SI Vault
 
Stick Shift
Michael Farber
October 07, 2002
A moody NHL star comes back
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 07, 2002

Stick Shift

A moody NHL star comes back

View CoverRead All Articles

Alexandre Daigle is on the wing and not the lam now, dashing up the right flank for the Penguins during the exhibition season. Pittsburgh could use scoring help, and at age 27 Daigle, who hasn't played in the NHL in two years, could use a job. Since his retirement the former No. 1 draft pick has toured France and Australia, organized a Sheryl Crow concert in his native Montreal and played hockey in a beer league near his Los Angeles home. "But," Daigle says, "I played only every third game." The Senators, Flyers, Lightning and Rangers—the NHL teams Daigle played for—could have told you that.

Daigle broke into the NHL in 1993 with decent hands, spectacular speed and financial security thanks to a five-year, $12.5 million deal with the Senators, but he liked the lifestyle more than the life. A heartthrob billboard model who potted a solid 20 goals as a rookie, he never reached his promise. Fans hounded him for his lackadaisical effort—often blaming it on his off-ice dalliances with the likes of Pam Anderson. (The "Unofficial Alexandre Daigle Sucks" web page still gets hits.) In '98 Ottawa sent him to the Flyers. Two years later he'd been traded twice more and was coming off an eight-goal season for the Rangers when he skated away. "I have zero regrets," Daigle says. "I wasn't mature enough to handle being a pro athlete."

Daigle's interest was rekindled by last spring's playoffs, and this summer he had daily 6 a.m. conditioning sessions with a noted L.A. trainer. Five teams invited him to camp, but in Pittsburgh he joins Mario Lemieux in a fire wagon system that suits his skills. Last week he scored twice against the Devils and did it with a smile—hints that he may be ready to meet the expectations of a decade ago. "For the first time in a while," Daigle says, "I don't feel like I want to be somewhere else."

1