Monday, March 23, 2009


A Hockey Night at the Theatre

With less than two weeks to spare, the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame executive is gearing up for its night at the theatre. Essentially, the night is a tribute to the Belleville McFarlands.

In 1958, the team won the Allan Cup in Kelowna, British Columbia. The following year, they travelled to Prague, Czechoslovakia and won the World Championship. This was accomplished the year after the Whitby Dunlops won the title in Oslo, Norway. A squad from Trail, British Columbia, called the Smoke Eaters, also won the title in 1961. At that point, Canada lost its edge and did not mount the podium again until 1994.

On April 4 at the Empire Theatre, hockey fans will have a chance to meet at least eleven of the Belleville McFarlands. In no particular order, here is a list of the players expected to attend:

Lionel Botly-The youngest player on the Macs, Lionel still plays several times a week, when not selling homes for Century 21 in Belleville and Trenton.

Russ Kowalchuk-Russ was truly a fan favourite in the Memorial Arena in Belleville. His style was robust, and he backed away from no one. He joined Bellevillian Gerry Goyer in Kelowna the year after winning the Allan Cup.

Keith MacDonald-In a recent article in The Intelligencer, Keith was described by Bobby Hull as “tougher than a night in jail”. The only player from Prince Edward County, Keith enjoyed several years as an official following his playing days. He remains active in County politics.

Denis Boucher-Boucher joined the Macs for only two games before heading overseas with the team. He returned to play the next season in Belleville. He currently resides in Verdun, Quebec.

Maurice “Moe” Benoit-Moe Benoit was certainly a crowd favourite in Belleville. He had a tremendous shot from the blue line, and his patented hip checks forced opponents to keep their heads up when crossing the blue line. He continued his hockey career in the United States, playing in Toledo, Omaha, and Dayton. He is the only Mac to win a medal in the Olympics, silver in California when the Americans won their first gold.

Jean-Paul Payette-Payette supplied the Macs with plenty of fire power when he was on the ice. A smooth skater, he worked well with linemates like Weiner Brown, Ike Hildebrand, and Barton Bradley. He later played in the NOHA, leading the Noranda Alouettes to the league championship.

Floyd Crawford-Sometimes known as “Pete”, Crawford was the straw that stirred the drink in Belleville. The team captain, he was rock solid on defense throughout his career. He remained in Belleville, and saw three of his sons playing in the NHL. Crawford coached at various levels throughout the province.

David Jones-You must admit that Jones was without question the hard luck guy on the Macs. He broke his neck in the early stages of the Allan Cup finals in Kelowna, then broke his arm in Prague as the finals for the World Championships got under way. He remained in the city and played for several senior clubs in the area.

Wayne “Weiner” Brown-Wayne was always a threat to score every time he was on the ice. He had an elusive style, and usually turned defencemen inside out before firing the puck at the net. He was fortunate enough to play four playoff games for the Boston Bruins early in his career. He continued playing until he was 42.

George “Goose” Gosselin-“Goose” tasted the nectar from the cup in 1958 with the Whiby Dunlops, then joined the McFarlands in 1959 for their triumph. The only other player to join him in this regard was Jean-Paul Lamirande. Gosselin settled into the North Bay area after his playing career.

Pete Conacher-Pete Conacher joined the Macs just before they flew to Europe for the World Championships. He had been retired, but was coaxed out of retirement to help the Macs. He gained his skating legs quickly, scoring key goals in the tourney. He continued playing following his stint with the Macs. A member of Canada’s eminent sports family, he is the son of Charlie Conacher and nephew of Lionel.

Committee members hope to see another fan favourite at the gala-Hilary “Minnie”Menard. A prolific goal scorer, he netted fifty on one occasion with the Macs. He returned to Belleville in 1966 to play his final two seasons with the Senior Mohawks.

There you have it-a final look at the McFarlands. Join us to celebrate this historic event. Tickets are $ 25, and are available by phone from the Empire-613-969-0099, online at, or at the box office. If you cannot get to the theatre, the book and the documentary are available online at:

Hope to see you there.

James Hurst

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Welcome Home, Champs!

Fiori Gorgan and his family in the World Chapionship Parade, Belleville, 1959

The Belleville McFarlands were welcomed home twice following tournament victories.

In the first instance, they roared back from an almost insurmountable deficit to defeat the Kelowna Packers. They were down three games to one, and thumped the Packers in the final game to win the Allan Cup.

The players boarded the train in British Columbia, and headed east to Belleville. Following a gruelling three day hike across the country, they disembarked at the train station in Belleville.

The city welcomed their heroes with open arms. In his soon to be published book, “More Macs, More-Celebrating the Belleville McFarlands”, Aaron Bell writes: “Belleville Mayor Gerald B. Hyde declared their homecoming day to be Civic Allan Cup Day and the city hosted a tickertape parade down Front Street. The players rode in convertibles and wore white cowboy hats that they had received as congratulatory gifts in Calgary on their journey home”.

The headline on the front page of the Intelligencer the next day read: “Fifty Thousand Welcome Macs Home”.

Picton Mayor and team sponsor Harvey McFarland declared: “This is the proudest moment of my life. The Macs are a wonderful bunch of guys who showed true championship merit when it was needed.” McFarland also declared a Civic Holiday in Picton, enabling Prince Edward County residents a chance to catch the festivities.

Players rolled down Front Street in convertibles, waving at their fans. There were several bands, and hastily prepared floats. As was the case with many civic parades, it was led by an ardent Macs fan, “Senator” Harry Rollins, a former Belleville mayor.

