Here’s to new beginnings. For the past three decades, Moncton’s Rick Melanson has called the classroom and Anglophone East School District home.
On June 29, 2021 that will all change. As one chapter of his working life ends a new one begins.
For the past 26 years, Rick Melanson has also worn the Rimouski Oceanic colours proudly, but as they say, “here’s to new beginnings.”
That’s right after an incredibly impactful run in the classroom overseeing one of the most rewarding programs high schools have to offer, (Cooperative Education Program) and scouting in the rinks across Atlantic Canada and Quebec for the Oceanic, Rick Melanson will don the colours of his hometown QMJHL team, the Moncton Wildcats.
The longtime educator and scout is now the Moncton Wildcats new Assistant Director of Hockey Operations and will be working in the game of hockey full time for the first time in his life.
Most teachers look forward to the summer, most new retirees look forward to rest and relaxation, that couldn’t be farther from the truth for Melanson, he’s anxiously awaiting a return to work, a return to the rink for his new beginning in the game.
You would be hard pressed to find a better man, husband and father than Rick Melanson. His passion and zest for life is truly remarkable.
The ultimate family man, hockey mind and loyal veteran scout was caught off guard when he received a phone call from Oceanic General Manager and Head Coach Serge Beausoleil in March.
“The timing is perfect, that’s all,” Melanson said of starting his new role with the Cats.
“I was set to retire from teaching even if this opportunity didn’t present itself.”
“I was in Saint John at the Q Plex on a Friday night in early March set to watch and scout a game when my phone rang, it was Serge.”
“I just thought he wanted to talk hockey and had a few questions for me, that’s when he said, ‘I just got a call from Ritchie Thibeau.’”
“I asked Serge what does Ritchie want,’?
“He asked for permission to talk with you about the Assistant GM role.”
Melanson couldn’t believe what he was hearing, he was kind of caught of guard by everything.
“Serge told me to expect a call from Thibeau, but to do him a favour, just make sure that I didn’t accept or agree to anything without talking it over with us again.”
Melanson was aware that the Wildcats position was open due to Brett Turner’s departure to the Florida Panthers as an NHL scout in December, but didn’t fully know what the job entailed. After meeting three to four times with Thibeau over the following week, Melanson was intrigued, but still slightly hesitant.
“Ritchie asked me if I was interested in the position, I told him, I think I am.”
“That’s when we started the process, and started doing what we had to do.”
For the first time in 26 years Rick Melanson was be a spectator during the 2021 QMJHL Draft. Part of the agreement with both organizations was to have Melanson sit the draft out.
Melanson wrote reports for the Oceanic until the end of season to honour his contract. It was an agreement that all sides accepted and fully endorsed.
The decision to leave the Oceanic was a very difficult one for Melanson.
“It’s extremely bittersweet.”
“It’s tough, it’s been really tough,” Melanson said of leaving a very loyal and first class organization like the Rimouski Oceanic.
“Let me tell you there were a lot of sleepless nights.”
“It’s been twenty-six years, it’s bittersweet, but at the same time I am very excited to start working in the offices of the Avenir Centre,” Melanson said.
Melanson was a part of three President Cup Championships and a Memorial Cup with the Oceanic. He’s been through a lot of ups and downs with the organizations.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Rimouski Oceanic General Manager and Head Coach Serge Beausoleil.
“It’s a win-win for Rick, to be at home and to move up in the Wildcats organization.”
“I’m just wondering why the Wildcats waited so long,” Beausoleil said with smile.
Thibeau reached out to Beausoleil earlier in the season to ask for permission to talk to Melanson about the opening within the organization.
Some organizations wouldn’t have granted permission especially given Melanson’s expertise and experience. Beausoleil and the Oceanic organization granted that permission without hesitation which speaks volumes to their character and professionalism.
“Honestly, I have mixed emotions.”
“For us Rick has been there since the beginning, but at one point you have to let him go, it’s where he lives.”
“It’s going to be difficult see him wearing the red, rather than the Oceanic colours.”
“I’m happy for Rick, he’s just not a huge scout, he’s a huge person that we loved to work with and have beside me and the organization,”!Beausoleil said.
