Sunday Feature! Denis Lemieux. Again. Encore.

How is this guy not on the list?

How is this guy not on the list?

Back to the goalies this week as we take a look at one of the most talented, hardest working and most beloved goalies to reach almost all the incredible heights of professional hockey, but, sadly, fail to hoist Lord Stanley’s silvery fruit bowl: Denis Lemieux.

Denis was the youngest of nineteen children born to Marie Anne Angeline Magdelene Josephine Emmanuelle Gabrielle Agathe Agnès (nee Johnson) and Karl-Pierre Marie-France Jean-Jacques Paul-Henri Guy-Serge Gilles-Claude Yvan-Andre Gilles-Noel Jocelyn-Mario Lemieux-Sullivan. The family name was a combination of the Irish surname of orphan ancestors, and the Quebecois family that adopted them. The “Sullivan” name was dropped when Denis was an infant, to shorten the family name and save money on stationary.

Denis’s father was an itinerant maple syrup rancher and his mother wrote letters to monsieur Eaton in Toronto.

Denis was a renowned businessman.

Denis was a renowned businessman.

Lemieux was born, during a family vacation, on July first 1947 in Dysart, Dudley, Harcourt, Guilford, Harburn, Bruton, Havelock, Eyre and Clyde Ontario, but later claimed to be born on June 24th to avoid being linked to any English pigs. Denis grew up in the two room family estate in L’Annonciation-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie-de-Nazareth. Or, Rimouski, as the Hinglish would say.

Denis has said that the winters of his youth were long and spent predominantly in two places: the truancy office and the hockey rink. The atheist Lemieux family did not attend church. Denis stated during a 2004 interview with the CBC (Charlestown Beer-lovers Club) that:

“We hall played together. Hall the time. Hall we cared about was ‘Ockey. And booze. The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places – the truancy office, the shed of dat creepy old guy that gave us alcohol and the skating rink – but our real life was in the booze shack. I tink dat is where I got hall dose diseases, you know? Stupid cold hice, when we could ave been drinking.”

Hockey card from Denis's first year as a Chief.

Hockey card from Denis’s first year as a Chief.

Anyway, when I would be arguing wit my pals to stay in da booze shack instead of dat cold rink, da priests would come in and pat us on de bum and tell us to hurry out dare so dat day could, how you say, ref da game. We looked crazy in our matching bleu numero seize ‘Ockey sweaters. Numero seize was da numero of our favourite player on da great local team “LesFrelons”. Le premier etoille: Woody de Clithrust. AvanteLesFrelons”

By the age of twelve, Lemieux had out-grown his Clithrust sweater so he took up goaltending. It was then that he truly made a name for himself in hockey. That name was ‘back-up’. During his youth career, Denis excelled at the subtle skills of hockey. Chirping the opposition from the end of the bench; eating pop-corn; saying ‘good shift’ as he opened the bench door.  

 

Lemieux’s ability to swear at the refs in English and obtain liquor whilst under-age, rocketed him through the Quebec judicial system. And minor hockey. Finally, at the age of sixteen, Denis was signed as a major junior player with the Hull Festivals. He had turned down offers from Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute and the University of New Hampshire, for janitorial positions, stating: “Finally, I can live in a place with a short name”.

Much of the rest of Lemieux’s hockey travels were a blur, due to alcoholism. The writer of this piece was drinking as Denis recounted his hockey career. Finally, after countless minutes of blah blah blah minor leagues here, minor teams there, Lemieux was signed as a veteran presence for the Charlestown Chiefs during that fateful year of redemption and Maxine Nightingale.

Denis was always a fan favourite.

Denis was always a fan favourite.

As a player new to the Chiefs, Denis gravitated to back-up Yvon LeBrun, the other new players, such as Ned Braden who was a college graduate and an American citizen and to the veteran player/coach, Reggie Dunlop. Reggie especially helped Denis navigate the vagaries of life in Charlestown, such as which sportscaster to talk to, and which bar had the easiest chicks. Dickie Dunn was omnipresent with a microphone.

The 1976/77 Federal league season was one for the ages and has been written about and discussed by hockey experts, historians and fans for years. We all know Denis Lemieux backstopped the Charlestown Chiefs to the championship final, but few people know how he was able to do that, considering his many illnesses. After years of suffering from ills, aches and pains, Denis developed a regimen of homeopathic healing. And pharmaceuticals. Particularly his signature “Denis Lemieux Allergy Hair Spray”.

When asked what separated him from his opponents; what made him so superior, Lemieux responded: “I’m not a fag like ‘Anrahan, you know? Is wife is a dyke. Dat make im fag, you know. Reggie. E hask me about Ned. I say I see him in shower. He’s no fag. He’s got a big cock. Like a horse.”

After an incredible season in which the Chiefs won the Federal League championship, Denis got a call from Scotty Bowman. Scotty told Denis that Sam Pollock wanted to see Denis Lemieux and Ken Dryden for a meeting.

At that meeting, Ken gave Denis directions to his house, and a key for the shed where Lemieux would find the lawn-mower and gardening equipment. After several years as Ken’s cabana boy, Lemieux once again received a call from Scotty Bowman.

Hockey card from Denis's last year with the Chiefs, just before he hit the big time.

Hockey card from Denis’s last year with the Chiefs, just before he hit the big time.

It had been years, but Bowman sensed a need for a goalie coach. For the street hockey teams that kept blocking his driveway when he was trying to get to Hawks games. Someone that knew the meaning of: “car!”

Denis Lemieux now lives with Suzanne Hanrahan in Cape St. George-Petit Jardin-Grand Jardin-De Grau-Marches Point-Loretto, where they raise organic spuds for the vodka industry, and carry on a range war with the Hanson brothers.

Former Charlestown Bugle Sports Editor Dickie Dunn said of Denis Lemieux: “He almost learned English”.