ST. PAUL - The St. Paul Junior Canadiens Alumni Foundation has been busy over the past year, re-establishing a decades-old relationship, planning events that will bring former NHL players to the community, and setting up the local junior hockey club for success in the future.
The benefits of the many projects that have now been made official will benefit the community as a whole, according to Patrick Lamoureux, president of the St. Paul Jr. Canadiens Alumni Foundation. Lamoureux spoke to LakelandToday on Friday, shortly after he met with the Town of St. Paul to inform them of the work being done.
Included in that work will be two alumni hockey games - each with a specific focus - that will bring former NHL hockey players to St. Paul. These games are being made possible thanks to a long-time relationship between the St. Paul Canadiens and the Montreal Canadiens. While that relationship has waned over the last few decades, Lamoureux and his board have been able to reignite it, speaking regularly with representatives in Montreal over the past year.
The junior hockey organization also now has charitable status, which Lamoureux believes will be a benefit not just for the club, but for the community. Obtaining this status opens up the doors, and triggers a number of different conversations. The effect the club can have on other community groups also expands.
Scholarships, hockey schools, support for minor hockey, and more are among the things that will now be possible.
Back in the 50s
In the mid-1950s, the St. Paul club and the Montreal Canadiens established a relationship. Experts from old St. Paul Journal issues confirm the affiliation. One specific article noted that "St. Paul is the only club in Alberta affiliated with the Canadiens," making the relationship truly unique.
In July of 2020, Lamoureux wrote a letter to the Montreal Canadiens' owner Geoff Molson, and president of the Montreal Canadiens Alumni Rejean Houle, with the intent to reconnect the history that once existed between Montreal and St. Paul. That relationship stayed strong from the 1950s through to the 1980s.
"We understand as the years have passed and the leagues have changed, our connection with the Montreal Canadiens' club changed as well. Sadly, we recognize that many of these individuals that were involved in this era have passed on," states Lamoureux.
On behalf of the St. Paul alumni foundation, Lamoureux requested an opportunity to discuss and "re-establish a historical endorsement that would support the long withstanding preservation of the St. Paul Junior Canadiens Alumni and St. Paul Junior Canadiens Hockey Club."
Lamoureux acknowledged the request was unique - but he has been successful.
"We are merely seeking to maintain the historical pride as over 1,500 hockey players have proudly donned the red, white, blue and 'CH' for the St. Paul Junior Canadiens. We would be honoured to reconnect our relationship with the Montreal Canadiens Alumni," wrote Lamoureux.
Part of the process has also involved a royalty-free agreement to ensure the Canadiens can continue to use the official logo. This too has been acquired, which Lamoureux says was an "important step" to achieve.
Alumni games and more
Looking ahead, there is lots of work and success to be had. In October, the Junior Canadiens are planning to play host to an Indigenous NHL alumni game. Lamoureux says the St. Paul club has been "very blessed" over the years to have had some amazing Indigenous players join the team. Some seasons, there may have not been a team at all if it weren't for players who joined from the surrounding First Nations communities.
Lamoureux sees the event as a step toward reconciliation, and he is excited to use the game of hockey to take that step. The alumni game will see former Indigenous NHL hockey players come to St. Paul for the special event.
Then in March of 2022, a Montreal Canadiens alumni game is set to come to St. Paul. The exact date has also yet to be confirmed, but Lamoureux envisions the event as being a weekend affair, complete with a banquet, and more.
The alumni foundations' second annual golf tournament is also set to take place this summer at the St. Paul Golf Course.
"We know that there's lots of work to do," says Lamoureux. One thing the alumni foundation is hoping to do is expand its list of alumni players. He asks anyone who has been involved with the junior hockey club to reach out to him, and get their name added to the list of alumni.
He adds that there are now alumni all over the world. Lamoureux himself played with the Canadiens when the squad won a provincial championship in 1986.
"We were brothers for life," says Lamoureux, referring to his former teammates.
When speaking about the feedback he received from the Town of St. Paul on April 9, Lamoureux says there appears to be "overwhelming support" for the work being done.
Lamoureux is clearly motivated and eager to see the many projects through. While he was born and raised in the Mallaig area, Lamoureux no longer lives in the area. So, when asked why he's decided to take on such a large project, he points to one of the greatest hockey players of all time - #99.
Wayne Gretzky encouraged hockey players to give back to their communities when they were able to. So, "this is our way," says Lamoureux. He adds the work being done is thanks to amazing efforts from a long list of people.
Lamoureux says the alumni foundation simply wants to see "the community embrace the (hockey) club."
Included in the work being done to promote and preserve the history of the St. Paul junior hockey club are two more key pieces. The alumni foundation is working on getting a number of banners made, which will hang in the rafters at the Clancy Richard Arena. The banners will represent the 18 championships that have been won throughout the years, and some of the builders and players from the club.
Separate from the alumni foundation, one local man has taken on a large project that will see the history of the Junior Canadiens put on display for everyone to see.
Pierre deMoissac has been working throughout the winter, getting plaques made that depict the history of hockey in St. Paul. The plaques include newspaper clippings, teams photos, team rosters, and other pieces of hockey history. So far, deMoissac has completed most of the 1950s through to the 1980s, and he continues to put together the pieces for the last few decades.
The plaques will hang at the Clancy Richard Arena as part of a wall of fame.
Lamoureux speaks highly of the work deMoissac has put into the project, saying it is "critically important."
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