“Norm always played to win and not lose — which is a big difference. He played to win.”

That’s a quote from Norm Gagne’s longtime coaching rival, John Pleau, who was St. Dom’s head coach from 2005-08 and spent 14 years as an assistant to another of Gagne’s coaching rivals, Bob Boucher, who coached the Saints for 25 seasons.

Gagne guided his teams to 812 wins in his career. Only one boys hockey coach has more victories, the late Bill Belisle of Mount Saint Charles in Rhode Island, who finished with 1,000.

Edward Little boys varsity hockey head coach Norm Gagne looks out onto the ice during a game against Falmouth High School on Dec. 16 at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Gagne officially announced his retirement in February, after 50 years of coaching that included stops at Gardiner (1973-1987), Waterville (1987-2004), Gorham (2004-2005), Lewiston (2005-2008), Scarborough (2008-2017) and Edward Little (2017-2004). His teams claimed seven state championships (1981, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2015).

The Sun Journal recently spoke to former players and coaches about Gagne’s career and what he has meant to high school hockey in the state.

“He always tried to get his players to be a student of the game, to learn,” Jake Brown, former Lewiston player and an assistant coach with Gagne at Scarborough. “He was a motivator at Lewiston and taught me a lot about accountability, the little things, getting school work done … academics, coming to practice on time — things I always empathize as a coach.”


Gagne, a graduate of Edward Little High School, wanted his players to be great citizens as much as he wanted them to be great hockey players.

“Norm talks about it all the time: He makes people accountable for themselves, and he makes them into better people,” Dennis Martin, who played for Gagne at Waterville in 1987-88 and coached with him at Waterville. “He taught more than hockey; he taught life skills for everybody, making sure you were accountable and making sure you were doing all the right things.”

Gagne cared about the sport and he cared about the players, who he wanted to see go as far with hockey as they possibly could.

Take Jake Rutt, from Scarborough, who played at St. Dom’s his freshman season before joining the Red Storm for his sophomore and junior years. He played for one season for Gagne — his junior season and Gagne’s first with the Red Storm in 2008-09 as an assistant coach.

“What was nice too is how he handled the exit meetings after the year ended,” Rutt said. “He obviously wanted what was the best for the team, but he wanted the best for everyone’s hockey career. He really encouraged me to go outside of Maine high school hockey, and I am really thankful for that.”

Rutt spent the following two seasons with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League before playing for the University of Maine from 2011-15. Rutt was the last Division-I hockey player Gagne coached.


Rutt also had a brief run in the ECHL after his college career. Barry Clukey of Waterville is another former Gagne player who reached the AA level of minor league hockey after a career at UMaine.

While Gagne wanted his standout players to take the next step, he also wanted the best for the sport in the state.

“Norm prides himself in high school hockey and growing high school hockey,” Brown said. “I think he gave me opportunities to run practices, to manage the games early on. I think it was a way for him, just wanting to promote coaching in the state for hockey.”


Coaches had to prepare when going up against Norm Gagne’s teams.

Pleau said the St. Dom’s-Waterville games in the 1990s and 2000s were battles with two coaches, Gagne and Boucher, who both didn’t like to lose.


“Two elite coaches, going head-to-head, the teams were prepared and the teams hated each other’s guts,” Pleau said. “They both hated losing … that’s just the way it was. You walked into that building, you knew you were in a gunfight. I went back and we had the intimidation factor. When St. Dom’s walked into your building, a lot of teams were intimated by us. Waterville wasn’t intimated by anybody — same as us. They didn’t intimate us, so you knew you had a gun battle. Norm liked to feed off of it; he did a great job at it.”

Players noticed how quickly Gagne’s coaching led to results. Aaron Perkins, a junior on Norm Gagne’s first Edward Little team in 2017-18, said the players quickly saw the results of adapting to Gagne’s system.

“Our first game, we played Windham/Westbrook and we won 6-0,” Perkins said. “The preseason, I don’t think we lost a game — if we did, it wasn’t by much. The system he brought in was effective immediately. Everybody seemed to get it. Discipline was a huge thing when he came in, and that was probably the least amount of penalties we had taken in my four years was that first year with him.”

Perkins spent this past season as one of Gagne’s assistant coaches.

