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Top 100 Goalies: No. 85 — Don Beaupre

He stormed the NHL as a rare early bloomer at a position where players typically take years to reach their prime.

Don Beaupre is one of the few netminders who jumped right to the NHL from junior and instantly became one of the top puckstoppers in the business. As a 19-year-old rookie, Beaupre played in the 1981 All-Star Game and, a few months later, backstopped the Minnesota North Stars on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup final, where they ultimately fell in five games to the New York Islanders during the prime of their dynasty.

The native of Waterloo, Ont., describes himself as a typical Canadian kid who loved the game. He played a ton of road hockey or the real thing when his friends’ backyards had ice. He started playing organized hockey at six, following his older brother’s footsteps, and it only took Beaupre three games to cement his lifetime role: goaltender. “The coach was rotating players into the position until he found someone who really wanted to play or was any good,” Beaupre said. “I guess I fit both criteria.”

Beaupre was a top junior netminder for the OHA’s Sudbury Wolves and became the first goaltender selected in the 1980 NHL draft when the North Stars picked him in the second round. He promptly made the team out of training camp and formed one of the best goaltending tandems in the league with veteran Gilles Meloche.

Beaupre was one of the NHL’s most talented netminders for a long time with excellent reflexes and a calm, composed demeanor compared to fiery counterparts such as Billy Smith and Ron Hextall. “I was a reflex goalie who had to compete everyday whether it was a practice or a game,” Beaupre said. “I saw a lot of benefit in the butterfly style, but I had to be very aggressive because I was not a big body in the net at 5-foot-8. I favored my strong glove, but I felt I also controlled rebounds fairly well.”

Beaupre claims his appearance in the 1981 Stanley Cup final as his biggest accomplishment in hockey but also his biggest disappointment. “Seasons are full of ups and downs, but not winning the Stanley Cup in the only year I was in the final…It hurts more when I look at the fact that I played 16 more seasons after that and never had the same opportunity to win as I did in my rookie season.

“My best moments were of course playing in the 1981 Stanley Cup final and in two NHL All-Star Games, plus anytime we won a playoff series. My most memorable game is probably when we beat the Islanders 4-2 in Game 4 of that 1981 final, and my best game that I can remember would be with the Washington Capitals when we knocked the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the playoffs in 1994.”

Beaupre would spend the first nine of his 17 NHL seasons with the North Stars. He later moved on and had stints with the Capitals, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.

He’s now owner and president of Beaupre Aerial Equipment in Minneapolis. Growing up, he had a good friend whose family was in the rental business, so he’d learned about it at a young age. “I had the opportunity to get involved in a start-up company in ownership and running a rental store on a day-to-day basis about a year-and-a-half after getting out of hockey,” he said. “Things evolved, and I’ve now had my own company for nearly 15 years now.”

Born: Sept. 19, 1961, Waterloo, Ont.
NHL Career: 1980-96
Teams: Min, Wsh, Ott, Tor
Stats: 268-277-75, 3.45 GAA, .885 SP, 17 SO

DID YOU KNOW?

Between Feb. 6 and March 19, 1986, Beaupre won 14 straight games for the North Stars. The streak ended March 21, but it’s hard to blame him for the loss, as he stopped 50 of 55 shots in a 5-4 overtime defeat to two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Edmonton. Nearly a decade later, on Feb. 6, 1995, Beaupre stopped all 34 shots by Philadelphia in a 3-0 win in the first shutout for the modern-day Ottawa Senators.

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