An undersized center who stood just 5-foot-8 and weighed in at 160 pounds, Jean-Luc Phaneuf fashioned a two-year career in professional hockey that included a 78-game stint in the World Hockey Association, a major-league rival to the National Hockey League that operated from 1972-79.
Phaneuf was born on October 6th, 1955 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. A right-handed shot, he starred in the junior ranks with the Montreal Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Always willing to lend a helping hand, during the 1974-75 season, Phaneuf led the entire QMJHL by dishing out 100 assists.
In the rugged world of junior hockey, where a player’s toughness is constantly being tested by opposing players, Phaneuf defied the Vegas sports gambling odds by going 99 consecutive games without being assessed a penalty. That stood as the league record for most games in a row without serving an infraction until 2013. Phaneuf sat out just 28 minutes in penalties over his three seasons of junior hockey, skating in 187 games in total.
During the 1973-74 campaign, he was assessed one two-minute minor penalty over the course of 66 games. By contrast, six of his Montreal Junior teammates were assessed at least 100 minutes in penalties. Montreal defenseman Robert Picard led the QMJHL with 296 penalty minutes that season. He was awarded the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as the most gentlemanly player in the QMJHL following the 1974-75 season.
A Junior Legend
Despite his lack of size, Phaneuf was known for his speed on skates. He was perhaps the fastest and most electrifying player of his time. Playing at the Montreal Forum on the same ice as the perennial Stanley Cup-contending Montreal Canadiens, Phaneuf and linemate Normand Dupont formed a dynamic duo that could rival Batman and Robin with their exploits between the boards.
Phaneuf finished his junior career with 297 points in 209 games over the course of the regular seasons and playoffs. That works out to an impressive average of 1.4 points per game. During the 1974-75 campaign, he and linemate Dupont, a future NHLer with the Canadiens, Hartford Whalers and Winnipeg Jets, terrorized enemy goaltenders, finishing 1-2 in QMJHL scoring. Phaneuf totaled 51 goals and 100 assists for 151 points, leaving him second in the scoring race, seven points in arrears to Dupont.
Captain of the Montreal Juniors in 1974-75, Phaneuf finished the season with 11 games in which he collected four or more points. His personal highlight came on November 14, 1974 during a 19-3 victory by the Montreal Juniors against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. That night, the number 14 on the back of Phaneuf’s jersey made its way onto the score sheet eight times. He accounted for three goals and five assists and tied the franchise record for points in a single game established one season earlier by Dupont.
“QMHL Hall of Fame” by theqmjhl.ca is licensed under CC BY 3.0
In 2013, Phaneuf was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame.
In the spring of 1975, Phaneuf was selected 113th overall in the seventh round of the NHL Amateur Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. He was also chosen 109th overall in the eighth round of the WHA Amateur Draft by the Toronto Toros.
Phaneuf opted to give the newer league a try. He signed with the Toros and began his pro career with the Buffalo Norsemen of the North American Hockey League in the fall of 1975. After just two games, though, he was summoned to Toronto to play for the Toros, where he’d gain the chance to perform at another of hockey’s legendary arenas, Maple Leaf Gardens.
Phaneuf collected eight goals and eight assists in 48 games as a WHA rookie. He followed the Toros to Birmingham, Alabama the following season, where the team was rechristened the Birmingham Bulls. But after another year of pro hockey, Phaneuf, who’d continue to pursue his studies while playing the game, opted to make a career change.
Going back to school full-time, he earned a medical degree and practiced medicine in his hometown of Montreal for decades.
Jean-Luc Phaneuf Age
Phaneuf was 65 years old at the time of his death.
Jean-Luc Phaneuf Death & Cause
The former pro hockey star turned physician died suddenly on May 8, 2021. Besides his wife Linda, Phaneuf is survived by his children David (Karina), Mathieu and Maxime (Lydia), his grandchildren Evan, Janie and Logan, his siblings, his nephews and nieces as well as many relatives and friends.