The bond shared between Melanson, Beausoleil and the Oceanic will never be broken. Somethings transcend the game, but for Melanson it was time to move on, time for new beginnings.
“The Oceanic have always taken care of me, I’ll never forget that,” Melanson said.
“This new opportunity with the Cats is the only position that would have pulled me away from the Oceanic organization,” confessed Melanson.
“Serge and entire organization understands that this is my hometown.”
“I’m now ten minutes away from the rink and my office, it’s exciting to see and be behind the scenes of the organization and the amazing facility.”
“I’m going to go work every day and talk hockey,” said Melanson smiling ear to ear.
“Rick checks a lot of the boxes in which we look for that we look for with key people within our organization,” said Moncton Wildcats Director of Hockey Operations Ritchie Thibeau.
“Rick has the passion and he has a long record and resume in scouting.”
“He has great character and he loves to scout which is a big part of that role,” added Thibeau.
The Wildcats have had a lot of turnover in that role first with Darryl Boyce taking over coaching duties and Brett Turner heading to the National Hockey League as a scout.
Melanson will bring stability and over two decades of experience to the position. Thibeau sees the subsequent turnover as a positive.
“We don’t see the turnover as a negative thing at all,” stressed Thibeau.
“The turnover that we have had in that role it is a development role, we have had people in that role that go on to do different things in the game.”
“The two previous people have moved on to more advanced roles if you will, so whenever that happens we are very proud we are able to develop them and show them a winning way and that they are able to receive other opportunities elsewhere.”
Melanson’s addition will have an impact at all levels within the organization.
“For sure,” Thibeau said when asked if the addition will make his job easier.
“I love working with someone that has the same passion and knowledge, Rick has such a long resume and experience when it comes to scouting. We will definitely take advantage of that moving forward.”
“Rick will have his own ideas and will be able to share ideas and bounce things off each other.”
Melanson and Thibeau’s relationship and friendship span several decades as well dating back to their time as instructors with Allan Power’s Power Play Hockey Clinics.
“We have watched a lot games together over the years, I know he will be honest and forthcoming with his information, I see Rick’s addition as a great fit within the organization.”
“Rick was always a guy that admired in the rinks, he was always so passionate, it didn’t matter what rink I went to Rick Melanson was always there.”
Thibeau and Melanson’s mission is simple, win in Moncton, win in their hometown.
“Rick has had a long run in Rimouski and did a very good job and we are very happy that he decided to join our organization.”
“There’s no question he’s a tremendous asset for the organization, we will be depending on his expertise and player knowledge in future drafts, not this draft, but he will help us with any player acquisitions whether it’s free agents or Euro’s,” explained Thibeau.
“Rick is very passionate about the Wildcats organization and like me he wants to win in his hometown.”
Melanson is looking forward to the scouting portfolio of his position and plans on travelling across the Maritimes and Quebec. Melanson is no stranger to the road, a matter of fact there hasn’t been a rink he hasn’t been in across most parts of Eastern Canada.
Melanson is a people person, a hockey lifer with a tremendous heart and passion for the game and the scouting process.
“I’m going to be going to Quebec at least three or four times a year. I’m also going to be scouting the Maritime Hockey League as well,” explained Melanson.
“I’m excited for where the Wildcats are going. Ritchie and his staff have done some great things.”
“The organization is heading in the right direction.”
Melanson is thrilled to have the opportunity be part of the decision making process when it comes to drafting, player personnel decisions and building the team for years to come.
“We are building toward a championship here in Moncton,” Melanson said proudly.
“Rimouski has been amazing, it’s one of the top organizations in the CHL, they treat their people really really well.”
“I would like to thank the entire organization for my time there.”
“I lived my time there, the organization would always make sure that I was there to share in all those championship moments.”
“They always made sure I was there, which is really special to me.”
“I would like to thank the Tanguay family and Serge Beausoliel for everything they did for me.”
“I would like to thank the scouting staff and entire organization,” said Melanson.
It’s never easy to say goodbye, but here’s to new beginnings in the game and life, the memories and friendship will live on forever.