Norm Gagne thought the future of his fledgling coaching career was to follow in the footsteps of John Wolfgram.

Wolfgram was the head football coach at Gardiner High School, and Gagne started his career as the coach of the freshmen team, and even got the chance to coach John and Jim Hersom before they moved on to Edward Little High School and glorious football coaching careers themselves.

Gagne’s career path took a funny turn, however, when he started the boy’s hockey program at Gardiner. What followed was a 42-year career rink-side — including 715 wins, seven state titles and 18 state final appearances scattered among five different programs — that has yet to stop.

Gagne is finally getting his wish this year, though. Like Wolfgram, who was inducted in 2013, Gagne has earned a spot in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, which he will be enshrined in on Sunday.

“When (Hall of Fame chairman) Dick Whitmore called me, I was certainly happy about this,” Gagne said. “But more than anything, it really was like a dream come true. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have this happen. I always looked at the coaches that were there and admired them for being able to achieve what they achieved in their careers. To be in there with them is truly an honor.”

Gagne got involved in hockey in high school, when he became the first starting goalie for a brand-new EL program. His career will come full-circle next season, when he takes over the Red Eddies program after leaving Scarborough.

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Yet football was his passion back when he started his coaching career.

“I wanted to be a football coach. When I was asked to take the kids from Gardiner and start the (hockey) program there … I really didn’t have my heart into it at the time,” Gagne said. “But being a coach, the minute I started coaching them, I wanted to win. I’m a competitor.”

Win he has. His 715 career victories are the second-most in the country for high school hockey, behind only Mount Saint Charles Academy of Woonsocket, Rhode Island’s Bill Belisle, who has 1,000. He won three state championships at Gardiner, then three more at Waterville before spending two years at Gorham. He then coached Lewiston for three years, making it to the state final all three years, before then heading to Scarborough, where he won his most recent state title in 2015.

“I’ve certainly have been blessed with some great players in my 42 years. And they’ve had to buy into what I was teaching,” Gagne said. “I’ve had some great assistant coaches along the way who have helped me, and great parents, and boosters, and administrators who have helped me along the way. So I look at it as a team effort from all those guys who have helped me in my 42-year endeavor to get where I am. You can’t do this alone.”

What Gagne said has allowed him to be successful for so long has been his ability to inspire his players.

He has stories from every stop on his coaching journey of times that things looked bleak for his team, but they were able to pull through.

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There’s the 1983 state final, when his Gardiner team was playing Cony. The Tigers trailed 4-1 late into the third period, but scored four goals in the time it took Gagne’s son to go to the bathroom, and ended up winning the game 7-4.

“I told the kids … ‘people don’t think we can come back. They don’t think we can come back,'” Gagne said. “And I said ‘I’m going to put my money on you guys.'”

Another Gardiner team had just one senior after several others were kicked off for disciplinary reasons before the season. Gagne entrusted Ted Robbins to lead a young team, to make them believe, and Robbins did that. Those Tigers lost in the state final.

After winning the 1996 Class A title at Waterville with some talented juniors, Gagne had to replace four would-be seniors in 1997. The Purple Panthers trailed St. Dominic Academy 5-0 in the third period of a regional final, but were able to rally back and win 6-5 in overtime.

“I said ‘make them earn it. That’s all I ask of you, make them earn it,'” Gagne said.

“I’ve been able to rally my team when people thought the game was over.”

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Hockey has always been more about just winning and losing, according to Gagne. A longtime teacher away from the rink, Gagne used those skills on the ice as well.

“I’ve always taken hockey as a vehicle to teach them life skills, and I’ve always told them that they’re going to face a lot of tougher things in life than the game of hockey, and what they encounter in the game of hockey,” Gagne said.

The venerable coach known simply as “Norm” said he hears from former players all the time, whether they were the star player whose career took off, or the kid who stayed in school solely because of hockey.

“I’ve told my wife, when I get calls from my players as adults now, they have their own lives, their own kids, and they thank me for what I did for them and teaching them the life skills that I’ve taught them … it’s stories like that that you look back on and say I just did it because I knew I had to do it for those kids,” Gagne said. “To have them come back and say thank you, it’s rewarding to know that you did make a difference in their lives. And I’ve always tried to believe that that’s what I put on this earth to do, was to take these young men and hopefully try to make a difference in their life.

“It’s things like that that I look back on and say it’s not just the wins.”

[email protected]

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Then-Scarborough High School head coach Norm Gagne, right, and assistant coach Mike Hefty talk before the start of the second period of a home game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston earlier this year. Gagne will take over the Edward Little program next winter.

