Give Him Shelter
If there is a sports league in which you might expect a member of the Hell's Angels to feel at home, it would be the rough-and-tumble Quebec Semi-Professional Hockey League, based in the province's burned-out industrial south. On Oct. 5 Sylvain Vachon, a 6'1", 235-pounder who has been a member of the notorious motorcycle gang for two years, debuted in that league as a winger for the Windsor Papetiers. "Strong, rough," says Vachon, 30, describing his style of play. "You need players like me to protect the rest of the team."
When Vachon, who makes his living as a structural technician, not only threw his weight around but also showed adequate skating and stickhandling skills in Windsor's season-opening loss to Thetford Mines, his hockey career appeared to be getting in gear. But then it went into a skid. Believing that the Hell's Angels—a gang suspected of wielding influence in the Quebec drug trade—should not be represented in the league, the Thetford Mines front office began to raise some hell of its own. It voiced objections to Vachon in the press and also presented evidence to the league's board of governors showing that Vachon had spent several years in a juvenile detention facility and also had a police record stemming from bar fights.
Fans began calling and faxing the league, either decrying Vachon or supporting him. The Papetiers stuck by their man and sold some 2,000 advance tickets (about twice their average) for their game against the Louiseville Jets on Oct. 25. That day, the governors announced that the league's other teams had agreed not to play Windsor as long as Vachon was in uniform, and Louiseville boycotted the game.
Reluctantly, Windsor general manager Roland Larochele released Vachon from his $55-a-game job. But a few days later Vachon began a fight for justice and took his case to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, seeking protection under the province's Human Rights Charter. A ruling is pending. "It's discriminatory," says Vachon. "What's next—I can't rent an apartment because I'm a Hell's? I can't go to a concert because I'm a Hell's?"
Unless the commission finds for him, Vachon will have to be content with his other sport, at which he is no slouch and to which an Angel seems suited. Last 5 summer he raced his 350-horsepower Harley-David-m son drag bike to a Quebec record of 7.68 seconds for the quarter mile, attaining a speed of 178 mph.