Volume 12 Week 5

Wednesday, Jan. 16


Posted Jan. 10

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Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney





(Posted 10:30 a.m., Aug. 31)
Ray Friel rink named after Orléans hockey legend Ron Racette

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ron Racette pictured with Conrwall Royals star Gary MacGreegor during the team's 1973 playoff run. QMJHL archives

Many Orléans residents may be surprised to learn that the community has a rich sporting heritage that dates back to its earliest days.

Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion grew up and played minor hockey in Orléans, as did Denis Roy and Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Before them all was Ron Racette. Racette was a three sport athlete who played football, lacrosse and hockey, but it was the latter where he found his calling.

After a short minor hockey career that included two stints with the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League, Racette joined the coaching ranks in 1970 as the head man behind the bench of the Sherbrooke Castors.

After two seasons in Sherbrooke, he took over as the head coach of the Cornwall Royals at the start of the 1972-73 season after they had won the 1972 Memorial Cup. He led the team to the QMJHL finals in his first year with the club, but they lost to the Quebec Remparts in a hard fought seven game series.

Racette was let go by the Royals after the team suffered a first round exit the following year despite finishing atop their division in the regular season.

After a short stint in the North American Hockey League as the head coach of the Long Island Cougars, Racette returned to the QMJHL in 1975 as the general manager and head coach of the Quebec Remparts, leading them to the league championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup in his first season.

They would return to the finals in 1977 but lost to the Sherbrooke Castors in five games. In Racette's final season with the Remparts, they finished first in their division, but got swept in the first round by Trois-Riviéres.

In 1978, Racette began a four year stint with the Shawinigan Cataractes. In his final season with the club he was given the added responsibility of general manager, but was let go at the end of the season when they suffered their fourth straight first round exit.

After undergoing surgery for a brain tumor in July 1982, Racette took a year off from the sport he loved to recover. He returned behind the bench to replace Rick Bowness as the head coach of the fledgling Sherbrooke Jets of the AHL prior to the 1983-84 season. Following his initial season with the club he was treated once again for brain cancer and later died from a pulmonary embolism on July 21, 1984 at the age of 42.

Racette was known for his trademark plaid jackets and once hired a professional wrestler to act as his bodyguard behind the bench to protect him from the fans in Sorel, Quebec.

In all his years as a professional head coach, Racette never forgot his roots in Orléans. Which is why the Société franco-ontarienne du patrimoine et de l'histoire d'Orléans (SFOPHO) pushed for the city to name Arena 1 at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex in his honour.

The commemoration ceremony was held on Aug. 21 with Racette's widow Christiane in attendance along with his son Ron Jr., granddaughter Elora and sister Rollande Robert, as well as several members of SFOPHO including president Nicole Fortier and vice-president Louis V. Patry who nominated Racette for the honour and acted as emcee during the event.

Chirstiane Racette, who settled down in Sherbrooke, recalled how her husband lived, breathed and dreamt about hockey 24/7, and his unwavering affection for his players.

'He loved all his players…from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep, it was hockey," Christian told the gathering.

A brass plaque with Racette's name on it and his many accomplishments will have a permanent home on the wall beside the arena that now bears his name.

The Racette family including Ron Racette's widow Christiane (second from the right) and his son Ron Jr. (behind) pose with the hockey coach's commemorative plaque along with SFOPHO vice-president Louis V. Patry (far left). Photo courtesy of SFOPHO

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)





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