Norm Gagne thought the future of his fledgling coaching career was to follow in the footsteps of John Wolfgram.

Wolfgram was the head football coach at Gardiner High School, and Gagne started his career as the coach of the freshmen team, and even got the chance to coach John and Jim Hersom before they moved on to Edward Little High School and glorious football coaching careers themselves.

Gagne’s career path took a funny turn, however, when he started the boy’s hockey program at Gardiner. What followed was a 42-year career rink-side — including 715 wins, seven state titles and 18 state final appearances scattered among five different programs — that has yet to stop.

Gagne is finally getting his wish this year, though: Like Wolfgram, who was inducted in 2013, Gagne has earned a spot in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, which he will be enshrined in on Sunday.

“When (Hall of Fame chairman) Dick Whitmore called me, I was certainly happy about this,” Gagne said. “But more than anything, it really was like a dream come true. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have this happen. I always looked at the coaches that were there and admired them for being able to achieve what they achieved in their careers. To be in there with them is truly an honor.”

Gagne got involved with hockey in high school, when he became the first starting goalie for a brand-new Edward Little program. His career will come full-circle next season when he takes over the Red Eddies program after leaving Scarborough.

Advertisement

Yet football was his passion back when he started his coaching career.

“I wanted to be a football coach. When I was asked to take the kids from Gardiner and start the (hockey) program there … I really didn’t have my heart into it at the time,” Gagne said. “But being a coach, the minute I started coaching them, I wanted to win. I’m a competitor.”

Win he has. His 715 career victories are the second-most in the country for high school hockey, behind only Bill Belisle of Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who has 1,000.

Gagne won three state championships at Gardiner, then three more at Waterville before spending two years at Gorham. He then coached Lewiston for three years, making it to the state final all three years, before heading to Scarborough, where he won his most recent state title in 2015.

“I’ve certainly have been blessed with some great players in my 42 years. And they’ve had to buy into what I was teaching,” Gagne said. “I’ve had some great assistant coaches along the way who have helped me, and great parents, and boosters, and administrators who have helped me along the way. So I look at it as a team effort from all those guys who have helped me in my 42-year endeavor to get where I am. You can’t do this alone.”

Gagne said that what has made him successful for so long has been his ability to inspire his players.

Advertisement

He has stories from every stop on his coaching journey of times that things looked bleak for his team, but they were able to pull through.

There’s the 1983 state final, when his Gardiner team was playing Cony. The Tigers trailed 4-1 late into the third period, but scored four goals in the time it took Gagne’s son to go to the bathroom, and ended up winning the game 7-4.

“I told the kids … ‘People don’t think we can come back. They don’t think we can come back,'” Gagne said. “And I said, ‘I’m going to put my money on you guys.'”

Another Gardiner team had just one senior after several others were kicked off for disciplinary reasons before the season. Gagne entrusted Ted Robbins to lead a young team, to make them believe, and Robbins did that. Those Tigers lost in the state final.

“I got so many memories of so many of my players that I could go on for days,” Gagne said.

After winning the 1996 Class A title at Waterville with some talented juniors, Gagne had to replace four would-be seniors in 1997. The Purple Panthers trailed St. Dominic Academy 5-0 in the third period of a regional final, but were able to rally back and win 6-5 in overtime before falling in the state final.

Advertisement

“I said, ‘Make them earn it. That’s all I ask of you, make them earn it,'” Gagne said.

“I’ve been able to rally my team when people thought the game was over.”

Hockey has always been about more than just winning and losing, according to Gagne. A longtime teacher away from the rink, Gagne used those skills on the ice as well.

“I’ve always taken hockey as a vehicle to teach them life skills, and I’ve always told them that they’re going to face a lot of tougher things in life than the game of hockey, and what they encounter in the game of hockey,” Gagne said.

The venerable coach known simply as “Norm” said he hears from former players all the time, whether they were the star player whose career took off, or the kid who stayed in school solely because of hockey.

“I’ve told my wife, when I get calls from my players as adults now, they have their own lives, their own kids, and they thank me for what I did for them and teaching them the life skills that I’ve taught them … it’s stories like that that you look back on and say I just did it because I knew I had to do it for those kids,” Gagne said.

“To have them come back and say thank you, it’s rewarding to know that you did make a difference in their lives. And I’ve always tried to believe that that’s what I put on this earth to do, was to take these young men and hopefully try to make a difference in their life.

“It’s things like that that I look back on and say it’s not just the wins.”

[email protected]


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