Death of former Océanic coach Doris Labonté

Death of former Océanic coach Doris Labonté

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Doris Labonté during Sydney Crosby's jersey retirement, in 2019

< p class="e-p">The fans of the Rimouski Oceanic are losing a key figure in the history of their team. Former coach Doris Labonté, who notably trained star player Sydney Crosby, passed away today at the age of 69.

Doris Labonté was born on April 28, 1954 in the parish of Sully in Pohénégamook, Bas-Saint-Laurent.

Her family moved very early to Rimouski to allow the development of her father's business, Labonté chain saw.

Doris Labonté started skating at a young age, but he has to give up on his dream of being a hockey player at 18.

Following an intentional stick, he loses the use of his left eye in 1971. He then left the ice to return there as a coach of pee-wee and midget teams.

Doris Labonté then earned a bachelor's degree in recreation at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR) in 1976.

After leaving UQTR, he became a sports journalist. In the pages of the deceased Rimouskois, he and his colleagues fill up to 80 pages devoted to sports each week.

Doris Labonté in 1990

In 1986, while a sports facilitator at Paul-Hubert high school in Rimouski, Doris Labonté took a sabbatical year to try his luck as a coach in the Hockey League Quebec major junior (LHJMQ).

He started with the Shawinigan Cataractes during the 1986-1987 season. He is paid $7,000 for the season. I paid out of pocket to learn the trade, he says in an interview with the newspaper Le Soleilin 1998.

At the end of the season, he returned to Rimouski to coach the Pionniers du Cégep de Rimouski in the AA Collegiate League.

It was Gaston Drapeau, of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, who gave him the opportunity to return behind the players' bench. In the following years, he was a coach or assistant coach in the ranks of the Draveurs de Trois-Rivières, the Phœnix de Sherbrooke and again the Cataractes.

Doris Labonté, head coach of the Shawinigan Cataractes, during the 1993-1994 season

< p class="e-p">He was officially offered the position of head coach of the Shawinigan Cataractes during the 1992-1993 season, a position he held until 1995.

“Behind the bench, I represent the players and the public. »

— Doris Labonté, head coach of the Océanic de Rimouski

In 1995, the Lynx de Saint-Jean were transferred to Rimouski to become the Océanic.< /p>

Doris Labonté is the second employee hired, after Marius Fortier, to build the formation.

I did not let go of Marius Fortier. I was on his heels, but he wasn't calling me back fast enough for my liking. One afternoon, I was at home, and I heard the big voice of Maurice Tanguay. He said to me: "Apparently you can help us!", said Doris Labonté in 2014 during the 20th anniversary of the formation.

Doris Labonté, during the Oceanic's first season in 1995

The development of players from the region is a priority for Doris Labonté. Allan Sirois, originally from Rivière-du-Loup, was recruited by Doris Labonté and became the first impact player in the region to wear the colors of the Océanic in 1995-1996. It was Allan Sirois who would score the team's first-ever home goal at the Sun Life Financial Coliseum on September 15, 1995.

“We all have the same mission: to make junior hockey a success in Bas-Saint-Laurent. »

— Doris Labonté, head coach of the Océanic de Rimouski

Doris Labonté went from general manager to head coach of the Océanic in 1997. in this position he will be remembered.

In 2000, the Océanic scored 48 victories in the regular season, thus winning the Jean-Rougeau trophy awarded to the QMJHL franchise having amassed the most points in the regular season.

After winning the President's Cup, the team goes to conquer the Memorial Cup in Halifax.

When we arrived at the Memorial Cup, we were not the favourites. Our goaltender was ranked last, they said Brad Richards wouldn't do two weeks in Ontario. […] When we arrived in Halifax, we would have heard a pin drop. The mission started there, he recalled in an interview with journalist Patrick Bergeron in 2014.

The Océanic then fulfilled the dream of being crowned champion of the regular season, of the playoffs and of winning the Canadian title.

The Rimouski Oceanic, champion team of the Memorial Cup tournament in 2000

It is therefore no surprise that Doris Labonté was then named the QMJHL Head Coach of the Year for the 1999-2000 season.

Interview with Doris Labonté granted during the 20th anniversary of the Océanic

After a few years as general manager, he resumed his position as head coach in 2004. And history repeats itself!

After 35 consecutive victories, the Océanic won the President's Cup once again in 2005, but failed in their attempt to win another Memorial Cup.

The two years following this conquest will be more difficult, due in particular to the departure of Sidney Crosby.

Doris Labonté leaves his position as head coach of the Rimouski team on March 16, 2007, to the applause of more than 4,000 spectators.

Hockey is never far behind in Doris Labonté's life.

He is often called upon to comment on the ups and downs of the QMJHL and the NHL, the training of young athletes or violence in sport.

For a decade, he assisted at many commemorative ceremonies. Among other things, he participated in the tribute to Maurice Tanguay in Rimouski in 2016, and the induction of Brad Richards into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2017.

Allan Sirois, Doris Labonté, Maurice Tanguay and Vincent Lecavalier at a press conference in 2016

At the end of the 2010s, he was struck by bowel cancer.

In April 2022, Rimouski celebrated his career as the most successful head coach in Océanic history during a pre-game ceremony .

On April 8, 2022, a banner was raised at the Sun Financial Coliseum Life de Rimouski to commemorate the career of former coach Doris Labonté.

High honors were presented to him, in front of his family and former players and collaborators, on the 8 April 2022. A banner bearing his name was installed above the ice, alongside those of Maurice Tanguay and former players of the team.