If you were an opposing player, (or even a goaltender), your best option was to get out of the way whenever Richard 'Ben' Lacroix let go one of his blasts during the years he played hockey in Chapleau.
Richard emerged as one of the players who defined hockey in the community for many years, starting about 1966 just after the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena got artificial ice. He played for the Chapleau Senior Bantams who won the Division B championship at a tournament in Lasarre. Quebec in the 1966-67 hockey season.
The Bantams, coached by David Mizuguchi and managed by David Futhey were part of a big year in the annals of Chapleau hockey history. In their first year of play in the International Junior B Hockey League the Junior B Huskies won the league and Northern Ontario Hockey Association titles.
However, it was in the 1967-1968 hockey season, the last for most of them as Bantams, including Richard, that they really excelled. They were moved into Division A at the Lasarre tournament but won the title and they also won the Northern Ontario Playground Hockey Association (NOPHA) 'A' championship in the Bantam category with David Mizuguchi as manager, David Futhey as coach and Doug Prusky who was now overage as trainer.
Many of these players went on to play for the Junior B Huskies and later the Intermediate A Huskies in the Northland Intermediate Hockey League.
Keith 'Buddy' Swanson, who had founded the junior team with Lorne Riley and Tom Welch, also doubled as hockey writer for the Chapleau Sentinel.
In the 1970-71 season with Earle Freeborn as coach, Buddy wrote that the team was off to a fast start, and early in the season was in first place after defeating their arch rival Wawa Travellers 7-3 and 5-3 in weekend encounters.
Buddy noted that Richard had "made one of his patented end to end rushes, passing to Ernie Chambers who scored and then followed up as he skidded a backhander the length of the ice to clinch things for Chapleau with 33 seconds left.
Richard's rushes and blasts were common during his junior and intermediate hockey years. At the end of the 1970-71 season, he had notched 44 goals and was named the team's top player among other awards. He was presented with the Molson Award by representative Ray Bradley, assisted by Jim Mair, then playing for the Vancouver Canucks.
Following his junior career, Richard Joined the intermediate Huskies, and was its first captain in the 1975-76 season. He was also named rookie of the year and won the leading scorer honours.
Richard had the distinction of scoring the third Chapleau goal in the Mrs A.W. Moore Arena in 1978 in an exhibition game against the Valley East Crusaders. John Tavella scored the first and Jamie Doyle the second. The Sentinel reported that Richard "put home one of his blasts." Assists went to Ron Larcher and Jacques Sylvestre.
From Bantam to Junior to Intermediate teams, Richard made a difference as a great team player and friend - and delighted Chapleau hockey fans too.
Let me share a personal anecdote about Richard. In 1970, I was in Lady Minto Hospital, and visitors other than family were not permitted for a time. Richard was one of my students at Chapleau High School.
One afternoon I looked up and there was Richard beside my bed, having snuck by those wonderful but very formidable nurses at the hospital. We had a great visit, and then off he went. He had made my day.
Richard 'Ben' Lacroix died In Wawa on November 14, 2014. Rest in peace Richard. You made a difference. My email is email@example.com