Bob Mongrain

Good things come in small packages. That's a cliché which the National Hockey League doesn't adhere to very often. Case in point: Bob Mongrain.

Over the years there have been countless players like Bob Mongrain. Bob was an offensive dynamo, starring in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before signing on with the Buffalo Sabres in 1979. He would spend the first 5 years of his professional career tearing up the American Hockey League with Buffalo's chief affiliate Rochester, before heading to Europe where he starred in Switzerland was an offensive specialist who played parts of six seasons in the NHL during the 1970s and '80s. Most of his success came in the more wide-open junior and European leagues until his retirement in 1992. However he never had the opportunity to play regularly in the National Hockey League. Why? At 5'10" and 160 pounds, he was considered far too slight to be able to play in the big leagues which were roamed by giants.

Mongrain was overlooked by every NHL team on NHL draft day. Not one team was willing to use even a late round selection on the tiny pivot who had scored 66 goals and 142 points in 1978-79 and for the second straight year helped the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs return to the Memorial Cup championship. He, like so many other QMJHLer's of that era, was labeled as a poor defensive player as well, which didn't help matters.

But Bob continued to pursue his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with him on a free agent contract, and after he lit up the American Hockey League in the first half of his first professional season (he scored 25 goals and 49 points in 39 games with Rochester), he was recalled and finished the season with the Sabres. His playing time was significantly diminished however, but he still was able to chip in with 4 goals and 10 points, and participated in 9 playoff contests, scoring another goal and 3 points.

The dreaded "Sophomore Jinx" got Bob during his second year (1980-81). He only got into 4 NHL games and otherwise played exclusively in Rochester where he wasn't able to find his form from the previous season. He was able to bounce back in1981-82 when he again began the year in Rochester but after lighting up the scoreboard found himself finishing the season in Buffalo. He played in just 24 games this time, and chipped in 6 goals and 10 points. He also saw action in one playoff game.

Aside from one emergency call up during the 1984 playoffs, Bob would be a minor leaguer for the entire 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. The La Sarre, Quebec native helped the Amerks capture the 1983 Calder Cup championship.

Bob headed to Europe for the 1984-85 season. He found he really enjoyed both hockey and life in Switzerland, and would make it his home for several more years. However he never gave up on his dream of making the National Hockey League. Once the Swiss season ended, he returned to Buffalo and participated in 8 games for the Sabres, scoring a goal and an assist. At the conclusion of the 1985-86 season he did the same with the Los Angeles Kings, scoring 2 goals and 5 points in 11 games. However he would not find a regular NHL job offer and played and later coached in Switzerland through the 1990s. He would later return to Canada to coach junior hockey in the QMJHL.

Mongrain appeared in 81 NHL games over the span of 7 years. In that time he scored 13 goals and 27 points. He also appeared in 11 playoff games, accumulating 1 goal and 3 points.


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