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Longest serving still-active referee in the world started in Sudbury
2024-01-06
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First created in northern Ontario in the early sixties, the sport of ringette was beginning to gain a foothold in Sudbury less than a decade later when Gerald Lamoureux would accompany his mother (Marina – one of the first local ringette coaches) and his three sisters (Monica/Carol/Donna) to their games at Madison playground.

Typically entrusted with carrying the equipment and such on the four block trek from the Eastern Avenue homestead to the neighbourhood park, the eldest of six children in the family would be pressed into service of a different kind at the age of thirteen.

“One day, a ref didn’t show up so my mother gave me a whistle and said to me: I will tell you when to blow it,” said Lamoureux with a laugh. A half century later, he’s maintained said whistle in hand, one of the more familiar faces for those involved with ringette who can recall with ease the challenges of those early outdoor games.

“I am the longest serving, still active (ringette) referee in the world,” Lamoureux states quite confidently.

Making the move from Sudbury to Toronto in 1985 and residing in the Don Mills area for quite some time now, the son of former Sudbury mayor Maurice Lamoureux officiates a much different version of the game from the one in which he first got his footings.

“Back then, you would play one period and then everyone would go inside for hot chocolate,” Lamoureux recalled with a laugh. “We would go back out and scrape the ice for the second period. And when the game ended, it was back in for hot chocolate.”

While his reasons for remaining involved decade after decade likely morphed over time, the earliest attraction was one that pretty much every young teenage boy could relate to. “It’s all girls playing ringette (or at least was at that time) and let’s be honest – there were lots of pretty ones,” Lamoureux chuckled.

“Seriously though, the sport was a good sport,” he added. “Lots of action and fast; you learned on the go. And I got to go to all of the different playgrounds across the city.”

Within a three to four year period, those boundaries were expanded, the youngster taking his love of travel to another level entirely.

“Back then, if a team was going to travel (to a tournament), you had to bring a referee,” said Lamoureux. “It was still so new and we didn’t have too many refs.”

To this day, the memories of his very first rep tournament in Oshawa spring quickly to mind, the thrill of what taking that next step meant to the young man who would graduate from Cambrian College with a degree in the bilingual Business Administration program that easily predated the advent of Collège Boréal.

“I was meeting other referees, seeing the game at a different level,” he said. “This was cool.”

Drawing on an interest in organizational governance that ran through much of the family, Gerald wasted little time furthering his development via his involvement as a regional referee-in-chief, while still relatively young.

“When I was 17, I applied for a Wintario grant for the referees to be able to travel (from the north to tournaments),” he stated. “We knew that if we wanted to get better, we had to go to the southern tournaments. The grant covered our gas for one tournament a month.”

Even as he expanded his personal ringette spectrum to incorporate many, many years of coaching, most often balancing between his duties behind the bench and on the ice, Lamoureux demonstrated the character traits that would lead to regular appearances at provincial championship and hundreds of games, pretty much every single year.

“I was very open to learning,” he said. “At the annual meetings, we had a section for rules and I would attend those meetings. They saw my face. I was starting to get well known, just because I showed up.”

And as Lamoureux offered input with various rule discussions, his earliest days in the sport were glaringly apparent. “I was involved with some of the rule changes – like building up of snow on the outdoor rinks,” he said. “The goalies would build up a wall of snow on the goal line to help stop the shots.”

For as much as he has garnered some hardware along the way, beginning his coaching journey with his mom, jumping aboard with a provincial team in Onaping Falls a few years later and lending a helping hand with the Scarborough Association after his departure from Sudbury (“ringette was my social connection when I moved to Toronto”), Lamoureux insists that he is far more well-known in the circles of this revitalized sport by virtue of his time donning the stripes.

“People know me more as a ref,” he said. “I taught and evaluated referees.”

And despite game appearances that number easily in the thousands and a chrolonigical clock that belies his youthful exhuberance when he steps on the ice, Gerald Lamoureux continues to so – and is more than happy to do it.

Greater Sudbury Soccer Club