Born in Laval, Quebec on September 23, 1969, Audette was small but fearless. He used his short, choppy skating to power in and out of traffic to use his knack for finding loose pucks and rebounds. His work ethic was second to none.
But too many people dismissed him because of his lack of size and his graceless skating. He was passed over completely in the 1988 draft, despite scoring 48 goals and 109 points. The following year he scored 76 goals and 161 points in 70 games and another 17 goals in 17 playoff games earning the Guy Lafleur trophy as playoff MVP. Yet he was almost completely overlooked again. The Buffalo Sabres finally took a chance on him in the 9th round, selecting him 183rd overall.
Audette was determined to make it to the NHL and tore up the AHL in his first pro season. He scored 42 goals and was named as AHL Rookie of the Year. More importantly, he was called up to Buffalo in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He would play in 2 games.
Audette was the talk of the NHL early in the 1990-91 season. The undersized rookie unexpectedly made the team right out of training camp. He started the season on fire, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 8 games. All seemed well for Audette. He had proved his detractors wrong. But on November 16th, 1990 his NHL career was placed in serious jeopardy. He tore the ligaments in his left knee and missed the rest of the regular season.
The hard luck kid worked hard to come back. Again he made the Sabres out of training camp. He went on to score an impressive 31 goals in just 63 games before another injury to the same knee ended his season yet again.
Missing the first twenty-two games of the following season, Don was slow to produce in his sophomore season, and many in the organization felt that the back to back knee injuries had taken their toll. He put up only 12 goals in 44 games.
Audette rebounded nicely in 1993-94, scoring 29 goals and adding 30 assists. He would score another 24 goals in only 46 games during the strike shortened 1995 season. By now everyone in the National Hockey League respected Audette as a spunky and dangerous scorer. He was at his best on the power play.
Knee injuries would derail him yet again. He would play in only 23 games in 1995-96 (scoring 12 goals) before having season ending surgery on his right knee. But yet again he bounced back in 1996-97 with 28 goals in 73 games. He followed that up with another healthy season in '97-98, scoring 24 goals in 75 games.
Audette had shown tremendous dedication and loyalty to Buffalo over the years, but a contract dispute saw him hold out for more money prior to the 1998-99 season. Just before Christmas he would be traded to Los Angeles. Audette would get the dollars with the Kings, but it must have been tough for him to watch his former teammates competing for the Stanley Cup just a few months later.
Audette put in a couple of years with the Kings before moving to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2000. He had his best year of his career in Atlanta, scoring 32 goals and 71 points in the 2000-01 season.
That was when his fairy-tale season came full circle. At the trading deadline in 2001 the Thrashers moved Audette back to Buffalo for another playoff push. It was a great story at the time, but ultimately the Sabres could not return to the Stanley Cup final.
That was Audette's last notable season. An unrestricted free agent, he signed with Dallas in 2001 but was soon moved to Montreal, where suffered a scary wrist injury. New York Rangers forward Radek Dvorak's skate accidentally cut Audette's wrist, severing several tendons.
Yet again, Audette persevered and returned to the game. He finished his career quietly in Florida, playing 28 games with the Panthers in 2004.