LEWISTON — After every undergraduate season of his high school hockey career, Kyle Lemelin sat at a back table in Ramada Inn’s ballroom and listened to a Lewiston High School player speak about the thrill of a Travis Roy Award nomination.
Tradition is a great motivator.
“It’s just a huge honor,” Lemelin said. “I thought about how if I were able to get that it would be an amazing accomplishment for just the whole Lewiston hockey community.”
Minutes after giving his own oratory, Lemelin was announced Sunday as the 19th annual Roy winner, Lewiston’s second in four years.
Named after the inspirational player from Yarmouth, the award goes to the outstanding senior schoolboy hockey player in the state.
“It’s not a one-person thing,” Lemelin said. “It’s the whole Lewiston hockey organization, whether it’s the coaches or the kids I grew up playing hockey with day in and day out.”
Lewiston had two of the eight semifinalists — forwards Lemelin and Matt Poulin.
That list later was whittled for four. Justin Courtney of Bangor, Nik Lemieux of Biddeford and Alex Fallon of Thornton joined Lemelin as finalists.
Lemelin amassed 13 goals and 15 assists during the regular season for the Blue Devils, who lost to St. Dominic of Auburn in the Class A East quarterfinals.
“This past season ending was something that no matter how hard I tried, I really couldn’t prepare myself for it,” Lemelin said.
It was the only time in Lemelin’s career that his team didn’t reach the regional final. Lewiston advanced to the state game in both his freshman and junior seasons.
Blue Devils goalie Cam Poussard took home the trophy in 2011.
“I just remember freshman year we were such a good team that I almost took it for granted, like I wouldn’t have to work as hard,” Lemelin said. “As I grew up and got a little bit older, I had to really push myself, because I was one of the leaders on the team and I felt greater responsibility for how we played and how we presented ourselves.”
Courtney traced his passion for hockey to standing in the tunnel at Alfond Arena in Orono as a child of 5 or 6, watching players skate on and off the ice.
Former University of Maine goalie Mike Morrison handed him a stick one day.
“It wasn’t broken. He just wanted me to have it,” Courtney said. “That made a real impact on me.”
The four finalists — all born after Roy suffered his spinal cord injury 11 seconds in his first shift at Boston University — spoke of researching the namesake’s life and hockey career.
Biddeford’s Lemieux said he made a Roy nomination his specific senior-season goal after his uncle, Mike, was paralyzed in a 2013 traffic accident.
Likewise, Lemelin was struck by how Roy’s strength and dedication apply to life on and off the ice.
“It’s such a big award to high school hockey. It is a big deal to me,” the winner said. “When I was reading up on him it talked about how he persevered through his injury. I mean, that’s what you expect from someone, but what I read about him, he just never gave up, ever. No matter what, he always had someone around him and always pushed himself to think good thoughts and not get down on himself. That’s hard for somebody who’s in that position.”
Lemelin said that hockey has been a “way of life” for 13 years.
He thanked his parents for “countless hours taking me to hockey games and practices” and coach Jamie Belleau, whom he called a role model.
And the speech he’d rehearsed in his mind for years? Well, Lemelin had enough experience as a listener to know when enough is enough. When the last two pages of his script stuck together, he abruptly wrapped it up.
“I was just going to wish everybody luck and say thank you,” Lemelin said.
Lemelin’s formal hockey career likely is over. He will attend Northern Maine Community College of Presque Isle in the fall.
Future men’s leagues will furnish the chance to reunite with the peers who mean most to Lemelin.
“I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything in the world,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure of being surrounded by the greatest support system ever. We were brothers with a uniquely unbreakable bond that no other sport seemed to possess.”
Baseball is expected to be the focus of Courtney’s athletic future.
“I can’t imagine what winter will be like without lacing ‘em up with a team,” the Bangor defenseman said.