One of the most decorated goaltenders of his era, Jean-Francois Labbe starred in the American Hockey League over 10 seasons from 1993 to 2003.
A native of Sherbrooke, Que., Labbe was undrafted out of junior hockey and made his AHL debut with the Prince Edward Island Senators, earning the win in his first start. He was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, and won 25 games with the Cornwall Aces in the regular season before leading them to a first-round playoff victory over Albany in one of the biggest upsets in Calder Cup history.
With the Hershey Bears in 1996-97, Labbe was dominant. He appeared in 66 games and led the AHL in victories (34), goals-against average (2.55) and shutouts (six), earning the “Baz” Bastien Award as the league’s top goaltender and the Les Cunningham Award as its most valuable player. Labbe continued to shine in the postseason, and the Bears’ march through the playoffs – including classic seven-game series wins over Philadelphia and Springfield – ended in a Calder Cup title.
Labbe spent the 1997-98 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs before signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers, setting up another memorable campaign in 1999-2000.
Labbe went 27-13-7 for the league-leading Hartford Wolf Pack, ranking fifth in the AHL in both GAA (2.52) and save percentage (.924) to help earn his second career Harry (Hap) Holmes Award for team goaltending. He appeared in his fourth career AHL All-Star Classic, and in a game at Quebec, he became just the fifth goalie in league history to score a goal. After making his long-awaited National Hockey League debut in April, Labbe returned to Hartford for the postseason and backstopped the Wolf Pack to a Calder Cup championship, recording a 2.18 GAA and a .935 save percentage in 22 games and a 5-0 record when facing elimination.
Labbe was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets early in the 2000-01 season, and finished his AHL career with two stellar seasons with the Syracuse Crunch. He helped the Crunch to a division title in 2001-02, when he earned a nod as a Second Team AHL All-Star and tied what was then the league record for shutouts in a season with nine.
With a career mark of 202-151-52 in 420 career AHL appearances, Labbe ranks 12th all-time in wins as well as eighth in shutouts (27). He is also fourth all-time in postseason contests by a goaltender (82), and his 46 playoff wins and seven playoff shutouts are both tied for second-most in AHL history.