Following the victory in the World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1959, the city again prepared to welcome the McFarlands with a parade.

There was a delay in their arrival as the team had to play three exhibition games in Czechoslovakia, and three games in England. They then headed home on the Queen Elizabeth, the world’s largest ocean liner from Southampton. The team was booked in third class, and County resident Keith MacDonald remembers it well.

“I can remember just being able to lean out of my hammock or bunk and I could feel the steel side of the ship right there.’ He remembered seeing Billy Graham walking up to one of the dining rooms and waving for us to follow him. It wasn’t very long after that the people on the ship heard that they were travelling with the team that had won the World Championship in hockey. They invited us up to first class. Swimming pools, theatres, dining room, you name it.”

Not a complete bed of roses, mind you, as the ship was battered by seventy foot waves in the North Atlantic. The bad weather delayed the Macs arrival for a day. They then headed to Montreal, and boarded a train for Belleville. They were met in Kingston by H. J. McFarland, and their wives.

The Toronto Telegram described the parade on that day as “the biggest ticker tape parade in Eastern Ontario history.” The players were again paraded through the streets in convertibles.

Rather prophetically, Mayor Hyde exclaimed: “This will probably be the only chance in our lifetime to welcome home a World Champion team”.

With that, fifty years have elapsed. Eighteen players remain from the teams that won the Allan Cup and the World Championship. Twelve of those players are expected to enjoy a wonderful weekend in April as the Quinte Region pays homage to the Macs.

Plans are being formulated to parade the players down Front Street in convertibles, to meet at the Memorial Arena on the Market Square, the scene of many of their battles.

On Saturday evening at 7:00pm, the Empire Theatre will host the premiere of the documentary about the McFarlands. Also at that time, Bell’s book on the team will be released. Tickets are available for the evening from the box office, by phone at 613-969-0099, or online –

For $ 55, you will receive a copy of the documentary in DVD format, a copy of the book, and a chance to share the story of the McFarlands amazing journey. General admission is $ 25. Therefore, for eighty bucks, a couple can enjoy a great evening, with great souvenirs!

Be prepared to shout: “More Macs, More”

James Hurst

Friday, March 06, 2009


Canadian National Team Skunks Yankees

The New York Yankee organization paid homage to their Canadian neighbours by inviting a group of Canadian service personnel to their exhibition game against the Canadian National Team. The Armed Forces crew was on assignment in Florida, from the Maritimes. A sergeant from the contingent belted out the anthems, and received rave reviews from the fans in Section 206.

With six runs in the top of the first inning, the Canadians blew out the New York Yankees last Thursday afternoon at the George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.

For what it’s worth, it was an exhibition game within the exhibition time schedule. There really wasn’t much to learn from the tilt, other than the fact that Yankee starter Joba Chamberlain just wasn’t ready. He was responsible for most of the damage, primarily because he could not find home plate.

The Canadians threw a whole slew of pitchers at the Bronx Bombers. Some fine defensive plays, a couple of questionable baserunning mistakes, solid pitching and “Voila! Mes Amis” the Canadians prevailed.

Most of us were well aware that the Yankees were a little understaffed, to say the least. No A-Rod, no Jeter, no Mariano Rivera.

Granted, the Yanks did have Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher in the lineup.

No question that C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettite, A. J. Burnett might have helped the cause.

But this game did not count, and the Yankees were well aware of that.

The temperature reading in the car at the end of the game read 33 degrees Celsius, giving you some indication of the weather. Most Yankee fans realized it was going to be a fine day long before they got to the park. Season ticket holders stayed away in droves; others scalped tickets for less than half face value. The Yankee faithful just did not want to watch a lineup decimated by “call ups” to the World Baseball Classic, nor did they give a hoot for what their neighbour to the north had to offer.

On the other hand, Ernie Whitt, the manager of the Canadian team, has his work cut out for him. He has some wonderful talent to chose from, and knows they will need to be firing on all cylinders on Saturday when they play the Americans, for real.

Justin Morneau, Mark Teahen, Jason Bay, Joey Votto, Russel Martin, and Pete Orr have enough pop in their bats to make Davey Johnson reflect carefully as he selects his lineup.

Johnson knows full well that he is under the gun. The Americans got thumped
by the Canadians in 2006 in Phoenix. Johnson was one of Buck Martinez’s coaches, and he has payback on his mind. The Canucks could not capitalize on their good fortune, and ended up in 9th place.

After the game, Ernie Whitt summarized his goals: “Win the first two games, make good pitching changes, get quality at bats.” I asked him about the importance of defence, especially after witnessing a couple of sparkling plays that killed Yankee rallies in the game. “It’s important,” he told me. “Bout our job as a staff is to make the correct pitching changes when they become necessary. He also added that he was impressed with the efforts from Scott Diamond, David Davidson and Jesse Crain.

Port Hope’s Paul Quantrill took up his position as a bullpen coach, a rather critical position in this potential musical chairs rotation. This is his first venture into the International coaching ranks. The quirky International rules prohibited me from speaking with him after the game. No media are allowed in the dressing rooms after any international events---neither the Worlds nor the Olympics. And yes, Gertrude, there still is Olympic baseball, but pleases do not ask me why.

The Canadians played only three exhibition games before heading north to prepare for the Yanks. Not much time, but all that is available.

Team Canada also lost the Spengler Cup this year. It holds about as much weight with Canadians as does this Baseball Classic with most Americans. This is not the World Cup of Soccer, nor will it ever be confused with that, no matter how hard the authorities try to dress it up.

On the other hand, many of the other nations attach significant credibility to the event.

Each to his or her own. Play Ball!

James Hurst

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