Edward Little High School boy’s head hockey coach Norm Gagne runs drills during the first day of practice in Auburn on Monday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — If you believe it, you can achieve it.

Before the Edward Little boys’ hockey team can achieve anything, the Red Eddies need to believe. That was the message at the end of the first practice of the season for the Red Eddies under new head coach Norm Gagne.

“I brought them up at the end, I said, ‘I need believers,'” said Gagne, the first goalie in EL program history before becoming the winningest high school hockey coach in state history.

“We knew he was experienced, so we knew we were in good hands,” senior Alex Landry said. “I think we were all pretty excited to have a coach that was experienced, and had as many games under his belt as he did. So I think it was a step in the right direction.”

According to Gagne, some of the first steps on the ice for his team weren’t in the right direction. The very first drill — a simple one, Gagne thought — took four tries before the players figured it out.

Gagne quickly realized he wasn’t with his Scarborough team anymore, where he had been the previous eight seasons. Everything was new for everybody on the ice.

“We’re getting there,” Gagne said. “It’s a learning experience for me too.”

That didn’t stop Gagne from setting the bar high right from the start, according to Landry.

“He started us off real quick, with like skating and stuff, which showed high-intensity that we’re going to have for the entire season,” senior Cam Audette said.

“I want them to understand that they’re going to have to work hard. I told them that we don’t have to be the most talented team, but you’re going to be the hardest working,” Gagne said. “I feel that we’ve got some decent players here, and all they need is a system that can make them successful. And I’m hoping that I’m able to do that with them.”

The system is something that Gagne talks about often. It’s the same one he’s used throughout his career, one he thinks works, and the performances of his previous teams proves that it does.

“Coming here, I said I’m not changing anything. I’m going to go right to what I do,” Gagne said. “I’ve learned now, I’ve got a system, I know it works, and it’s just a matter of getting the kids to trust.

“I told them: ‘I know it’s going to be a little awesome at first, but it’s simple.'”

Still, it was a first day of practice that was as mentally draining as it was physically, according to Audette.

“He has a lot of expectations for us that we have to meet, as a team and individually,” Audette said.

Those expectations include improving on last year’s 5-14 record.

“Whether we’re the underdog or not, if we have the desire, the character, and the team mentality, that’s what we got to be the best at. And if we are, we’re going to win more than we lose,” Gagne said. “That’s what I’ve always believed in, and that’s I’m trying to teach them now.

“I’m pleased with the group. It’s just we’re both learning. We’re going to get there.”

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Edward Little High School boy’s head hockey coach Norm Gagne runs drills during the first day of practice in Auburn on Monday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)