It was a special night for the St. Paul Jr. Canadiens.
The St. Paul Canadiens Alumni Foundation’s first annual fundraising golf tournament last weekend saw a couple hundred former players and supporters hit the links.
But more importantly, Saturday night was one of recognition, for the illustrious history and community contributions that have allowed the organization to be one of the oldest junior hockey teams in the country.
“When we started with the vision, this wasn’t really about the hockey,” said Alumni Foundation president Pat Lamoureux.
“This isn’t really about the club. This isn’t about the alumni. What really this is all about is a 65 year plus heritage, way of life, culture, expectation, and significant, significant pride of wearing the red, white and blue.”
‘Do it with the most passion you have’
The evening highlighted the growing relationship with the Montreal Canadiens Alumni Foundation, the official name change to the St. Paul Jr. Canadiens, and the creation of an Alumni endowment fund and scholarship programs.
Many well-respected alums returned on Saturday, including Pierre Dechaine.
Dechaine, whose name hangs from the rafters of the Clancy Richard Arena, played in the late 1950s for the Juvenile club.
“I grew up in Mallaig, which is about 22 miles north of here…and I was asked if I would play for the St. Paul Juvenile Canadiens at that time. And I agreed, well, I was flattered and honoured to play for St. Paul. So I did,” said Dechaine.
“I played here for a couple of years, two years in fact. And that gave me the opportunity to go from here to try out for the Regina Pats, which I did. And playing for the Regina Pats, I got an opportunity then to get a scholarship to the University of Michigan, which meant an opening that I had not thought of before. I didn’t even know what was available. And I accepted to go.”
What would Dechaine say to a young hockey player considering playing for the Junior B club?
“What I would say to them is if they had that opportunity and if they did it, go and do it with the most passion you have and with the greatest effort that you can exert, and it’ll pay dividends for many, many years.
“I’ve never looked back. So 65 years later for somebody to say, hey, you were part of that. And we were part of that. And so I did decide to come back in spite of the many risks that we face in today’s world because of the pandemic.”
Hall of Famers
The first class of Canadiens Hall of Fame inductees were announced at the event with five players, two builders, and two teams recognized.
The Ray Lefebvre and Didier Gamache families were chosen as builders, while the Juvenile Canadiens Team from 1969-70 and the next year’s Jr. B team from 1970-71 were the first teams to receive Hall of Fame status.
Bernie Germain, Mike Wanchuk, Danny Sadlowski, Mark Hassen, and Pierre deMoissac were the first players to achieve this status.
“I’m on the committee, and I didn’t even know,” joked deMoissac.
“I did not expect this. I’m not sure about being on the player side of it…but I’m very thrilled and honoured and we look forward to continuing to do some stuff here.”
Whenever hockey action returns for the Canadiens in the NEAJBHL, 18 previously unrecognized championships now have banners that will be hung from the rafters, like the old Montreal Forum.
“It’s going to be intimidating. It’s gonna be difficult to win hockey games in the Clancy Richard Arena moving forward,” said Lamoureux.
He thanked many for coming out and said in the near future, everyone that’s been involved in the 65 plus years of St. Paul hockey will be honoured at the arena.
“Every single member that was here, all the members that unfortunately couldn’t be here–I want to recognize the Town of St. Paul, the agricultural society. I’d like to thank the County of St. Paul. I would like to thank every single volunteer that was here over the last few days.
“And I’d like to thank the withstanding board, the Alumni Foundation, all of the fellows, including the club, and really, we are overwhelmed of gratitude from this entire community for embracing the idea of the preservation of the St. Paul Junior Canadiens Alumni Foundation.”