When former University of Maine two-year hockey captain Guy Perron was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March, he decided to be proactive.
“I wasn’t just going to sit around,” Perron said.
So he turned to something he has been passionate about his entire life: hockey.
Perron accepted an invitation Bangor High School head hockey coach Quinn Paradis offered several years ago to be part of his coaching staff. The arrangement is proving to be therapeutic for Perron, who has been a valuable addition to the staff while balancing the gig with his job and cancer treatments.
The Rams have had a good season so far, going 6-2 with their only two losses coming to 9-0 Edward Little High School in Auburn. Edward Little is first in the Heal Points standings and Bangor is second. The teams played a 5-4 thriller on Saturday night in Auburn and the four goals were two more than the Eddies had allowed in their previous eight games combined.
Bangor earned its first victory over Lewiston in six years last week 1-0.
“The team has been buying in. We’ve got a great bunch of kids. The more [information] we can give them, the better. We’re seeing some improvement every game,” Perron said.
Former UMaine goalie Greg Hirsch, who also joined the coaching staff this season, said watching Perron on the ice “gets me fired up.”
“He has jumped in with both feet. He analyzes film at night and brings insight into the game that these guys couldn’t get anywhere else. They just couldn’t,” Hirsch said. “I’m blessed to be able to coach with him. He has made me a better coach and a better person.”
Perron, a native of Laval, Quebec, had an outstanding career at UMaine from 1986 to 1990 and is 18th on the school’s all-time scoring list with 146 points on 62 goals and 84 assists in 136 games. He helped lead UMaine to its first four NCAA Tournament appearances and the school’s first two Frozen Four berths.
His resume includes time as an assistant coach of the UMaine men’s hockey team and head coach of the women’s hockey team, the head coach at Bangor High, and a scout for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. He was also an assistant at Dartmouth College, the general manager/head coach of the Chicago Freeze of the North American Hockey League and the director of hockey operations for the Maine Junior Black Bears program.
“He is a really smart guy,” said Bangor senior goalie Jake Hirsch, Greg’s son. “He played the game forever and knows all the ins and outs. He will come into the locker room and show us things [that will help us improve].”
He is on the ice with the team for practices and in the press box during games, taking notes before going down to the locker room after each period and providing feedback to the coaches and players.
“He’s awesome,” said sophomore left wing Miles Randall. “He always comes to the rink with a smile on his face. He makes us work hard. He’s a great guy.”
Among the players on the team is the youngest of Guy and Renee Perron’s three children, freshman Marc-Andre.
Perron’s wife Renee said her husband’s return to coaching has been “a great distraction.”
“He gets to break the game down with Marc-Andre. He’s having a good time,” she said. “He loves breaking the game down and working with the players.”
“He has been a big inspiration to our program,” Paradis said. “The kids love him. They listen to him and buy into his systems. We’re here for him and he’s here for us. The kids have a heart for hockey and he has a heart for hockey. It has been a fun ride.”
Prior to Perron’s first practice with the team, he hadn’t been on the ice for two years and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, which affected his balance.
“I took a [spill],” Perron said with a laugh. “I felt like I was back in ‘Learn to Skate.’”
Perron is balancing a busy schedule that has included 19 chemotherapy treatments at the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute in Brewer and his job at Brewer-based W.S. Emerson, a wholesale distributor of career apparel, sportswear, footwear, headwear, uniforms and other promotional products.
He goes to practices and games when he can.
The 55-year-old Perron said he has had some “good days and bad days” battling the cancer and he will head to Boston for radiation treatments next week.
“It’s probably going to be a tough road next week. We’ll see what happens,” Perron said.
Perron and Renee both used the word “humbling” in describing the tremendous support they have received from both the local and the hockey communities, including Perron’s former UMaine teammates and coaches.
Renee Perron said her husband belongs on the ice.
“It’s in his blood. He could skate before he could walk,” she said.