What The Hell Happened To…Alexandre Daigle?

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8 Mar 1997: Center Alexandre Daigle of the Ottawa Senators looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The Kings won the game, 3-1.

It’s hard to bring up a list of the greatest draft busts in NHL history without bringing up a few names. Patrik Stefan, the first ever selection of the Atlanta Thrashers, whose career ended with a missed empty net after years of unfulfilled promise.

There’s Bryan Fogarty, the huge defenseman from Wayne Gretzky’s home town who not only couldn’t make it as a pro but saw his life ended far sooner than it should have.

And then there’s Alexandre Daigle.

Daigle, the number one overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, was touted as “the next Gretzky” after posting 137 points in just 53 games during his 1992/93 season with the Victoriaville Tigers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  He was so highly sought after heading into the draft that the Ottawa Senators were accused of tanking to get the number one pick.

Blessed with blazing speed and dazzling hands, he was touted as the best player from the region since Mario Lemieux.  Being compared to Lemieux and Gretzky before playing a game? What could have gone wrong?

After being selected, Daigle said “I’m glad I got drafted first because no one remembers number two.” Except that number two in the 1993 draft was defenseman Chris Pronger, a potential Hall of Famer.  Oof.

The hype train was only helped along when he signed the largest rookie contract in history (five years, $12.25M).  Unless he began winning a bevy of hardware, there was almost no way he was going to live up to the hype.

And he didn’t come close.

Posting a solid 20 goal/51 point campaign in his rookie season of 1993/94, he seemed like he was starting off well.  But he would only match that output once more (1996/97 with 26 goals/51 points) before being shipped off to Philadelphia.  He would spend parts of the next four seasons between the Flyers, Lightning, and Rangers before ultimately deciding that his heart wasn’t in hockey and calling it quits.

At age 25, the one time “can’t miss” prospect and number one overall pick was out of the league.

Daigle made it well-known on his way out that his heart was never into the game, that he’d only kept playing because of his natural talent.  After packing it in as a hockey star, he moved to Hollywood to try his hand at the celebrity life.

He dated Pamela Anderson (not exactly an accomplishment given the number of folks who can make that claim) and played in a beer league in Los Angeles for Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Bad Boys”, with Cuba Gooding Jr as a teammate.

He even created his own event production company, Impostor Entertainment, which is so ironic it’s best to just leave that alone.

Getting the “itch” to play hockey again, and collect a paycheck, Daigle returned with the Penguins.  In a defensive role with the Penguins, he played well enough to earn a contract from the Minnesota Wild the following season.

In an event no one anywhere saw coming, Daigle wound up being the leading scorer for the Wild, posting his third career 51 point campaign.  But he would disappoint again the following year, being banished to the AHL and ultimately leaving the league again during the lockout.

He’s since bounced around the Swiss-A league and, though he hasn’t played since 2009/10, isn’t officially retired.

The Senators, obviously excited leading up to their selection of Daigle number one overall, wound up making a franchise-altering mistake.  They had passed on the likes of Pronger, Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott, and Adam Deadmarsh for the shot at the next great French-Canadian Superstar.

The weight of being such a hyped prospect and a lack of love for the game may have been his undoing and everyone will wonder just what the hell happened to Alexandre Daigle.

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