Community celebrates as player brings Memorial Cup back to Noelville

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There was standing room only inside the Noelville Community Center Friday morning as Memorial Cup winner Philippe Daoust made a triumphant return to the French River.

The 20-year-old was part of the Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs and was welcomed as a hero.

“I tell you, Phil has brought so much joy to our community,” said Rivière des Français Mayor Gisèle Pageau.

“He’s a great example of having a dream and making it happen and with the Memorial Cup it’s part of his dream, so we’re excited here.

Pageau said hockey is a way of life in his community. The municipality of 2,500 inhabitants is full of hockey fans. The NOJHL’s French River Rapids have called Noelville home for the past five years.

“Phil, I find him as a leader for small town youth in northern Ontario who don’t think they can get by but they can get by and he’s worked hard and we’re cheering people on” , she said.

“The idea should be for people to move to small towns so they can achieve great success.”

Daoust was honored with a framed jersey from his time with Moncton that will now hang in the halls of the hockey arena in hopes of inspiring others.

One person he has already inspired is his younger cousin Braden Henderson.

“I love sports, I love watching Phil play,” he told CTV News.

“I really like it (that he won the Memorial Cup). I play hockey and I want to play like Phil. He encourages me.

The Noelville native and Ottawa Senators prospect began his career with the French River Rapids.

Coach and general manager Paul Frustaglio saw something special in the youngster and gave him a chance.

“Today is a historic day for this community, the French River Municipality, and to be quite honest with you, Northern Ontario,” said Frustaglio.

A GOOD PERSON ON AND OFF ICE

“This young man has also been a determined, hardworking and great person, so being good on and off the ice is very important and Phil demonstrates that. He has great values ​​that were instilled in him by his family.”

For his part, Daoust called the experience “surreal”.

“I’m so happy to be here and to be able to bring home the town where I come from and the town of my grandparents,” he said.

“It’s honestly a moment I will remember for the rest of my life and I just have to thank all the family, friends and fans who came out here to support me.”

Daoust said winning the cup was a bit of a blur, but if he were to rank them, the time to bring it home is still close.

“It’s crazy to see kids I saw four or five years ago who are almost taller than me now, it means so much to me,” he said.

“I had some tough times in my hockey career. I hope younger people can look up to me and know that it doesn’t matter where you come from – small town or big town.”

He said he’ll savor the moment for a while. From there, he travels to Barrie, another community he calls home to celebrate with other loved ones.

The power forward hopes to lace up his skates one day in the NHL, but Noelville will still be where he got his start.

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