Born: September 14, 1942 (Quebec City, Québec)
Died: June 14, 2014 (Chicoutimi, Québec)
Member: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Hall of Fame (2004)
In 1991, Gaston Drapeau pulled his starting goalie midway through a game to replace him with his third-stringer, a rookie named Manon Rheaume. Her 17 minutes in goal for the Trois-Rivières Draveurs marked the first time a woman had played major junior hockey.
Drapeau was a seasoned coach when he drafted Rheaume earlier that year. The younger sister of one of his forwards, she had told him she was looking for stronger competition in hopes of qualifying for the women’s national team.
“She’s not on our roster as a third-string goalie for nothing,” he said. “It’s because she’s good. She can play.”
Drapeau handled many future NHLers in his 15 seasons as a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including Daniel Brìere and goaltenders Patrick Roy and Félix Potvin.
Drapeau got his start behind the bench with the junior-A Beauport Cascades in 1976-77. He stepped up to the major junior league as head coach of the Quebec Remparts in 1979-80. The other teams he coached in the league included the Granby Bisons, the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
He guided the Sagueneens to a 43-24-5 (.632) record and a league championship in 1993-94. Chicoutimi was eliminated in the Memorial Cup semifinal by the Laval Titan, who in turn lost the trophy to the Kamloops Blazers in a tournament held in Quebec City, Drapeau’s birthplace.
He retired from the league after the 1996-97 season as the all-time leader in games coached (943) and games won (442). He had been surpassed in both categories by Guy Chouinard by the time Drapeau was inducted into the league’s hall of fame in 2004.
His QMJHL career record was 442-464-37 with a playoff record of 47-65-0.
Drapeau worked for many years at the Club de Golf Le Ricochet in Chicoutimi. He died in hospital there of a heart attack, aged 71. He leaves his wife, Denise Simonneau; a son; three brothers; and, three sisters.