Back to Back
1982 was a special year for Hub City hockey.
It was the year of champions.
The New Brunswick Hawks of the American Hockey League hoisted the beloved Calder Cup, while the University of Moncton Blue Eagles would use home ice advantage and the support from the entire city and region to once again capture National Championship supremacy.
Then Blue Eagles Head Coach Jean Perron had a team that understood how to win the big game, coming off a dramatic National Championship victory in 1981.
Perron believes the Blue Eagles journey to back-to-back championships all started with a trip to a high profile tournament in Montreal where the Blue Eagles faced stiff competition. “No one knew about the Blue Eagles,” Perron exclaimed.
“Claude Ruell and the entire Montreal Canadiens scouting staff was there. They were looking at my club and they couldn’t believe what we were doing, that’s where we were exposed,” said Perron.
“When you are in the Mecca of hockey in Montreal and you win the International University Cup, no one knew that a team from Moncton could beat all those power houses,” Perron said with a laugh.
“We got on the map with the first CIAU National Championship, but we first got on the map in Montreal at the International University Cup,” stated Perron.
“In 1981 we went to Calgary and no one gave us a chance. Against all odds we beat everybody in Calgary,” Perron said.
“With all the brouhaha that was made with us winning our first National Championship it transferred to the next two seasons when we hosted,” Perron added.
The reigning CIAU National Champions were ready to host the country’s best. Similar to the American Hockey League’s New Brunswick Hawks, the Blue Eagles had a great blend of young talent, veteran leadership, presence and grit.
“The atmosphere in the National Championship game was a once in a lifetime experience,” said then Blue Eagles assistant coach and local hockey legend Ron LeBlanc.
“To see people coming in from all the other Atlantic Provinces on buses, reserving their tickets, it was an attendance record and I believe it still stands today,” said Perron.
LeBlanc had experience playing some major events in front of a hometown crowd, but never witnessed anything like the 1982 event at the Coliseum.
“Compared to the Hardy Cup Championships that I played in at the Coliseum in 1975 and 1979, the 82’ National Championship game was much more alive and electric,” said LeBlanc.
The Blue Eagles would face a familiar foe in the final, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, who were coached by long time Canadian National Team coach and 2018 Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey Team Asst. Coach Dave King.
“We beat them in 1981 on a last minute goal so they were looking for revenge, and we wanted to let them know that our victory the year before wasn’t a fluke,” said LeBlanc.
The Blue Eagles found themselves down by two goals entering the 3rdperiod of the Championship final. “You could feel the nervousness in the crowd from behind the bench when we were down by two goals,” said LeBlanc.
The Blue Eagles would answer early in the 3rd to cut the lead in half, before Alain Grenier tied it up with a slap shot on his off wing that sent the Coliseum faithful into a frenzy.
The tone was set for yet another nail biting finish. The Huskies were the first to crack under the pressure of the moment by taking an ill-advised penalty late in the 3rd period.
With 27 seconds left in the game the Blue Eagles specialty teams delivered the knock out blow on Louis Durocher’s goal to claim their second straight National Championship.
“We had a team that matured very well,” Perron said.
“We were on a mission, all of my players had more experience, but scoring two years in a row in the late stages of a game is dramatic and something that you remember all your life,” said Perron who went to coach the Montreal Canadiens.
“It didn’t matter where the players were from they were all playing for their university, our region and for all intents and purposes they were all Monctonians, Acadians and New Brunswicker’s in that Championship game,” stressed LeBlanc.
“It’s one of the highlights of my career, that team was very, very, special,” said Perron, who would go on to win the Stanley Cup in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens.
“Moncton is very special, the city is always behind the Blue Eagles, it is an important part of the sports culture in the Maritimes,” explained Perron.