By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The Amesbury Maples hockey team had many great players who wore the Kelly Green and White jersey’s throughout the organization’s existence. The club from the Northeastern part of Massachusetts prided themselves on being the best with and without the puck always operating with a defense-first mentality regardless of position played. Since the inception of the Maple organization in the winter of 1924-25, many in the Amesbury, Massachusetts community have spoken positively about names like Cloutier, Dupre, Fournier, and Picard as a mix of solid defenseman and fleet of foot forwards. In this article, I’d like to identify one of the most important positions in hockey that often get overlooked with offensive efforts and bone-crunching backend hits.
Looking through the many newspaper clippings that were graciously donated from the Picard family notably daughter Tammi of the legendary hockey player in this area Alphonse Picard, I noticed through this research that the goaltending position was no joke when it came to the efforts between pipes. With last names like Dupere, Gaudet, Reddy, Ryan, and Stuart, the Maples netminding throughout history was heavily relied on as the last line of the club’s defense. One goaltender, I left unmentioned, and the focal point of this article was a netminder who set the bar not only with his addition as the organizations first-ever but also made an impression well into the future.
When first Maples Managers Armand Hudon and Emilien “Mickey” Jutras assembled the first team as an organization both went with Issie Lessard in goal in the first year in 1924-25 where they’d play their home games on Pattens Hollow which is currently called Patten’s Pond and located across the street from the Amesbury Post Office. With a plethora of talent in the Amesbury area during these times, it wasn’t hard for managers to go on scouting missions watching players on the several ice sheets during the winter season in the area and shop leagues to find talent. After the first season, managers, Hudon and Jutras, signed the first Maples franchise goaltender after seeing him play locally and heavy praise from then Head Coach Wibrod Picard.
Raoul “Chiefie” Lemoine, who was getting well known in the area, joined the Maples organization for the 1925-26 winter season, and his addition to the club put the team on the map when it came to amateur hockey in New England. Not only would the club get a new netminder in their second season of existence, but they’d also take they’re playing efforts off the pond for more sustainable ice conditions nearby. The Maples would literally move across the street to the flatlands at the bottom of Aubin Street, where the Biddle & Smart Company empire was located. With Biddle & Smart corporate funds to maintain a minimal-depth outdoor manmade ice facility, the Maples would call the Aubin Street location home for the next several seasons.
Lemoine was the foundation of the Maples club in goal as he was one of the best playing out of the recently formed Essex County league. Although “Cheifie” could literally win a game on his own, he was accompanied by a shutdown defense that was made up of Aurel and Everett Picard, Harold “Fuzzy” Thurston, and Tom “Ike” Wall who made Lemoine’s job a little easier. Head Coach Wilbrob Picard orchestrated a team of two lines of defense and offense heavily relying on goaltender Lemoine as the club’s lone player between the pipes. After three seasons playing their home games on the Biddle & Smart property, it was once again time to move and find another location and sheet of ice to play games. A popular rumor I’ve heard is the Maples were so good the Biddle & Smart rink owners were getting embarrassed when they matched up their shop teams against the Maple sextet having them not return after the 1929-30 winter season.
After the Maples organization scoured the town for the level ground to build a new outdoor facility, the club made up of French-Canadian residents agreed to build a new outdoor rink at the rear of the original St. Jean’s Baptiste Club on Friend Street in downtown Amesbury. Unfortunately, the climb to hockey greatness around the Merrimack Valley would hit a speed bump with the loss of one of its own. After the construction of the new Friend Street rink was completed, the team held several practice sessions before the actual start of the 1930-31 hockey season started. During one of these sessions goaltender, Lemoine took a shot to the face, which left damage to his eye area. The three-year Maple veteran would spend a better part of his recovery in the hospital trying to heal from the unfortunate accident but also combat the infection Raoul got from the injury shortly after.
“Chiefie” would battle strongly for months, but the infection was just too much for his body having him pass in 1930. Even though he only played a short time, he was an impactful teammate that was very close to the game and community. He was also a trendsetter when it came to successful scouting and sustainability between the pipes looking to the future as he set great examples of what you want in a franchise goaltender. Lemoine’s game for that short three-season Maples career had the organization in search of a goaltender ready for immediate duties as the next one in the crease John Reddy, well wasn’t exactly “ready” as a developing netminder.
After the death of Lemoine, the organization Managed by Wilford Trottier assisted by longtime Heach Coach Wilbrod Picard would search the Valley for an experienced goaltender that could do the impossible and fill the departed skates of Lemoine. Earl Ryan of Haverhill, Massachusetts, was the emergency goaltender the first season at the new rink and would remain with the team for the next three seasons backing up John Reddy. The first home game at the new facility was in late January of 1931 when the Gloucester All-Stars (Massachusetts) came to town for a special evening. Before the first puck drop against Gloucester, the Maples team and fans from all over the community celebrated the life of fallen teammate Raoul ” Chiefie” Lemoine and named the rink at the rear of the St. Jean’s Hall in his honor. From that point forward, the Maples would call the Lemoine Memorial Rink home for the next several seasons.
In the first season without Lemoine as the last line of defense in goal, the Maples also honored their fallen friend with an outstanding 18-2-1 record with the veteran Ryan and the young Reddy in the nets. After this tremendous 1930-31 campaign and Essex County League success, the Maples were invited to participate in the prestigious North Eastern Amateur Athletic Union Tournament held at the Providence, Rhode Island Auditorium. Amesbury was eliminated in the semi-finals of the tournament by West Point AC of Nashua, New Hampshire.
The Lemoine Memorial hockey rink was home for the Maples hockey team for eleven years. There were two reasons why the Amesbury club would pack up operations in the search for another piece of land to play on. Edward D. Hanley, who owned the land where the Lemoine rink was located, decided to not move forward with the Maples organization opting out to use the property for business. Hanley would have a house moved from 37 Freind Street to the land behind the St. Jean’s Club in an effort to have a gas filling station at the popular downtown area where many automotive and textile businesses thrived.
The second reason why the Maples would look for another place to play their home games was the fact the Lemoine rink was built undersize and not up to many league specifications. Although the Maples was a popular team in the Amesbury community, the Lemoine rink facility couldn’t accommodate the influx of local fans having the organization look for flat land with the means of holding over one thousand supporters. One area the town and Maples club considered was the old Walker Auto Body Plant #1 location, which had a huge concrete floor that was exposed due to a fire that destroyed the building. The concrete floor at the Walker site was enough to house a rink of today’s 200X85 standard size but also was an attractive location with the train station steps away to attract fans and opponents from afar.
Raoul “Chiefie” Lemoine would also be immortalized in Amesbury hockey history at the annual High School winter sports banquet when individual, and team awards are handed out. The player voted Most Valuable, receives the award to symbolize the dedication and efforts that Mr. Lemoine exemplified during his short playing career.
As always, I’d like to close this edition of my Amesbury Maples Legend Series article by thanking so many great people who have donated images, information, and time to these fun projects. A huge amount of gratitude goes to former sports historian Bert Spofford who did most of the research I use for these articles on the regular and am very grateful to be able to have a majority of his work that he donated to family members of the former Maples players.
If you have any old Amesbury Maples equipment or photos and would like to donate to this continued project that I love doing on my downtime, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org