Real Cloutier
Position: Right Wing

Born: June 30, 1956

Birthplace: St. Emile, Quebec, Canada

Height: 5'10"  Weight: 185 lbs.  Shoots: Left

Drafted by: Chicago Blackhawks, 1st Round, 9th  
     Overall, 1976 NHL Amateur Draft; Quebec
     Nordiques, 1st Round, 9th Overall 1974 WHA
     Amateur Draft

Seasons with Buffalo: 1983-84, 1984-85

Uniform Number: 8

Games Played:
Penalty Minutes:
Sabre Totals

A natural born goal scorer, Real "Buddy" Cloutier burst on to the scene with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1972.  In his rookie year of 1972-73, Cloutier scored 39 goals and 99 total points.  The following season, Cloutier scored an incredible 93 goals and 123 assists. Cloutier led his team in points, but amazingly, not in goals.  Cloutier's linemate, center Jacques Locas topped that by scoring 99 goals.  In fact, Cloutier finished the 1973-74 season fifth in golas in the QMJHL, and third in total points.  One of the players who would finish ahead of Cloutier in the points standings, Sorel Black Hawks left wing Michel Deziel, would go on to have a brief career with the Buffalo Sabres.

Cloutier's numbers in 1973-74 did not go unnoticed.  Though at 18 he was too young to enter the NHL Amateur Draft, he was eligible for the World Hockey Association's Amateur Draft in 1974.  Cloutier was claimed by the Quebec Nordiques in the First Round of the proceedings.  Cloutier was the 9th player taken overall. 
Created to rival the NHL as a major hockey league the WHA offered an attractive alternative to players like Cloutier, who obviously had the talent to play at the top levels of the sport, but were considered too young to play in the NHL.  The WHA's lower draft age, coupled with higher starting salaries for rookies, presuaded many top prospects to come out of juniors early and join their league in the 1970's.  Eventually, the NHL was forced to lower it's draft age to compete. 

Drawn by the money offered by the WHA, and the opportunity to play in his home Province, Cloutier opted out of his final two years of junior hockey to join the Nordiques for the 1974-75 season.  Cloutier scored a respectable 26 goals his rookie year in Quebec, but he was only warming up.  Cloutier caught fire in his second year with the Nordiques, leading the WHA in goals with 60.  Cloutier would lead the league in goals two more times, netting 66 in 1976-77 and 75 in 1978-79. 
In 1976, having turned 20 years old, Cloutier was eligible for the NHL Amateur Draft.  His rights were taken by the Chicago Blackhawks, in the same position that he had been chosen two years earlier in the WHA Draft, 9th Overall in the First Round.  Cloutier could have jumped leagues to join the Blackhawks, but decided instead to remain with the Nordiques.  Cloutier would get his chance to play in the NHL soon enough. 

In 1979, the WHA suspended operations.  Four of the league's teams were invited to join the NHL, including Cloutier's Nordiques.  Since Cloutier's NHL rights had been claimed by Chicago in 1976, the Nordiques were forced to give up a First Round draft pick to Chicago in order to retain their star winger. 

On October 10, 1979, Cloutier made his NHL debut as a member of the Quebec Nordiques.  In that game, Cloutier scored all three of his team's goals in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Flames.  Cloutier became only the second player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his NHL debut, the
first since Alex Smart of the Montreal Canadiens accomplished the feat in 1942.  Cloutier's three goals in his first NHL game remains an NHL record for most goals by a rookie in his first game in the modern era.  Cloutier finished the 1979-80 season with 42 goals, leading the team and trailing only fellow WHAers Wayne Gretzky, Blair McDonald and Mike Rogers for the rookie lead.

Struggling with injuries throughout the 1980-81 season, Cloutier scored only 15 goals in 34 games played.  He picked up where he left off his rookie year the following season, scoring 37 goals.  In 1982-83, Cloutier played in 68 games, scoring 28 goals and 39 assists. 

Though Cloutier's numbers were good, his off-ice behavior had started to affect his on-ice performance.  Cloutier had gained a reputation for his partying in his final years in Quebec.  The addition of the Statsny brothers to the Nordiques lineup, coupled with Cloutier's increasing inconsistancy made him expendable.
On June 8, 1983, Cloutier was traded along with Quebec's First Round pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft (Adam Creighton) to the Buffalo Sabres for Andre Savard, Tony McKegney and J.F. Sauve and a 3rd Round pick in the 1983 Draft (Iiro Jarvi).  The Sabres entered the 1983 off-season looking for a sniper to add punch to the team's offensive attack. Otherwise a fairly complete team, they lacked that one big goal scorer that would put them over the top and back into the thick of the Stanley Cup race.  Buffalo GM Scotty Bowman hoped Cloutier would be that sniper.  The extra First Round pick, Bowman thought, wouldn't hurt either.

Cloutier got off to a good start for the Sabres in the 1983-84 season, but his play quickly declined as the season progressed.  For the first time in his career, Cloutier was playing outside of Quebec.  His trouble adjusting to the new environment contributed to his inconsistency.  In addition, his notorious post-game affairs were taking their toll.  Cloutier finished the season with 24 goals and 36 assists.  While his numbers were respectable, they failed to replace the offensive production lost in trading McKegney, who led the Sabres with 36 goals in 1982-83.   
A cardinal rule for NHL General Managers has always been to use extreme caution when making trades within your own division.  It can often come back to haunt you.  This was perhaps never more adequately demonstrated than in the 1984 Playoffs.  The Sabres were matched up against the Nordiques in a best-of-five opening round series.  Cloutier was a non-factor in the series, playing only two games in which he was held scoreless.  The ex-Sabres, Savard, Sauve and McKegney, on the other hand, had a field day on their former team.  Savard scored twice in the series, Sauve had the game-winning goal in Game Three and McKegney served as the team's inspirational leader as the Nordiques swept the Sabres in three games.

Cloutier, meanwhile, would play only 4 more games in the Sabres lineup.  He was sent down to the Sabres AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, during the 1984-85 season, the first minor-league demotion of his career.  Cloutier was waived after playing just 12 games with Rochester.  He finished the season with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League.  At the end of the 1984-85 season, Real Cloutier retired from professional hockey.
Photo Credit: Bill Wippert