After receiving positive feedback from my Amesbury, Massachusetts: Remembering A Rich Ice Hockey Tradition article about the once nationally known Amesbury Maples Hockey Team, I decided to continue my efforts with a “Legend Series” focusing on the more popular members of the team throughout the years. As many local residents know, this town had many talented hockey players that wore the kelly green and white jerseys proudly as they represented the community not only within the towns limits, but also from great distances.
In this first edition of the series I’d like to take the time to educate those that are interested in learning about a gentleman who was not only one of the greatest players from the Maples organization, but who exemplified the true meaning of being a part of a team and taking pride in his community. I hope you all enjoy my article about Hercule “Archie” Cloutier, and his legacy that spanned over 35 years.
Cloutier was born in Cookshire, Quebec, Canada on April 3rd 1908 and migrated south to Amesbury at the age of 15 to seek a better life and work in the town that had been famous for its rich industrial history in manufacturing top of the line horse-drawn carriages and was now part of the Automotive Revolution of the early 1900’s. Two years later, at the age of 17, he was naturalized as a citizen of the United States with the help of the Lafayette Club in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
As Cloutier was getting settled in his new country, he began his long career at the Amesbury Fibre Company, and his family life as he’d go on to meet and marry his wife Cora. Archie and Cora would go on to have six children (2 Boys, 4 Girls). His employment at Amesbury Fibre would take him on a 35 year journey, during which he served as a foreman for a large part of his time with the company.
Archie learned the game of ice hockey when he was a young man living in Canada and brought his talents to the United States as a form of winter recreation. He joined the Maples team as a 20 year-old in 1928 as a 5′-7″ 135-pound player that could be slotted anywhere on a forward line. He saw most of his time on the right-wing, but he could also play center and left-wing. Known as a playmaker, he also had a strong defensive sense of the game and often used his speed to his advantage. He was a master of the game away from the puck as his specialty was a forechecking forward that would be a thorn in the side of opponents while hooking or poke checking the pack away from bigger rivals. The game was very different in the early years of competition and Cloutier was quoted in an Amesbury News article stating “In the early days, there was more emphasis on the defensive game,” He related. “There was no forward passing or passing from one zone to the another so a good checking team was very hard to beat.”
One of the best attributes of Cloutier’s game was his respect for the sport, and those who played it. In his illustrious 35 year playing career he only amassed nine penalty minutes, as he took pride in his offensive production and left the hard-hitting element of the game to bigger teammates. Although Archie had many goals in his career, he was well-know as an unselfish player that would often give up a scoring opportunity to set up one of his teammates. He was also known throughout his career to give back to younger players also enjoying the time on the local ponds as he often spent many hours during the winter keeping in shape. His advice to younger generations while he was out on the ponds only fueled future players to work hard and believe in supporting a tradition this area once had. He was an avid softball player which he believed to be an off-season activity to keep him in shape and ready for action in the upcoming winter seasons.
Cloutier and teammates appeared in the New England Amateur Athletic Union tournament eight times with two appearances (1930-31, 1931-32) at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island, and made six NEAAU Tournament appearances at the famous old Boston Garden from 1935-36 to 1940-41. He led the team in scoring in the 1937-38 season with 17 goals, 18 assists for 35 points. He and the team won the Essex County Championship in 1938-39. He was a member of the 1939-40 Maples team that won the NEAAU Championship, giving them the opportunity to move into a higher class of talent in the National Amateur Athletic Union that held its national tournament in Lake Placid, New York. As many of you might remember, Lake Placid is where the 1980 US mens’ hockey team beat a powerful Russian squad, and then moved on to capture the gold medal against team Finland. The University of Minnesota would beat the Maples in the Semi-Final round by the score of 9-4, and then went onto beat Brook Hall of New Haven Connecticut 9-1 for the National title.
I can’t forget to mention that he was also faithful to his country as he served in the United States Air Force during World War II.
During the 1957-58 hockey season, Cloutier at the age of 49 was still working hard playing the game he loved, and he wasn’t slowing down. In a game against the Bradford Vikings at the Exeter Academy rink he netted four goals in a 9-2 victory. At the age of 52, Cloutier scored a hat trick in a 12-3 beat down of the Reading Hockey club in the 1961-62 season.
During a game in the 1962-63 season against North Reading, the then-54 year-old injured his back, and received a stick to the face that left a nasty cut across the bridge of his nose. After his injuries and many requests from his wife Cora and children to give up the game, he finally decided to leave the Maples team, stating in a local paper ” I decided not to try my luck any longer, and quit while I was ahead.” Cloutier wouldn’t give up the love for skating, though, spending much of his winter time on the ice in a non-competitive fashion.
After only three years removed from playing with the Maples hockey team, the legend Hercule Cloutier passed away at the age of 58, He lived his life on the premise of hard work and strong family values. As with his unselfish style of play on the ice, he always kept his family as the top priority, and would do anything necessary to provide what was needed with no questions asked. One story his daughter, Theresa, told me in an interview, was of when the family had moved to South Hampton, New Hampshire. Archie sold the family vehicle for two cords of wood to keep his clan warm for the winter, proving that he was the type of person to do whatever it took to keep everyone together and safe. This carried over into the Maples hockey organization where not only did they play as a team, but flourished as a family throughout the years.
Today would’ve been the 108th birthday of Cloutier, and what better day to publish this article, for his surviving family members, and also to give some history on how important he was to his teammates and surrounding community back then.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank a few people who have helped me with obtaining all the information supplied above. Again many thanks to Theresa Quinn, Ronald Quinn, Kathy Fuller (Quinn), My website editor Erin Hudson, and of course the late, great sports historian Bert Spofford. If Mr. Spofford never started this research back in 1993-94 with compiling everything Maples Hockey related material from the many area public libraries, I would’ve never gotten to where I am in my research today. As always, thanks Bert, and rest in peace.
This article is the first edition of a “legend” series that I’ll be working on in the future, focusing on the families, and individuals that wore the Kelly Green and White uniforms throughout the teams history. With these projects, I would not only like to educate those who are interested in learning about this team, but also to further pursue this organization’s rightful spot in the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame , and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth, Minnesota.
If anyone has any information on or photos of a certain Maples player, or organization member that deserves an honorable mention in future articles, please contact me at the many social media outlets provided below, as i’ll be interested in discussing any material you have to offer with projects moving forward.
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