Amesbury Maples Legend Series: Alphonse Picard

Photo Courtesy of Amesbury Resident Tammi Picard/Perkins

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

As a die-hard Boston Bruins fan, researching and writing about the prospects that are developing in the many leagues around the world is one of my favorite things to do. The developmental process of a young player that just got drafted to his first game on Boston/TD Garden ice has been a pleasure to follow. Hockey development certainly sparks my interest when it comes to my hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts and it’s rich hockey history as being one of America’s best Amateur/Semi-Pro teams.

In simpler times attending an outdoor ice hockey game was the thing to do in my area while showing the ultimate community pride for those who dawned the Kelly Green and White jerseys wasn’t out of the ordinary. Interest back in the early days of the Amesbury Maples organization would be so high, considerations for outdoor facilities with one thousand fan capacity were heavily talked about.

With the Maples having a successful career lasting a little over 75 years and being known as the longest-running amateur organization in the United States in that timeframe, youth interest was imperative for the team’s future sustainability and developing correctly was the utmost importance for that “next-guy-in” mentality. The most impressive thing about this research project to me is the numerous mentions of  Maples players giving back to the younger generations rising through youth hockey into the high school ranks.

There’s a long list of wonderful people that took their time back in the day and continue to do so while keeping the hockey tradition alive in my hometown and hope I have a chance to gather information about them to do more write-ups. In my newest research project, this gentleman stood out from the rest, and with the incredible help from his family and the legacy he left behind, It’s my honor to write about this wonderful person and hope you enjoy.

This is my second edition of my “Legend Series,” and if you have a moment and want to get caught up, I’d certainly appreciate if you’d check out my other articles in this series like my write up about the Great Archie Cloutier, and the Amesbury Hometown Rinks where the Maples organization played their games.

The Perseverance Of Alphonse Picard

Alphonse was born on November 21, 1913, in Amesbury, Massachusetts to the parents of John and Marie. During the time of Picard’s birth, the town of Amesbury was experiencing tremendous growth in the game of ice hockey, and that’s most likely due to the fact that the first official game was played at the St. Paul’s college-Preparatory school in Concord, New Hampshire.  Per James Dylan Laverance’s article in August of 2012, the first ice hockey games in the United States were played on the St. Paul’s Lower Pond after a faculty member named James Potter Conover visited Montreal in 1880-81 where he witnessed a Hockey match and brought back sticks, rules, and a leather puck back to the school in Concord.

When Alphonse was a young boy, older brothers Aurel, Everett, and Wilbrod already had a head start when it came to the game of ice hockey. The Picard clan would spend countless hours on a manmade rink made of snow and ice on a flat area of the family’s Thompson Street neighborhood. With many factories in town creating club teams in the “shop leagues” players like Aurel and Everett were amongst the towns best, and they played like it. Alphonse gained a ton of experience being so close to his older brothers as a player but also the much-needed intel from the oldest of the three in Wilbrod when it came to the management side of the organization and the keen eye of evaluating talent.

During the 1928-29 season, Alphonse’s dream came true as he joined two of his older brothers on the very talented Maples team. Picard was so gifted as a 16-year-old he played for two teams honoring a commitment to his  Amesbury High School hockey team but also was a pivotal addition to the Amesbury Maples Amateur Club which was a mix of talent from all ages. His aggressive move forward to the higher adult leagues were evidence this area breed some of the nation’s best which many national publications mentioned in the past. The Maples were established in 1924 by two young businessmen Armand Hudon and Emilien “Mickey” Jutras to create a town team, one that would rival any willing combatants.

 

Alphonse had a legendary hockey career that spanned over 27-years and was an asset to his team with the ability to excel at any position but goal when asked to. Finding ways to learn the complete game from every angle was essential to Picard while community pride and leadership would never take a back seat to the sport he loved. Although family-first was instilled, the passion for the game and willingness to find ways to volunteer time away from loved ones was one of the most honorable things I’ve read in this research.

Picard’s best years as a player were from the 1930-31 season to the 1940-41 campaign where he helped his Maples team to an impressive 149-39-11 record. In that timeframe, Picard and Maples club would appear in nine New England Amateur Athletic Union tournaments that at times were held at the old Boston Garden (1928 to 1995), Providence, Rhode Island Auditorium (1926 to 1989). After a 19-3-2 record in 1939-40 and capturing the New England Amateur Championship, the Maples team moved up to the National Amateur Athletic Union tournament to play the University of Minnesota in Lake Placid, New York. The Maples, unfortunately, lost to the Gophers team 9-4 ending a stellar year and one of the best Maples seasons in history.

