Then Kroc, the McDonald's hamburger tycoon who also owns the San Diego Padres, decided that, after all, a puck looked pretty much like a Quarter-Pounder. He bought the Mariners and signed Lacroix to a new, guaranteed contract for six years and more than $1 million. Lacroix settled comfortably into the Southern California way of life, cruising around in a dune buggy and a van, and his children, Andr� Jr. and Chantal, adopted a cocker spaniel which they named Marina, after the team.
"The first two years we were in San Diego," says Lacroix, "we rented a place because we didn't know how long the team would last. But when Kroc came along, we bought a house with a Jacuzzi and a pool and started looking for schools for the kids. Eight months after I signed the papers on the house, we had to put it up for sale."
When Kroc scuttled the Mariners after the 1976-77 season, Lacroix once again went franchise shopping. "I chose Houston because the Aeros had been around for six years, and I thought that with their new building [the Summit] they would be included in any merger with the NHL. We decided to have a house built for us in Houston. So, of course, at Christmas the team almost went under. When I heard that the team might fold, I didn't even blink. My attitude was, 'So what?' I had tried to choose teams that had a good chance to stay in the league, and that obviously didn't work. So I decided that whatever was going to happen, well, let it happen."
To everyone's surprise, Kenneth Schnitzer, who owned the Summit, came to the rescue. He bought the Aeros and managed to keep them afloat for the remainder of the 1977-78 season. The family's new home was completed last March. By July, though, the Aeros had folded, and the Lacroix house, barely occupied, was up for sale.
Schnitzer eventually sold the Houston players to Winnipeg, meaning that Lacroix was once more a free agent. After consulting with his lawyer, he signed with the Whalers. "They have the most stable organization in the league, eh?" says Lacroix wryly. Out on Climax Road, you could almost hear the low laughter as it rumbled beneath the headstones, six feet under.