Devils’ Letourneau-Leblond finds family, home here

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond didn’t want to be here.
Albany Devils forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond has turned into a regular local after meeting his wife Nicole, a North Greenbush native, during a minor-league assignment five years ago and more recently adding son Luc to Team Leblond 14 months ago.
Albany Devils forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond has turned into a regular local after meeting his wife Nicole, a North Greenbush native, during a minor-league assignment five years ago and more recently adding son Luc to Team Leblond 14 months ago.

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond didn’t want to be here.

More to the point, and understandably, he wanted to be in the NHL.

That was when he was sent down to Albany by the New Jersey Devils during the 2010-11 season, though. Since then, it’s safe to say the Capital Region has grown on the 11th-year pro from Levis, Quebec, a well-known “tough guy” who can’t fight the draw of the area. It’s grown on him to the point of absorbing him, making him something of a local in-law.

“Being sent down, obviously, the first reaction is, ‘Oh, man, I shouldn’t be down here. I should be up there,’ ” he said. “But everything happens for a reason, right? I met my wife. Then I got traded to Calgary, and that was a great experience, traveling and meeting people. In the end, we came back here.”

He met his future wife, Nicole, on that assignment to Albany. The North Greenbush native is a Columbia High School grad, and earned degrees from Russell Sage (where she earned induction into the athletics Hall of Fame as a soccer player) and Saint Rose, then as Nicole Hanks.

Letourneau-Leblond’s hockey career carried him to western Canada the following season, split between Calgary in the NHL and Abbotsford in the AHL. After the next season, in Norfolk, Va., he and Nicole were married in 2013, then moved to Pennsylvania, where he played two seasons for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Now with a 14-month-old son, Luc Leon Leblond — just as Letourneau-Leblond is known as PL3, Luc is simply L3 — they finds themselves back in the Capital Region. It’s a perfect fit.

“It’s easy for my parents to come visit,” Pierre-Luc said. “Also, we’re outdoors people. We’re always out hiking, looking for new trails. We have a family lake house in Upstate New York. We’re close to all that stuff, so we like Upstate New York.”

“He’s very close to his family, and they can drive or take a short flight,” Nicole said. “And it’s beautiful here. Growing up here, you don’t necessarily appreciate it the same as if you come here later in life.”

‘. . . like osmosis.’

It happens from time to time. A guy gets sent to the minors in Upstate New York, and it just feels right, so he stays.

It happened to Barry Melrose, and several other former Adirondack Red Wings such as Greg Joly and Jamie Pushor. Melrose, from Kelvington, Saskatchewan, played parts of four seasons for Adirondack in the 1980s, then later coached a few different incarnations of pro hockey in Glens Falls.

Melrose, though, first arrived during a snowstorm, which did not leave the most favorable impression.

“You first get there, and you just see the snow,” he said. “But one thing I loved from the start was the Civic Center, and I still love it today. It’s a great building. We had great teams there, we won championships, and you just become a part of it. You meet the fans, you meet the people who go to the games. The minors are like that, much more so than the NHL. You do become part of the community. Compound that with your kids going to school, and you meet all the teachers, you meet families of the kids who are your children’s friends. It’s almost like osmosis. It’s very easy to do in this area.

“You’ve got everything — you’ve got the lakes, the mountains, and obviously, I’m a hockey guy, and hockey’s a big sport in that area. The longer you live there, the more you like it, and it just becomes your home.”

Nicole Letourneau-Leblond already owned a house in Cohoes, but they had been renting it out. When Pierre-Luc signed with the Devils again last this past summer, the tenants renting their house wanted to stay, so the hockey family is now living in a Clifton Park apartment.

Pierre-Luc has, for the last several offseasons, made himself at home at The Hockey Hut and running on the track at RPI.

The career of a pro athlete, though, has the potential to carry them anywhere in the country, or the world. Still, they like where they’ve landed, for now.

“She had a career before we moved to Calgary together,” Pierre-Luc said. “She put that on hold to follow me. Chances are, we’re going to be here, but we’ll see. It’s probably going to be up to her to decide where we’re going to live.”

“Maybe Hawaii? No,” Nicole said with a laugh. “I said, ‘I’ve got to go where your career takes you, but when you’re done, I want to pick where we go.’ The thing is, I did have a career here for almost 10 years, and all my networks are here. So ideally, it makes sense to be here, but you just never know. You always think you have a plan, and then something changes it.”

For Pierre-Luc, everything changed when Luc was born. Luc was running around a Times Union Center room Wednesday before practice, and the guy who was angry about being in Albany five years ago was all smiles.

“Just bringing him to the rink, I can’t wait to teach him how to skate, and hopefully he likes it,” Pierre-Luc said.

“It gives you a different perspective, too. I used to do it only for me, for my career, for myself. Now I do it for my family. It’s not a distraction, like some people think. It’s really a motivation. It pushes you to work harder. I really had the best summer of my life, working out.”

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