Labrie Continues to Keep it Simple

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Pierre-Cedric Labrie estimates his first National Hockey League assist came about 200 feet from the Phoenix Coyotes net.

The Syracuse Crunch forward, up for more than a dozen games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, had chipped the puck past defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and his linemates, Trevor Smith and Martin St. Louis, were off to the races.

It wasn't the prettiest play, but it got the job done.

"Just a simple play," Labrie said. "Keep it simple. That's my type of game."

In his sixth professional season, Labrie has had to grind out a career by doing a little bit of everything on the ice.

"Go to the greasy area, and sometimes I have to stand up for my teammates," the 26-year-old said. "Other times, the puck will be laying there, and I just have to put it in."

With 123 points and 672 penalty minutes over parts of six seasons in the American Hockey League, it's been mostly the rough-stuff for the 6-2, 218-pounder.

But his career has been about fighting it out from the beginning.

Cut from the Quebec Remparts during his first year of juniors and things not working out with his Junior AAA team, Labrie found himself playing for the Restigouche Tigers, a Junior A team, for most of the 2005-06 season.

After amassing 86 points, 153 penalty minutes, and a boat-load of confidence in 54 games, Labrie's hometown team, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, gave him a shot to return to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The next season, Labrie registered 77 points in 79 games, along with 148 penalty minutes.

"I was able to make the step to major junior in my 20s," he said. "I had a good year, so Vancouver called my agent."

The Canucks signed Labrie and assigned him to the Manitoba Moose, where veteran Mike Keane took him under his wing. The captain, who had played more than 1,000 NHL games, helped Labrie round out his game, whether it was what to do in the defensive zone or what to do when he didn't have the puck.

More importantly, Labrie realized he had to do whatever it took to stay in the lineup.

"It was a learning session for me," he said. "The coach told me right away to not hang my head because I wasn't playing, since we had a strong lineup. I was not in the lineup every game, so I was trying to battle to stay in, and I was in and out all the time."

After playing parts of three seasons with Manitoba, Labrie was dealt to the St. Louis Blue organization, and had a brief stint with the Peoria Rivermen.

With the Lightning looking for some grit for their farm system, Labrie found a new home with the Norfolk Admirals.

On a team that won 28 straight games and followed with a run to win the Calder Cup last season, Labrie was the first player mentioned by Cory Conacher, who was named the league's most valuable player and rookie of the year.

"You've got to give a ton of credit to the team we had last year," Conacher said. "PC Labrie and Trevor Smith were my linemates for most of last year and that's kind of how I got those opportunities to win those awards."

Labrie's play – he recorded 35 points and 107 penalty minutes in 56 regular season contests – earned him his first call-up to the NHL, where he totaled a pair of assists and three fights in 14 games.

"That was a dream come true," he said. "It was like a reward…Sometimes it's good to live on both sides – (to play) minor hockey and you go to another level. You see both sides, so you appreciate everything you have more."

Although another call-up would be welcomed, Labrie and the Crunch – the new Lightning affiliate – are focusing on the task at hand.

"Now we're just trying to repeat that – maybe not the 28-straight, since we know you just need one bad night or one unlucky bounce and the streak is over," he said. "We're looking for the same goal – to raise the cup again."