Dean Lapierre insists he will never willingly give up his post as president of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association — “They’ll bury me as the president of the WMHA,” he says — and considering all he’s done for the association, that’s good news for its many young members and their families.
One would be hard-pressed — in southern Ontario or anywhere else — to find a volunteer as committed to the game as the 43-year-old, who by day is a bus driver for the City of Windsor. Lapierre has been involved with the Windsor Minor Hockey Association for 26 years — the last 14 as president — while also serving the last 14 years as the president of the senior men’s Ford Hockey League. In his time as WHMA president, Lapierre has helped spearhead the association’s annual Christmas food and clothing drive, sat on various sports advisory boards in Windsor, and led a group that refurbished the city’s numerous outdoor rinks.
When asked which endeavour he’s most proud of, he lists the association’s annual can and bottle drive, with proceeds going to Windsor’s Unemployed Help Centre.
This past June, Lapierre — who has played hockey since the age of nine, and coached since first being asked to help out a friend’s team at 17 — was awarded the Patricia Hartley Administrators’ Award by the Ontario Minor Hockey Association for being “a true leader in the community … a dedicated volunteer with a true passion and love for the sport of hockey.”
It is, without question, a pretty remarkable resume, and one made even more impressive when you consider that Lapierre, who is married with two stepdaughters, has never had a child in hockey.
When asked why he’s given so much of himself to the sport, Lapierre had a simple answer: “I love hockey,” he said. “And I love helping the youth in this city I love.”
Lapierre estimates that, during the hockey season, he spends between 15 and 20 hours each week on minor hockey–related activities, and admits it can, at times, be tough to juggle family, work and other activities with his presidential responsibilities.
“But I have a wife who understands that the WMHA is my life, and I have a great set of board members (who help),” he explained, adding that the sacrifices are worth it, “knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of young hockey players.”
As might be expected of someone who has been around the game as long as Lapierre has been, he has trouble pinpointing just one favourite hockey memory. But he says the WMHA’s annual Day of Champions — in which the championship games in all divisions, from novice to midget, are staged one after another — is always a thrill. The winning teams are awarded their division’s WMHA Cup, which is a small replica Stanley Cup that Lapierre bought at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I just love handing the trophy to a midget-aged player who has never won it before. They’re always so excited,” he said.
Through the years, Lapierre has also went to great lengths to make sure the WMHA’s most famous alumni always feel a part of the association. Windsor Minor Hockey has produced a number of National Hockey League players, including Bob Probert, Rick Kehoe and Eddie Mio, and more recently, Florida Panthers defenceman Ed Jovanoski and Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian.
The name of each association alum that’s gone on to play junior ‘A’ or professional hockey is engraved on the WMHA Cup, and every NHL grad has a signed jersey hanging in the WMHA board room.
“Every time a player from the WMHA makes it to the NHL, or even pro (in another league) or junior, it’s a feather in the hat of all the people involved in the WMHA and the City of Windsor,” said Lapierre.
It was for those efforts and more that Lapierre was honoured with the Hartley award at the OMHA annual general meeting in the summer — an achievement he didn’t expect, but appreciated greatly nonetheless.
“It was an honour, “ he said. “Every year, I’d listen to the achievements of the winner and think, ‘Wow,’ but to be honest, I always wondered if I (had done enough) to win something like this.”
“(The award) is not needed, but I can tell you, I was more than proud to win it… it’s good to know that people out there appreciate what you are doing for minor hockey.”
By Nick Greenizan, One Million Skates Feature Writer