If you know Declan "Dec" LaCour from seeing him around hockey rinks the last five decades, you might be surprised to learn he didn't play a lot of hockey growing up.
"In the '50s, I was an Evening Telegram carrier, and I never had time to play hockey then because the only day in the week I had off was Sundays," LaCour said with a chuckle. That said, he sometimes found time for the odd game of shinny on a pond.
Make no mistake though, hockey has been a big part of the Harbour Main native's life. For 42 years, LaCour gave countless hours of his time to minor hockey. Even though he's scaled back his involvement in recent years, LaCour stays in the game through committee work with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador.
"When my sons finished minor hockey after they were 16 years old, I still really loved being involved," he said when asked why he's dedicated so many years to the sport at a youth level.
The governing body in the province recently thanked LaCour for his noteworthy commitment to hockey by inducting him into the Hockey NL Hall of Fame as a builder. The formal induction took place June 8 at an awards ceremony in Gander.
"I never thought I would ever go in the hall of fame, because the hall of fame is the highest award that anybody can get in any sport," said LaCour, who lives in Lakeview within the Harbour Main-Chapel's Cove-Lakeview municipality. "I was very glad."
As is the case with many hockey volunteers, LaCour first got involved behind the scenes when his two sons, Derrick and Duane, started playing. His family was in Wabush at the time, though it wasn't long before they moved back to Harbour Main. Health issues forced LaCour to retire from work when he was 34, and it was hard to manage medical appointments living in Labrador.
He immediately got involved with the Conception Bay Centre Minor Hockey Association, ultimately spending 13 years on its executive, 10 of those as president. During that time, he served five years on the Conception Bay South Stadium Commission. In the summer, LaCour kept busy working with young athletes as a softball coach.
LaCour was a prominent player in the development of bantam hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador, helping get teams entered in the Atlantic Purolator Cup tournament (later known as the Irving Oil Challenge Cup). He served 25 years as branch representative for that event.
"I loved travelling with the teams," LaCour said.
Starting in 1990, LaCour spent 26 years on the minor council for Hockey NL and its predecessor, the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association. He is now recognized as a life member of Hockey NL and its minor council. LaCour was instrumental in successfully merging the Conception Bay Centre and Conception Bay South minor hockey groups, leading to what's now known as Conception Bay Regional Minor Hockey. LaCour was eastern director for minor hockey in the province at the time of the merger.
Hockey kept him busy for many years, and LaCour was grateful to have the support of his family in committing so much time to the sport; he gives extra credit to his wife Margaret.
Having spent five decades at rinks watching minor hockey, he's witnessed lots of change. But if there's one thing he's grateful for, it's how much safer the sport is today for younger players.
"Back in 1974 when I got involved with it, the kids were not wearing face masks," he said. "Atom hockey, there was body contact then. Now there's no body contact even right up to midget. I think it has changed for the better."