Martin C. Barry
Although no Gold medallions were awarded at the May edition of Laval’s semi-annual Mérite sportif sports awards, bronze and silver medals were given out to 132 of the city’s most deserving athletes and coaches.
It was with great pride that the athletes and coaches from Laval were honored on May 30 during the city’s 59th Mérite sportif lavallois awards evening.
Among those attending the event at théâtre Marcellin-Champagnat at Collège Laval were Vimont city councillor Michel Poissant, Sports Laval president Pierre Gervais, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League referee Olivier Gouin.
Bronze and Silver medals
Among the sports honored during the evening were boxing, cheerleading, athletics, gymnastics, figure skating, short-track speed skating, curling, hockey and taekwondo. Of the 132 medallions given out, 29 were silver (for competing in Canadian sporting events) and 103 were bronze (competition in provincial events). There were no Golds this time for distinction in international events.
Delivering the evening’s keynote address, Olivier Gouin explained how he ended up becoming a referee in a sport and league known for being tough on rule enforcers. When he was in his mid-teens, he didn’t fancy the idea of working McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s.
A hockey referee’s life
“I said to myself that it couldn’t be too hard,” said Gouin, drawing some laughter from the young and sports-wise audience. After refereeing his first match at the former Samson Arena (now named after Martin Saint-Louis), he swore he’d never do it again after enduring abuse from over-enthusiastic parents in their 40s.
However, 12 years later he’s still pursuing refereeing as a career and has risen professionally to the point where he’s refereed two Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cups, two World Hockey Championships, and he’s also been involved in refereeing Olympic-level hockey.
Very competitive domain
“It’s a domain that’s extremely competitive,” said Gouin, comparing referees to the athletes themselves in terms of the amount of ambition and drive they both require. He also noted that there are 35,000 referees in Canada alone. Although relatively few of them end up refereeing at the highest levels of hockey, “I am someone who is extremely competitive,” he added.
But one thing he said he did want to make clear to the young athletes, which is the necessity to remain in school and pursue academic studies while participating in sports. “That’s the best decision I ever made,” said Gouin. “Today whenever I get on the ice, thanks to my Plan B I’m not refereeing just to survive. You wouldn’t believe how this takes the pressure off.”