Coach lives with intensity

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Doris Day he ain't.

The only thing Rimouski Oceanic head coach Doris Labonte shares with the celebrated former singer and Hollywood star is his first name.

Labonte, who joined the Oceanic in 2000, has had his share of run-ins with officials and opposing coaches during his time. He has also been fined for offensive gestures.

Fans at the John Labatt Centre saw Labonte's face a lot during the Oceanic's 4-3 loss to the Knights on Saturday in the first game of the Memorial Cup as he yelled about calls he didn't like or calls that weren't made.

His decision to have his team practise in Aylmer instead of at the Western Fair Sports Centre last Friday cost the team $1,000.

"He has emotion and heart," said the Journal de Montreal's Marc Lachapelle, who has covered the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for 35 years.

Labonte agrees he's a passionate coach but he also likes to joke around.

He got a laugh from reporters yesterday following Rimouski's practice at Western Fair when he suggested the media would have no more questions for him because they had just talked to his star player, Sidney Crosby.

Labonte knows reporters, especially during this tournament, always have more questions. In fact, his interview was cut short because an idling bus filled with his players was waiting for him.

"I work with my heart. That's a basic for me," he said.

And Labonte expects the same from his players.

"If hockey is not what you put first, you're going to have problems to deal with such a heavy schedule, the attention and the pressure."

Mario Scalzo, who played for the Victoriaville (Que,) Tigers before joining Rimouski in January, said Labonte is a likeable coach.

"He's a good guy. He knows how to talk to his players," the over-aged blue-liner said.

He certainly talks a lot to and about Crosby. Labonte has kept a watchful eye on the 17-year-old since arriving in London.

The media have only so much time with Crosby and the player spends most of his time in the hotel when not playing or practising. That's why Labonte skipped town for Aylmer -- to get Crosby out of the glare.

"People have to understand that he's only 17," he said. "The pressure is on him. In the (Free Press on Saturday), you see his face beside a 19-year-old first-round drafted player (Corey Perry)."

But Labonte knows it can't be just about Crosby. He's got the whole team to manage and worry about.


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