A true product of the North American Hockey League that went on to a lengthy NHL career was Rejean Lemelin. Better known as Reggie, Lemelin played three years in the NAHL with the Philadelphia Firebirds from 1974-75 to 1976-77.
Lemelin played two years of major junior hockey in the QMJHL, 1972-73 and 1973-74, with the Sherbrooke Castors (Beavers). He was selected in the seventh round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the 12th goaltender selected in the draft and went on to play more games in the NHL than any of them. Included in that group above him was Mike Palmateer, selected in the fifth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Palmateer played 356 games in the NHL while Lemelin played over 500.
Reggie was also selected way down in the 13th round of the World Hockey Association Amateur Draft in 1974. He was taken by the Chicago Cougars 209th overall.
With the NAHL Firebirds, Lemelin was the team’s leading goalie for each of the three seasons. During his time with Philadelphia, Reggie collected eleven shutouts in what was a league with a heavy dose of offense.
In 1975-76, he shared goaltending duties with five others but still played more games at 29. The Firebirds won the Lockhart Cup championship with a 4-2 victory over the Beauce Jaros in the final series. However, Lemelin played just three games during the playoffs with Roger Kosar and Gaye Cooley sharing the bulk of the action.
With the end of the NAHL after the 1976-77 season, Lemelin continued on with the franchise in the American Hockey League for 1977-78 and part of 1978-79. His NHL start came in 1978-79 with the Atlanta Flames.
Reggie played in the National Hockey League from 1978-79 to 1992-93 with the Atlanta / Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins. Although he wears no Stanley Cup rings, Reggie and the Bruins came close in 1987-88. Lemelin appeared in 17 playoff games as the Bruins took out the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils before being swept by the Edmonton Oilers in the finals.
His career year on an individual level came in 1989-90. Along with teammate Andy Moog, Lemelin was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy for playing 25 or more games with the team in the NHL with the fewest goals against. Rejean played 43 games while Moog played in 46. Lemelin’s goals against average was slightly better than his counterparts at 2.80 to Moog’s 2.88.
For hockey card collectors, Lemelin did not appear on major cardboard until the 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set. The Rejean Lemelin rookie card appears as number 44.
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