Monday, June 01, 2009


Thanks for the Memories

Most local historians agree that there has been no single event more significant in the Quinte area than the victories of the Belleville McFarlands. Granted, the catastrophic events of both World Wars were far more important than the accomplishments of a hockey team. The return of troops from those wars was a time to celebrate in the area, and that was done with style.

When the Macs returned from their Allan Cup Championship in Kelowna, British Columbia, in 1958, the entire province got into the celebration. The numbers themselves verify that fact. At that time, the population of the city of Belleville hovered around 20 000. Most reasonable estimates indicate there were more than fifty thousand celebrants at the parade in Downtown Belleville.

The same phenomenon occurred when the team returned home from the World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1959. Fans automatically came out to the event from the local area. Unexpectedly, many others drove from Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, and other parts of the province for the celebration. It was a justifiable event, worthy of a good time.

Despite the nasty weather conditions, many hardy types lined Front Street in Belleville a couple of months ago to celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the triumph. A cavalcade of convertibles, and one lonely Smart car, paraded down the street. Almost a dozen true fans waved pennants that they had purchased fifty years ago to celebrate the championship!

Others waved signs to cheer on the players. There was a spit and spatter of rain, and howling winds. There were flakes of snow, here and there. But the Macs came out, and so did their fans.

Jean Paul Payette was all smiles for the event. For many fans, even his name brought back vivid memories of his dashing style on the ice at the Memorial Arena. He would sweep by an opposing defenceman, bury the puck, and raise his arms in celebration.

Captain Floyd Crawford had ample opportunity to wave to his supporters. Floyd patrolled the blueline night after night, lending support to his good friend, the late Gordie Bell, the Macs’ premier netminder.

The lone Prince Edward County player, Keith MacDonald, enjoyed the parade. Following the victories of the McFarlands, MacDonald spent many years wearing the stripes, quietly separating combatants at many levels of hockey.

Lionel Botly still spends countless hours every winter in arenas throughout North America as a defenceman. Pete Conacher does the same, playing with NHL Oldtimers groups. Both were thrilled to be part of the celebrations, sharing the memories with their teammates and their fans.

Belleville’s David Jones also won a provincial championship with an intermediate team from the County prior to the Macs titles. On many occasions at “The Memorial”, he cruised the ice, found the “biscuit” and buried it in the “basket”.

Wayne “Weiner” Brown, the Deloro native who came down from the north to play a little shinny, has really enjoyed the festivities. “Weiner” stayed in Belleville following the McFarlands conquests. I introduced Wayne to Belleville Bulls’ Brandon Mashinter before a Bulls game. Mashinter stands six feet, six inches, with skates and helmet almost seven feet. “Weiner” gazed up at the giant, and commented: “If I were as tall as you, I might still be playing!”

Many Macs fans were thrilled to meet Moe Benoit once again. Feared by most opponents, Moe dished out a few patented hip checks that left their mark at the Memorial. He also blistered slap shots that intimidated goal tenders (no masks, remember?), as well as his team mates who stood in front of the opposition net. They often reminded Moe to keep the shots low.

It was good to see Turk Barclay at The Regent in Picton. Turk tended the twine for the Macs, kept the equipment in good order, and generally managed most of the details on their road trips.

These occasions are important for the participants. But it also gave us time to reflect on the accomplishments of those who are no longer with us: Gordie Bell, Barton Bradley, Ike Hildebrand, Roy Edwards, Bep Guidolin, Joe Lepine, Eddie Marineau, Al Dewsbury, Fiori Goegan, Jean-Paul Lamirande, John McLellan, and Lou Smrke.

The final public showing of the documentary about the team will take place this Sunday, June 7th at 4:00pm at the Wellington Legion. Everyone is welcome. The book about the team, Moe Macs More, will also be available. Hope to see you there.

And to the players, thanks again for the great memories.

James Hurst

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?