10:30 a.m., Aug. 31)
Ray Friel rink named after Orléans hockey legend
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans residents may be surprised to learn that
the community has a rich sporting heritage that dates back
to its earliest days.
Racette pictured with Conrwall Royals star
Gary MacGreegor during the team's 1973 playoff
run. QMJHL archives
Senators GM Pierre Dorion grew up and played minor hockey
in Orléans, as did Denis Roy and Boston Bruins
coach Claude Julien.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
loved all his players
from the moment he woke up
to the moment he went to sleep, it was hockey," Christian
told the gathering.
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.
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
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)