Van Dorp in the deal. Huge hands, small brains.