LEWISTON – It started with a phone call.

It ended with a tear.

Clement Jodoin’s reign as head coach and general manager of the Lewiston Maineiacs came to a close this week, ending another chapter in the 14-year relationship between Jodoin and Maineiacs’ majority owner Mark Just.

But it isn’t likely to be the final installment in what has become a unique friendship between two opposites united by the sport they love.

“My daughter said this morning, ‘I hope you and Clem are still going to be friends,'” Just said. “I said, ‘Of course we’re going to be friends. This has nothing to do with us, really.’ This wouldn’t come in the middle of our relationship. Nothing will.”

From the beginning

The Halifax Mooseheads were looking for a new coach. They were a new organization, an expansion franchise into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1994.

Just was a minority owner. Jodoin was hired as the team’s first coach.

In three years, Jodoin took the fledgling club to within one game of the President’s Cup final and an automatic berth in the Memorial Cup.

Then, Jodoin caught a professional break, and ended up as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.

“We were friends when he left Halifax and went with the Canadiens. We remained friends.,” Just said. “That’s how I could pick up the phone and hire him overnight three years ago.”

The phone call

Jodoin lasted with the Canadiens until 2003, and at the latter stages of his time with that organization, spent some time forming ties to European hockey. It was there, in spring of 2004, where Just found him.

Having recently fired general manager Normand Gosselin and head coach Mario Durocher, Just turned to his old friend as a possible replacement for both positions.

“I was in Germany, and in a half hour, the deal was done,” Jodoin said. “It was a challenge for me to face at that time, and I was ready for that.”

In Just’s mind, his hiring was a no-brainer.

“He’s an easy guy to get comfortable with,” Just said. “He’s very honorable, very loyal and very amenable. He might do things his way, but he certainly listens. He’s the kind of guy you like when you meet him.”

‘I understand completely’

For three years, Jodoin took his time to carefully craft his players – and his organization – into winners. In his first season, Jodoin led the team to a playoff upset over Shawinigan before being steamrolled by the Rimouski powerhouse led that season by Sidney Crosby.

A year later, Jodoin’s team finished better in the regular season, but fell in Round 1 as the favorite.

In this, his final season, Jodoin made his mark, showing his patience had paid off. The team went 50-14-2-4 in the regular season and laid waste to the rest of the league in the playoffs, going 16-1.

But beyond the numbers was his family, specifically his wife, Louise.

“I’m not married to the game,” Jodoin said. “The game is part of my life, but I needed to balance everything. It’s going to be nice to be back home, not to have to eat at a restaurant most of the time. I’m going to be able to eat, to have a family discussion, everything like that.”

The sentiment was one with which Just identified closely.

“I told him, I said, ‘Clem, I couldn’t have taken one year away from Lois, my Lois, so you did it for three years. I understand completely. There nothing that needs to be explained further.'”

While the two friends will again part ways, Jodoin and Just both expect their friendship to last well beyond the coming years.

“It’s a friendship that’s going to stay forever,” Jodoin said.

“We’ll miss him. He did a great job, and we wanted him to come back,” Just said, his voice wavering slightly as he sighed heavily into the phone. “But under the circumstances, I totally understand. If he can find a way to combine coaching and be in a French community where his wife can be comfortable and practice her occupation, what’s there not to understand? How can you say anything but ‘good luck’ in that situation?”

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