A former Johnston High School teacher is about to receive one of this state’s most prestigious hockey awards.
Lou Lamoriello, whose teaching career at Johnston High ended in the early 1970s before he began an extraordinary career in college and pro hockey, will be back home in the Ocean State on Aug. 7 to receive the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Association’s “Rhode Island Native-Born Hockey Achievement Award.”
Lamoriello, who was born in Providence on Oct. 21, 1942 and taught mathematics at JHS, will receive the extraordinary honor when the Reds Heritage Society holds its annual 11th reunion at Goddard Memorial State Park.
“We’re honoring Lou in recognition of his enormous hockey accomplishments,” said Buster Clegg, who was once the general manager of the Reds. “Lou has done more for the game of ice hockey than anyone will ever know.”
Lamoriello was a La Salle Academy All-Stater, and he went on to star at Providence College in both ice hockey and baseball. He would later become the Friars athletic director, and he also founded Hockey East. After his time at PC, Lamoriello has built the New Jersey Devils into a top franchise in the National Hockey League.
“He is Rhode Island’s native son and we’re proud of what he has accomplished,” Clegg said.
One of Lamoriello’s former JHS pupils was current Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena.
“First of all the Town of Johnston is very proud of what Lou has accomplished,” Polisena said. “He was a great teacher and a great guy. It’s a good thing I paid attention in his math class, because now I’m running the town.”
Polisena also emphasized that you didn’t want to get Mr. Lamoriello upset.
“He made sure you paid attention, yet he was fair,” Polisena said. “Of course that was almost 40 years ago … I was one of the lucky ones who had him as a teacher. Now he’s a very famous person as well as a great man.”
Ed DeSimone, the school’s co-director of athletics, also remembers Lamoriello well.
“He was a very good math teacher,” DeSimone said. “He was someone who the kids really looked up to. No one could run the cafeteria like Lou and [the late Bob Smith]. They ran it by themselves. And there was never any mess when lunch was over. If Lou said clean the table, it was cleaned. Period.”
Added Gary Mazzie, DeSimone’s counterpart at JHS, “I remember him as a math teacher. I was younger than Lou and I taught biology, but he was hard-nosed then and I’m sure that is why he became so successful as he climbed up the ladder.”
Under Lamoriello’s leadership as president and general manager – titles he still holds today – the Devils have captured three NHL Stanley Cup championships and lost another in the deciding seventh and final game. He was also the architect of the 1996 American team that upset Canada to win the World Cup of Hockey.
Lamoriello received the greatest tribute to his long career of hockey excellence on Nov. 9, 2009 when he was recognized for his contributions to hockey by being inducted into the builders section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“The award is given to honor native-born Rhode Islanders who have excelled in hockey and brought national recognition to the high quality of our game here in our state,” Clegg said. “Lou has done just that and much, much more.”
The Reds Heritage Society has already sold 172 tickets for the 11th annual reunion and awards ceremony. Clegg said total capacity is 300 and urged those people interested in the event – and seeing Lamoriello honored – should get their tickets as soon as possible. The deadline is July 16. No tickets will be sold at the door.
For more information and tickets, call Clegg at (401) 247-2666.