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CRANSTON â€“ Hanging from the kitchen wall in Dick and Rollie Ernst's cozy Philmont Avenue abode is a laurel he received after his North Smithfield High School icemen captured the R.I. Division III Boys' Hockey Tournament crown with a 6-4 triumph over East Providence at Schneider Arena.
The date: March 26, 2006.
It read, â€śWith this plaque, we wish to express to you our sincere appreciation for your guidance, leadership and compassion so that we could fulfill our dream of winning a state hockey championship. You have helped develop us into athletes and men with dignity, sportsmanship and character. Your wisdom, positive attitude, lessons in hockey and early morning smiles will never be forgotten. You made us the best.â€ť
Added are the words: â€śThank you, Coach Ernst. You are truly No. 1 in our hearts.â€ť
The venerable 76-year-old, who remains a mentor to this day, admitted that was a highlight in his storied coaching career, and that's surprising, given the fact he's accepted more honors and awards than Carter's got pills.
â€śIt made me feel wonderful when I saw that,â€ť admitted Dick, who promised he'll again lead the Lincoln/Cumberland Co-op girls' ice squad (for the third time) in 2014-15. â€śThose guys were tremendous.â€ť
As emotional a moment that was, something topped it this past April 25. Ernst had just returned home from a practice tennis match â€“ what's new? â€“ against pal Jim Lucas at a Seekonk clay court when he decided to check his mail.
â€śI opened a letter, then read it,â€ť Ernst stated thoughtfully. â€śI was very excited, actually elated.â€ť
The contents delivered this message from old friend Buster Clegg, â€śOn behalf of the R.I. Reds Heritage Society's board of directors, I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to receive our 2014 Rhode Island Native-Born Hockey Achievement Award.
â€śThe award recognizes and honors Rhode Island-born hockey stars who have contributed significantly toward the advancement and public image of 'our sport,' not only here in our own state but nationally and worldwide.
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