By Dan Guttenplan
---- — The way Leo Dupere sees it, he deserved to have his Amesbury High hockey number retired a long time ago.
“I had a lot of support for this, and I had some people for a lot of years that thought it should have happened way back,” Dupere said.
The 1959 Amesbury High graduate and longtime coach finally received his due last Wednesday when his number was retired during a ceremony at Sylvan Street Grille in Salisbury. More than 80 people bought tickets for a three-hour banquet dinner, and 18 of Dupere’s family members, friends and former players spoke about his illustrious career.
“I was really touched by the whole thing,” Dupere said. “It was a long time coming, but I think I earned it. I’m from the old-time hockey era when there was only six NHL teams. I could have had a tryout with the Providence Reds or Springfield Indians, but there was no money in that. The NHL expanded after my time, but I played on a line (on the Eastern Olympic team) with guys who ended up making it.”
Dupere joins Tino Bertolini, Jerry Mondalto and Kristy Gleason as the only Amesbury athletes to have their respective numbers retired. The Amesbury School Committee also recently voted to retire the number of Ashley Waters, a prolific softball player in the early 2000s.
At Amesbury, Dupere was the North Shore League high-scorer and MVP in 1958. That Amesbury team made it to the North Shore final, only to lose to Woburn 2-1.
Dupere went on to play at Northeastern, where he set several scoring records between 1961 and 1964. He was named team MVP three times (1962, 1963, 1964), and broke the school’s single-season scoring record in 1963. The two-time All East selection was a Northeastern Hall of Fame inductee in 1984.
Amesbury High honored Dupere in the same manner this year as a member of the inaugural Hall of Fame induction class.
“I had scholarship offers at (Boston University) and St. Lawrence right out of high school, but I wasn’t interested in college at that time,” Dupere said. “I worked for a year after high school, and then I ended up having a good career at Northeastern. I set a bunch of records that stood for a while.”
After college, Dupere played for the Eastern Olympic team. He led that team in scoring in 1965 and 1966 before starting a family and returning to the Amesbury area.
As a hockey coach at Amesbury from 1964 to 1981, he recorded a school-record 222 wins against 100 losses and 38 ties. He was named Cape Ann League Coach of the Year three times, and led Amesbury to Twin State League championships in 1971 and 1972 and CAL titles in 1974 and 1982.
“Coaching was fun for a lot of years,” Dupere said. “If I wasn’t coaching and teaching, maybe I would have played professionally, but that’s the way it goes.”
The jersey retirement ceremony last Wednesday gave Dupere a chance to reflect on a lifetime of hockey.
“It was a tremendous night revisiting old memories,” Dupere said. “It was one of the best nights of my life, the way they did it and the turnout.”