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Christmas day: A good time to remember the Leafs' Noel

I only remember two NHL players with the first name “Noel”, which is the French word for “Christmas”.

The first was a one-time Maple Leaf- Noel Price.

I have little clear memory of Price’s time with the Leafs. I just now looked into his background, and there’s good reason my memory is thin: I was born in 1953 and Price played only a total of 29 games with the Leafs in the late 1950s, though he did play a bit in the playoffs in the spring of ’59.

With a French background myself (though not from Quebec), I would have thought anyone named anyone named “Noel” was probably born in La Belle Provence.

But in fact, Price was born in Ontario, and came up in the Leafs system. While he forged a 20-year pro career, he was a bit of a hockey vagabond. After the Leafs, he spent time with the Rangers and Red Wings, as well as the Canadiens. He spent most of his time in the AHL, but finally earned a full-time gig with the expansion Penguins in the late ‘60s and the Kings in the early ‘70s. He also spent three years in Atlanta with the pre-Calgary Flames, and finished his productive professional career in Nova Scotia.

Never flashy or a star, he managed to earn his keep for those 20 years, playing 500 NHL games and tons more in the minors.

The other “Noel” never played for the Leafs. I’m thinking of Noel Picard, who was indeed born in Quebec and came up in the Montreal system. He played ever so briefly with Montreal during the 1964-’65 season, and should have his name on the Stanley Cup, as he earned an assist in three playoff games that spring as Montreal won yet another championship.

Picard went on to be a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman for the St. Louis Blues for five seasons, a part of three St. Louis teams under the now legendary Scotty Bowman who went to the finals—twice losing to Picard’s original club, the Canadiens. Picard finished his career with the Flames in 1972-73, meaning that he and Price actually overlapped briefly with the same team.

Surely, they were the only two players named “Noel” on the same team at the same time in professional hockey history!

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