Three Sporting Superstars Forever Linked With Vermont

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Vermont may be the sixth smallest state by area and the second least populated U.S. state, but that has not prevented “The Green Mountain State” from producing some incredible athletes over the years. Some were born in Vermont, others grew up here, while a few attended the University of Vermont and represented the Catamounts in football and hockey before making it big as professional players.

While Vermont might not have as many professional athletes as some larger states, the following three individuals have made significant contributions to their respective sports and will forever be held in high regard by Vermonters for years to come. 

Martin St. Louis

Martin St. Louis may have been born in Laval, Quebec, Canada, but the National Hockey League legend is an honorary Vermonter. St. Louis won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and was once a favorite with people sports betting in Texas and across the United States thanks to his keen eye for goals and his ability to create chances out of nothing.

St. Louis was a standout player for the Vermont Catamounts, playing on the right wing from the 1993-94 season through to 1996-97. During his time with the Catamounts, St. Louis played 139 games, scored 91 goals, had 176 assists, and contributed 267 points, making him the record points scorer in Catamounts history. St. Louis holds legendary status among Catamounts supporters, who were delighted when the hockey team retired St. Louis’ number eight jersey in 2016.

St. Louis went undrafted despite his college success but signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Lumberjacks. His contract had a clause that allowed him to leave if an NHL team approached him, which happened when the Calgary Flames offered him a contract in 1998. 

St. Louis failed to hold down a regular place in the Flames’ roster and moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000 because he thought he would enjoy more game time there. He was correct because St. Louis became not only a starter for the Lightning but one of the team’s key players. 

In 2004, St. Louis was one of the best players in the NHL. He finished as the NHL’s leading scorer, won the Stanley Cup, and won several postseason awards, including the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy.

He stayed with the Lightning until partway through the 2013-14 regular season, when he headed to the New York Rangers. During his final season, St. Louis scored his 1,000th point, becoming only the sixth undrafted player in NHL history to achieve that feat. St. Louis retired at the end of the 2014-15 season and now coaches the Montreal Canadiens.

Steve Wisniewski

Steve Wisniewski was born in Rutland, Vermont, in April 1967, but his family moved to Texas when he was a child. After attending high school in Houston, Wisniewski committed to Penn State University, where he became a standout guard for the university’s football team.

Known as “Wiz” because people often mispronounced his surname, Wisniewski was selected 29th overall in the second round of the 1989 draft. The Dallas Cowboys selected Wisniewski before immediately trading him to the then-Los Angeles Raider. The Cowboys’ loss was the Raiders’ gain because Wisniewski turned into an excellent player.

Wisniewski played 13 seasons with the Raiders, becoming integral to the team’s offense. Amazingly, despite playing in a highly physical position, Wisniewski only missed two regular-season games in 13 years through injury; they make them tough in Vermont!

“Wiz” called time on his playing career in 2001, having played 206 games for the Raiders. He made the Pro Bowl eight times, was a First-team All-Pro twice, and was named in the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

Charles LeClair

Charles LeClair was born in St. Albans, Vermont, in July 1969. He stayed local throughout his youth, first attending the Bellows Free Academy as a freshman. The high school team was very competitive, and he didn’t make the team. However, LeClair continued playing in the community leagues and eventually made the high school team in his sophomore year.

The University of Vermont accepted LeClair, but injuries, including meningitis, hampered his college career. He left the Catamounts after playing only 61 games in three years. However, he did still score 56 goals and made 60 assists.

The Montreal Canadiens saw LeClair’s talent and selected him 33rd overall in the 1987 NHL Draft. LeClair stayed with the Canadiens until 1995 and was part of the team that won the 1993 Stanley Cup, scoring two overtime goals to win the game.

LeClair then transferred to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he became one of the NHL’s most feared goal scorers. He scored at least 50 goals in three consecutive seasons, eventually calling time on his Flyers career with 333 goals to his name across 10 seasons. LeClair ended his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins but failed to reproduce the awe-inspiring form of his early career. 

The Vermont Sports Hall of Fame inducted LeClair in 2012, three years after the United States Hockey Hall of Fame did the same.

Wrapping Things Up

The hugely successful careers of Martin St. Louis, Steve Wisniewski, and Charles LeClair continue to inspire thousands of youngsters not only in Vermont but across the United States. This trio of sporting heroes defied the odds and proved to their respective sporting communities that you don’t have to come from a populous state or attend one of the more well-known universities to make a name for yourself in professional sports.

So long as you have some natural ability, are prepared to work hard, and show dogged determination to your cause, anything is possible, not only regarding sporting achievements. St. Louis, Wisniewski, and LeClair are living proof of that fact.

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