Coco And Roadrunner’s Hockey School

My friend Jerry Chan in San Jose wrote me awhile back that he had worked at a hockey school in Montreal run by Jacques Lemaire and Yvan Cournoyer, in the 1970’s, and today he sent this:

“I won a Habs radio contest and attended for 1 week in 1973.  I then worked there for 2 summers, 1977 and 1978.  I still remember a 6 or 7 year old kid the first week I worked there.  It was Jimmy Carson (main guy in Gretzky trade) from Michigan.  Even at that age, he was much better than anyone else.

“These photos are from the 1974 brochure.  I worked there in 1977 and 78 when Lemaire was no longer a partner.

“No player can get better attending a hockey school for a week or 2.   There were guys that worked with me who were serious players and these guys would improve since they got ice time 3 hrs a day for 8 weeks.  We had about 6 counselors for about 40 kids ( there were about 160 kids per week) and we would actually have quarrels not to go on the ice. It just got tiring to put on skates 3 times a day.  If one didn’t go on, one slept in the dressing room.  Cournoyer would show up regularly.  There was a scrimmage the last day of camp in which the parents returned and Cournoyer would always be there.

“The NHL players seldom showed up, maybe 1 day the entire summer.  The goalie teacher was Jim Corsi who was in college then.  I believe he is still the goalie coach for the Sabres and played for Italy when they tied or beat Canada (Gretzky was playing) in some tournament.  I believe Corsi was Canadian college player of the year one time and also represented Canada in soccer.

“About 1/3 of the attendees were American. There was occasionally a black kid and it was amazing the hatred toward the kid from American teenage city kids, especially the ones from Philadelphia. I never saw any problem between French and English kids and it opened up one’s eyes on racism in the U.S.”




18 thoughts on “Coco And Roadrunner’s Hockey School”

  1. The way I see it, kids fall into three categories of talent: there is the first group that has been on skates since they were born and have really active parents (often hockey players themselves) who help train them and/or are coaches to their teams and push their kid toward every opportunity to join “structured groups” such as classes, camps, etc…; next, we have kids who play on hockey teams too but without a structured routine — they have backyard rinks, play down the street (although since moms are back to work, this sort of “unstructured” play is happening less and less — not only with hockey but other sports as well); and then there are kids who are naturals like the one I encountered a few weeks ago. He was taking a puck handling lesson with my peewee son and my boy could not get by him. This boy was in novice and he was unbelievable. I talked to the dad afterwards and asked what his name was so I could remember him (just in case he hit the big leagues). To top it off, dad didn’t play any sports at all.

    On another note, it makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that I child could be (and often is) the victim of racism. I don’t see anyone else to blame for this but the coaches who don’t address it on ice or in the dressing room and the parents who turn a blind eye.

  2. Hey Dennis,So very true Marjo,this isnt something to be proud of.Racism in childrens sports ,well all walks of life isnt good .I always had one or two and at times three native kids playing on my teams when I was coaching minor hockey and they were all given the same chances as the rest of my players,girls included.

  3. Marjo, nice comments. When I was a kid, winters and summers were spent outdoors. We played road hockey, had a small rink in the backyard, and there was a baseball diamond around the corner, along with a full-size outdoor rink there. We didn’t watch a lot of television, and of course there were no computers or video games. We came home when our toes ached from frostbite, or when the scrub ball game went until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. And always, as good as we all got, there was always one kid who was just a natural, who did things a little better than the rest of us. In our town, John French was the guy. I’ve written about him before and have a small piece ready to go about him again. John never went to these hockey schools, very few of us did, but the ones who did didn’t seem to approve at all.
    The part Jerry tells us about the little black kids experiencing racism is just awful. Maybe the white kids got this from their parents, I don’t know. But it’s such a shame that a kid comes to a school to learn hockey and make friends and have fun, and gets hassled because his skin is darker. It’s very, very sad.

  4. Hi Derry. I just hope things are better now than they were when we were younger. I hope, with all my heart, that a black kid can come to a hockey school now and no one notices the colour of his skin. I hope, but I don’t know. It’s really sad.

  5. Hey Dennis,You know,I think that things have improved allot but there is still some negativity out there towards unwhites.I think that this is a bad thing as well.Just think of some of the superstars there would have been had there never been a color barrier.

  6. racism is alive and well in canada too. it is not just an american thing like some self righteous canucks would have you believe. all tho in america, it is more in your face…if it isn’t the color of ones skin, it is their religion or lack of religion, which is the most dangerous prejudice….. anything…. rich or poor, blue collar or white collar, sex… a fear impulse from unenlightened man to anything different from himself…. kids copy their parents, of course ………..the next thing ya know tim thomas, the brilliant intellectual and political pundit, will snub the pres because he is black……..woops, can i say that?

  7. I like to think the harassment suffered by kids isn’t racism, but just other kids being young and stupid. Kids make fun of other kids for being different. Looking different, talking different, eating different food, wearing glasses, being shorter, less coordinated, more effeminate, being smarter, etc. It doesn’t make the torment any easier to endure, but I think the bully is more likely to outgrow the behaviour upon adulthood.

  8. i attended hockey school in 74 -75 ish ??? still have the jersey if anyone would be interested in it.

    cheers ,


  9. Was searching for the Name of the Hockey School I was dragged too for I think for three summers as my three brothers attended. Three Mac Queen Boys from NS. Nice to see a blog on Mac Donald College .. My oldest brother was fantastic but was told too many times he was too small. He was hated for his natural talent and ability to score.
    Thanks , enjoyed reading the comments.

  10. Thanks, Deb. I know how your older brother feels. I myself was a smallish-yet-shifty right winger. But I blame my downfall on the 1960’s and all that went with this time. it’s a great excuse.

  11. I attended National Hockey School in both 1974 and 1975. I was cleaning out my parents’ home recently and came across a jersey crest with the school’s logo on it that I had purchased. It’s so cool that I think I’m going to frame it. I have mostly fond memories of both summers I was there. Sure, there were some scuffles now and then, but get a bunch of young hockey players together for what is probably their first time away from home/parents and some kids will be on edge. I don’t remember any kids of color in our group when I was there and so did not witness any racism myself, but I’m bummed to hear that that went down.

    Cournoyer was around plenty, and he was cool. I remember him pulling up in his burgundy Jaguar when some of us were hanging out on the dorm steps and pulling out his Team Canada jersey from the trunk that he wore in the Soviet series to show us. He knew we’d get a kick out of it, and we did.

    The school would take us out to sporting events in Montreal. We’d get in a school bus and go watch the Expos play in Jarry Park, for instance. I also remember an Alouettes football game.

    Anyway, just wanted to share some memories. Thanks for the opportunity.

  12. Funny… I went to National Hockey School in August 1981 and I’m from Philadelphia. I was actually subjected to racism by a couple of Canadian kids because I was Jewish. Had a good time at the school. Yvan took us to an Expos game and also a Team Canada game at the Forum. WOW! That was the highlight of the camp. Pro instructors included Cournoyer, Houle, Robinson, and Reisborough. I still have a couple of jerseys from the camp.

  13. Thanks for this, Jordan. Very sad that a couple of idiots would take away from what seemed like a great experience.

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