Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Belleville-Hockey Haven for a Weekend

Last weekend, the Society for International Hockey Research held its annual Fall Meeting in Belleville at the Belleville Club. More than thirty hockey enthusiasts from Canada and the United States met to share their passion about the great game.

The organization is described on its web site as “a growing network of writers, statisticians, collectors, broadcasters, academics, and just plain hockey buffs.” The hoard met in Belleville to share their stories, and their particular interests in the game.

I was fortunate enough to come out of the weekend with three great hockey books.

On Saturday afternoon, Todd Denault, a freelance writer from Cobourg, took the podium and told us about his adventures in the pursuit of the story of Jacques Plante. With great tenacity, Denault interviewed more than forty of the late, great goaltender’s teammates, coaches, hockey friends. He chatted with Andy Bathgate, Johnny Bower, Red Fisher, Dick Irvin, Dickie Moore, Henri Richard, and Scotty Bowman. He chased the elusive legends about Plante all the way to Switzerland, where Plante was laid to rest. For a time, at least.

Denault whet my appetite to the extent that I can hardly wait to tear into the book. He received seven offers from publishers to do the book, finally settled on McClelland and Stewart. Not a bad start for his first book. He did hang his head slightly when asked about the fortunes of the Cougars from Cobourg. I believe I did mention that the Wellington Dukes had swacked them the night before.

I also received a copy of a fine volume of the hockey history of Kingston. The irrepressible Bill Fitsell, one of the founders of SIHR, and Mark Potter put together a wonderful tome on shinny in the Limestone city. Needless to say, there is the odd quote in there from Don Cherry. Cherry writes: “Make no mistake, Kingston is the cradle of hockey and I’m proud to be a Kingstonian.” It must hurt Don every time a Belleville team goes in there and comes out with yet another victory.

There was a “Meet and Greet” on Friday night, and Wayne “Weiner” Brown, a key player in the McFarland triumphs shared his stories for a couple of hours. Mayor Neil Ellis brought greetings from the city, and announced that the long-anticipated unveiling of THE SIGN had taken place. On Pinnacle Street, north of the Moira, there finally is a sign proclaiming the McFarlands as Canadian and World Champions. Somewhat overdue, as it took fifty years to come up with an appropriate location. There will be another erected near the Quinte Sports Centre.

On Saturday, following the usual business requirements, Benoit Clairoux from Verdun, Quebec shared his thoughts on the Battle of Quebec-Thirty Years Later. An intriguing topic at this time, as there have been rumblings about moving a disenchanted NHL franchise to the capital of Quebec. Another hockey enthusiast, James Mancuso from Utica, New York, related his research on the various trophies from the minor leagues. He was well familiar with the exploits of former Belleville Bull Scott Feasby, who had a sip or two from the Turner Cup in Muskegon with the Fury. Mancuso was not aware that Feasby had slipped into Rochester for a spell, and got his name engraved on the Calder Trophy when the Americans won the American Hockey League Championship.

The meeting ended with a screening of Peter Lockyer’s “Celebrating Hockey History: The Story of the McFarlands”. The crowded room rose to its feet as the movie ended, and applauded loudly. They were overwhelmed when three of the players who won the World Championship were introduced: David Jones, Keith Macdonald, and Lionel Botly. The players spent half an hour answering questions about their triumphs until Macdonald announced: “Sorry folks, I’m a farmer, and I have chores to do.”

Most of the group hung around the city to watch the Bulls beat the Kitchener Rangers that evening. Yet another hockey experience for the members of SIHR. Check the web site. Google: Society for International Hockey Research. New members welcome!

James Hurst
October 20, 2009

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