 

Alphonse was also so good during that decade of dominance that he gained increased interest from the Boston Bruins organization. After the 1939-40 season, Picard caught the eye of Boston Garden General Manager Walter Brown after hearing so much talk about him from Brown’s assistant and former Haverhill, Massachusetts native Edward Powers who was often seen at Maples games and practices. Picard was offered a contract to try-out for Brown’s Boston Olympic hockey team which was a minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey League Bruins. His obligation to his job and family was way to valuable at the time to accept the offer and returned to his beloved Maples team for 14 more years until he retired from the game after the 1956-57 season.

After Picard’s playing days were over, he spent a lot of time coaching and managing the club with the tutelage he learned from older brother Wilbrod in the past. He has spent countless hours organizing ice hockey training sessions on the Amesbury Park Pond to keep the development of younger talent flowing and interest in the game at peak levels. Many folks have said the number of interested players every year were upwards of 300 players would participate in tryouts for different positions available in youth hockey.

Town legend George Dodier who had a long Maples career mentioned Picard in an Amesbury News interview by Tom Lane saying “He was one of the founding fathers of Amesbury Youth Hockey, having spent over50 years involved.” Dodier added, “He was one of my first coaches – a real teacher type of coach who is patient and has a real knowledge of the game.”  Alphonse was also mentioned in the Amesbury News article as being a calm leader from behind the bench who never swore or screamed at his players. “If someone needed help, I preferred to pull them to the side and talk to them one-on-one,” Picard said.

One of my favorite stories told to me when I spoke to his daughter Tammi while gathering information on Picard, was the kindness shown to kids less fortunate. Over the many years of his involvement in youth hockey, he would gather articles of hockey equipment. When a kid would visit the Picard household and showed interest in the sport, many times Alphonse would send the child home with a bag full of everything needed to participate in the game he helped grow for so many years.

( Photo Courtesy of Amesbury Resident Tammi Picard/Perkins )

Alphonse had his son, Randi on skates at one-year-old on Lake Gardner.  He just loved hockey!  The youth hockey program was like a family business.  It involved many families all supporting a common goal. By devoting time and love to teach children values, respect, responsibility and the values of teamwork built character.

Picard’s knowledge of the game and personal experiences were also important when teaching his own children at young ages. Daughter Tammi learned the game on the homemade rink in the families backyard and would often ask her father to start a girls team with her desire of playing competitively. His son Randi a defenseman also learned to skate locally rising through the Amesbury Youth Hockey levels to have a successful four-year career at Amesbury High.

( Photo Courtesy of Amesbury Resident Tammi Picard/Perkins )

Randi also had a brief tenure at Tilton Academy before playing his collegiate hockey at Boston College. Randi was named Rookie of the year in 1964-65, winner of the Chiefie Lemoine Memorial Trophy in 1966-67 and 1967-68, and won the Archie Cloutier Trophy in 1967-68 as an Amesbury Maples player.

With some current and former Maples, and a few close friends as coaches, he founded the Amesbury Youth Hockey League in Amesbury in 1957.  Door to door canvassing for donations and local “Tag Day,” funded the program in the early days.  He purchased a skate sharpening machine placed in his basement and sharpened all the kid’s skates for free, sometimes taking an entire day.  As his bantams and peewees grew to high school ages, he devoted his time to coaching the Amesbury High School. On December 29, 1964,  Alphonse was appointed Assistant Hockey Coach of Amesbury High School by Judson R. Merrill for a mere salary of $200.00, and he proudly accepted the job. 

Alphonse last skated at 80 years old with his son Randi and grandson J  at the Maples Reunion/Alumni game.  All three skated around the rink proudly carrying a Maples banner during the period of this very emotional game.

Picard found local employment in the early years at Amesbury Metal Products and the Bailey’s Corporation before finding jobs outside the community with the Kingston Manufacturing Company and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Picard passed away on November 7,1999, just two weeks before his 86th birthday. Although his contributions to the game and the world ended in the final year of the century, his legacy lives on today with every coach, parent, and volunteer that inspires a child to try and succeed at the game of hockey.

( Photo Courtesy of Amesbury Resident Tammi Picard/Perkins )

In closing, I’d like to add a message from daughter Tammi and Son Randi who spent time working on this project either from close by or far away. It’s my honor to learn so much of what this gentleman was like on and off the ice. It’s important for me to learn more about this hockey club and I enjoy giving back to those interested in learning about one of the nations best amateur/semi-pro organizations and the common goal of keeping the hockey dream alive in our community back in the day.

From Tammi and Randi,

He was as talented a player as there was during this era but his legacy was he impacted many more people than he ever faced on the ice and he changed a lot of lives.  We love you Dad,  Randi and Tammi

Alphonse Picard

1913-1999

If anyone has information or photo’s regarding the Amesbury Maples Hockey team or organization for the purpose of my future articles, please send me an email to the address below and let’s see if we can get together enough related material to publish a post about a family member or friend that played on the team.  These are fun projects but to keep the rhythm going, I need your help!!

Send info and photos to blackngoldhockeyblog@gmail.com 

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