One of the biggest thing Perkins noticed from playing and coaching for Gagne and was his consistency throughout the years.

“Our systems were a lot of the same,” Perkins said. “I think he was just as encouraging the first day — one thing, he was always motivated. A lot of the speeches were the same in the locker room before games, speeches at practices, messages before games, everything was similar. I think, maybe, team-to-team, there might have been some adjustments, but as far as he got in there and established himself, he did a good job of staying consistent.”


Martin was an assistant coach at Waterville under Gagne, working with the defensemen for nine years before taking over as the head coach and leading the program from 2004-05 to 2016-17 season. He currently is the coach at Messalonskee.

“He made you work; he always valued your opinion on things,” Martin said. “He took them, but he always had the final say with everything. We always discussed everything. The biggest thing was always to be loyal to the guy you are coaching with.

“His X’s and O’s were always the best for the team and the players. The thing I learned the most is putting the kids where they can be successful without putting them in a place where they are going to fail.”


When Gagne became the coach of a new team, he’d remind the players of what the sport meant to their school.

“We had that tradition over there,” Martin said. “He brought that along, and the winning attitude.”


Gagne brought three state championships to the Purple Panthers.

After all the battles between Waterville and Lewiston in the 1980s and 1990s, Gagne got the players to buy into the rich history of Lewiston when he became the Blue Devils’ coach in 2004-05.

“He did a really good job of embracing the tradition of Lewiston hockey,” Brown said. “He really sold that to the kids early on.”

The Blue Devils went to the state championship game all three of Gagne’s seasons, losing to Cheverus in 2006 and suffering back-to-back losses to the Brian Dumoulin-led Bidddeford squads in 2007 and 2008.

When Gagne arrived at Scarborough, things quickly changed for the Red Storm.

“We knew what Coach Gagne was about,” Rutt said. “When he came to the locker room, we were all ears — it was a nice culture shift. We had a really good culture shift.”


The Red Storm went 12-7-1 in 2008-09 after a 6-13-1 season in 2007-08. Gagne became Scarborough’s coach in 2009-10.

In 2015, Gagne guided Scarborough to its second state championship and its first in first in Class A.


Perkins said Gagne went down memory lane a lot this past season when the Red Eddies visited different arenas.

“Going to all these different places, he had a story for every place we were at,” Perkins said. “… We were both kind of sharing stories of the teams we were playing, my memories of playing for him in high school, his experiences in past years before he even coached me. It was kind of special to share that with him. He always had a story.”

Martin said he and Gagne always kept in touch during the season, bouncing ideas off each other.


“Since I became a coach, we talked at least once a week through the season,” Martin said. “We picked each other’s brains with different stuff. He says, ‘This isn’t working — what do you do here?’ I have this little strategy. We always talked about drills and stuff, like that. He was my role model.”

Martin and Gagne always tried to schedule regular season or exhibition games against each other’s teams, and Martin it was because of the respect they had for each other and both of them knowing the games would be clean and help their teams get better.

“I always rooted for him, unless he was playing us,” Martin said with a chuckle. “That’s the only time I didn’t cheer for him. He was the same way, and I know that for sure.”

St. Dominic Academy’s Timothee Ouellette, left, receives the Travis Roy Award from Norm Gagne during the Class A boys hockey banquet at St. John’s Community Center in Brunswick on March 16. Gagne, who announced his retirement in February, was also recognized at the banquet for his 50 years of coaching. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Brown became Scarborough’s coach in 2017-18 after Gagne accepted the head coaching job at Edward Little, his alma mater. Brown led the Red Storm for three years before he stepped down to become the school’s assistant principal.

His last win with Scarborough was in the 2020 state semifinals against Edward Little and Gagne.

“To put it this way, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him giving me those opportunities,” Brown said. “He really had me grow as a coach, and like I said, I have a lot to be thankful for, everything he did for me.”

Pleau said there is unlikely to be another Norm Gagne, someone who is able to coach that long and have that much success.

“He’s in the status of Bill Belisle from Mount St. Charles, Bill Hanson of Catholic Memorial (in Boston), he’s in that group,” Pleau said. “They have been there for a long time with a good winning percentage, and they were the elite. Bob Boucher is the same. It will be a long time before another one comes around.”

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