The voice is raspy, but always loud enough to be heard.

Norm Gagne talks and talks. He tells stories of the old days, but he’s grounded in the present – easily communicating with players who are more than 50 years younger.

Gagne, 71, coaches the Scarborough High boys’ hockey team. Part of the reason players listen to him is his record – 704 career wins and seven state championships.

But the other reason is his laugh, and the light in his eyes.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” Gagne said.

It’s noticeable.

“You should see him on the ice some times,” said senior forward Cam Nigro. “He definitely tries to keep up with us. He still has fun with it.”

Scarborough is returning to the Class A state championship game, against Lewiston at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Red Storm won their first state title last year, beating St. Dominic Academy in overtime.

Gagne took over at Scarborough in 2009 after stops at Gardiner, Waterville, Gorham and Lewiston. It was a perfect match – the veteran coach with a growing program.

Nigro met Gagne back then, as a water boy for a team that included his older brother, Andrew. Nigro’s first impression was fear.

“I’d hear Coach Gagne come in and start yelling,” said Nigro. “But since I’ve been playing for him, I’ve learned he’s a great guy. We all love him. And he knows the game as well as anyone.”

Knowing the game is fine. But Gagne is a success because he can communicate that knowledge to players.

“He jokes around with them. He laughs with them,” said Dan McGovern, in his second year as an assistant coach. “But when it gets to business, he knows when to put that into play. To connect with 18-year-olds is pretty amazing.”

Jake Brown played for Gagne in Lewiston and has been his assistant coach for six years.

“He demands a lot of his kids, attention to detail. That’s why he’s consistent year in and year out,” Brown said. “Accountability is huge. So is our preparation for games. It shows in what these kids have done.”

The kids know their job, especially the seniors. Gagne said he grooms players from the start “to be leaders, so when they’re seniors, I have kids who help me tell (other) kids what they need to do, the Scarborough way.

“I have to have players willing to buy into my system.”

Gagne’s system focuses on defense. With each new opponent, he tweaks the game plan.

“Coach Gagne gives us a system for every game, working on different tactics,” said Matt Caron, a senior forward.

It sounds businesslike, because it is. But Gagne is anything but stoic and distant.

“Even at 71 years old, he still brings a lot of excitement into the locker room,” Caron said. “He’ll still scream. He gets just as excited as the players do on the bench. He’s cheering. It’s fun to see.”

So, how long will he keep coaching?

“I don’t know,” Gagne said. “As long as they’ll listen. As long as I have these young men who are willing to embrace what I’m teaching them, and I’m successful with it, and I have guys like Jake Brown and Dan McGovern to help me out.

“I just have a passion for what I’m doing.”

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