It’s always fun as a sports fan to look back at yesteryear and wonder what happened to your heroes, what that “next big thing” is doing now that he’s not a big thing, and what happened to guys who looked to be on the cusp of dominance.
Like Jim Carey shortly after him, former Boston phenom Blaine Lacher falls into the latter category. And like Carey, Lacher’s meteoric rise was matched only by his warp speed fall back to earth.
Perhaps the warning signs were there early but it’s hard to fault a teenager for being so inconsistent. After missing his freshman season at Lake Superior State due to academic inelligability, he was arrested for disorderly conduct during his sophomore season and would struggle while searching for more playing time.
He would finally get his chance by the time his junior season rolled around. Going 24-5-3 with a 2.59 GAA, Lacher appeared to be breaking out. But he was only getting started. He set the all-time consecutive scoreless streak record at 371:01, which still stands today. On top of that, he went 20-5-4 with six shutouts and a sterling 1.98 GAA.
His season was good enough to earn him a free agent contract with the Boston Bruins for the 1994 season.
Lacher on his time at LSSU, via Boston.com:
“It’s definitely the highlight of my hockey career, even more than playing pro,” said Lacher of his career at Lake SuperiorState. “When you play college hockey you really get to meet your teammates. You live with them and go to school with them. There is nothing like college hockey. Anytime I get a chance to talk to kids midget age around here (16-17 years old) I tell them that college hockey is absolutely the best. Not just the skill of the hockey which is fantastic, but it’s four years of your life you will never forget.”
Getting fast-tracked to the NHL during the lockout shortened 1994/95 season, spending only one game with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. In 35 games during the lockout shortened season, Lacher’s star took off, posting a 19-11-2 record with a 2.41 GAA. More importantly, he led the Bruins to the playoffs.
He would have a pretty dismal playoff series, going 1-4 with a 2.51 GAA in a first round exit to eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey.
Still, coming off such a good season, the sky was the limit for Lacher. He and Carey, who at the time was set to take the starting role in Washington, had established themselves as the young bucks, the next generation of great goaltenders in the NHL.
Lacher’s popularity soared as the fans voted him the Seventh Player Award, given to the Bruins player whose unexpected contributions were key to the team’s success.
His sophomore season would see the magic disappear.
Lasting just 12 games in the 1995/96 season, the stretches of dominance that Lacher had flashed during his rookie campaign were totally gone replaced with a goaltender who didn’t look like he could hang in the minors, let alone on the big stage. His 3-5-2 record, coupled with a rancid 3.93 GAA and .845 save percentage were enough reason to send him back to Providence.
It didn’t get much better from there. He would only see 9 games in Providence and was just as bad as he was in Boston, going 3-5-0 with a 3.90 GAA and an .878 save percentage. He would spend nine games with the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks that season as well.
His last hurrah, 1996/97 with the IHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, would be his worst showing. His 1-8-1 record, 3.76 GAA and .877 save percentage would spell the end of him and at 26 years old, one of the game’s bright young goaltenders would retire from the game.
It got so bad for him during the stretch run of his career that he’d earn the name “Let ‘Em In” Lacher. Oof.
Despite his rapid descent, Lacher looks back fondly on his time in Boston:
“It was the best year of my life,” said Lacher. “I think it was more special because it was in the (Boston) Garden. You hear your whole life how old and awesome the building is, but you don’t believe it until you see your first rat yourself. It was definitely more special to say I played in the Boston Garden with Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and Adam Oates.”
Since his playing days, Lacher has taken up residency in Medicine Hat, Alberta with his wife Shawntelle. He spends his days working as a tire builder for Goodyear and joked about how he came into the job (via Boston.com):
“They needed a goalie on their team,” joked Lacher about how he got the job. “It’s not a very big town here and five of my best friends are there. It pays the bills and it’s hard on the body. It’s shift work, so I get days off during the week which I love.”
For better or worse, Lacher will always be remembered for that fantastic rookie season. He’ll be remembered for being one of the “next ones” with Carey. And for better or worse, Blaine Lacher will always be looked at as one of the game’s most well-known one-hit wonders.
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