Friday, December 27, 2013


Panthers on a Roll

Last Thursday, the Florida Panthers continued their road trip to Ottawa. They entered the nation’s capital on a bit of a roll, with six wins in their last ten games.


They have a couple of key players missing from the lineup at this time, and that is bound to make a difference. Tim Thomas has played well in the net for the Panthers, but he was on the shelf, as was Ed Jovanovski. They are both seasoned veterans who can steady a young team through turbulent times.


Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon was at the rink in Ottawa overseeing his players. Tallon hails from Noranda, Quebec, and is no stranger to the chills of winter. I suggested to him that it was a bit cooler here than in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s minus forty in Noranda today!” he told me.


Tallon was the second overall draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in 1970. A guy named Gilbert Perreault was chosen ahead of Tallon, by the Sabres. Tallon’s career was marked with serious injuries, and three years after signing with the Canucks, he moved on to the Black Hawks.


He remained with the Hawks until he retired in 1980, when he moved to the broadcast booth. He entered the managerial world of hockey shortly thereafter, and directed the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in many years, the first since the days of Bobby Hull and Stan Makita.


A couple of years ago, he joined the staff in Florida, and has been attempting to assemble a winning lineup since his arrival. There are times when he feels the frustration. He replaced Coach Kevin Dineen a little more than a month ago with his minor league coach from the San Antonio Rampage of the American league, Peter Horachek.


At the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, former Belleville Bull Shawn Matthias picked up his fifth assist of the year on their first goal. There are years when things do not come easy for players, and this has been a bit of a tough one for Matthias. When we spoke after the game, he was pleased with the win. “It would be nice to bury a few more in the net, but the win is great.” He notched his fourth goal of the season the following night in Winnipeg. He spends considerable time killing penalties for the Cats, most effectively.


With less than five minutes remaining in the third period, the Senators Jean-Gabriel Pageau clipped rookie Dylan Olsen with a high stick. On the ensuing power play, Tomas Fleischmann fed a perfect pass to defenceman Tom Gilbert. Gilbert buried the puck past a well-screened Craig Anderson to put the Panthers ahead. Kopecky’s short-handed marker sealed the deal for the Cats.


Despite their poor start to the season, the Panthers have moved up to within one point of the Senators. It has been a frustrating time lately for the crew from Ottawa, with few bounces going their way. The breaks of the game.


If you happen to find Dale Tallon in the clubhouse looking for a game of golf, please be advised that it would be unwise to play for money. He won the Canadian Junior Golf title in 1969, and he knows his way around the links. Considering that he lives far south of the Mason-Dixon Line, he likely has time for a round or two during the winter as well.



A very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukuh, and a Happy New Year. I will see you at the Dudley Hewitt Cup. Get out your bills for the 50/50. Mr Baitley and I will look after you.

                                                                   Robert Baitley

James Hurst




Black Hawks Get Caught Napping

I am quite certain that teams do not lose NHL games intentionally. Just the opposite, in fact. Every game is important, when it comes down to it. I get a little tired of hearing people say that they are hockey fans, then add that they only watch the playoffs because that’s when players really play with intensity. Hogwash.


Every player plays every shift intensely; otherwise, he will soon find himself in the press box, or in the American League. Players do not like to sit out games, either as a punishment, or with an injury. They are paid to play, and they love the game.


Last Saturday night, the Chicago Black Hawks went into Toronto on a roll. They had won seven games in a row, and were confident that their game against the Leafs would end up in the win column. A funny thing happened on the way to the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs turned the tables, and clobbered the Hawks, 7-3. The game was never in doubt.


There was plenty of support in Toronto for the Hawks. Historically, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of Black Hawk fans in the Quinte Region. This stems from the efforts of one Robert Marvin Hull, and, to a lesser degree, to his brother Dennis. They came from Point Anne, just down the road from old highway number two, a little south east of Belleville. Because of their play, many from the area became devoted Hawk fans.


There is a new part of the equation that beckons understanding: a certain Andrew Shaw. He is also a native Bellevillian, and he makes it known that he is from this area. The Shaw contingent at the game on Saturday night was extensive. Several of his fans made the trip: Chisholms, Haggartys, a couple of the Pope boys, Ryan Griffin, several Tanners, Tim Clodmaker, the intrepid Corey Engelsdorfer, Mike Heuving, Jacob Panetta, the Boyles, the Cooneys, Mike Sainsbury, a brother and a sister, and, of course, Doug and Darlene.


Doug and Dar were stationed at centre ice, between the benches. It sounds like a great place to watch the game; however, they had to look over the shoulders of Glen Healey and his cameraman, and they watched most of the game on the big screen at centre ice. The lads from Andrew’s home town also managed to critique his attire after the game. They asked if his tie came in men’s sizes as well. Tough crowd!


A note was made in one of the Toronto rags about the importance of fans while playing on the road. When the Leafs play in, say, south Florida, they appreciate the cheers of their fans. Most teams visiting Toronto have no trouble filling seats with family and friends.  There really aren’t enough tickets to go around.


A core of reporters circled Hawks starter Antii Raanta after the game to get his comments. He had allowed five pucks to get past him in the first two periods. He gave standard, and very understandable answers to the relatively idiotic questions. “I’ve just got to go out and work hard in the next practice, and find my focus”. Those nights do occur, for everyone. His backup, Kent Simpson, saw the first Leaf shot slip under his arm for their sixth marker. Not a happy time for Coach Quenneville.


The Hawks rebounded the next night for a victory against the Los Angeles Kings. The Leafs came ever so close on Monday night, but a young Maritimer named Sidney Crosby burst the balloon with a wicked shot from the slot to seal the deal for the Penguins.


We have not yet reached the midway point in the season. There will be many great games to watch, always best at the rink. Stay focussed, for goodness sake!


James Hurst

December 17, 2013.




Maurice "Moe" Benoit

Date of Birth: July 26, 1932

Died: December 10, 2013

Hockey fans in the Quinte area, and in many parts of the United States were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Moe Benoit.

Moe’s hockey career really began in Montreal, when he played one game for the Royals in the Quebec Senior Hockey League when he was sixteen years old. He followed that with seasons in Pembroke with the Lumber Kings, and in Trois Rivieres playing for the Lions.

Prior to the 1956-57 season, Floyd Crawford was one of the first players selected by manager Drury Denyes to come to Belleville to play Senior “A” hockey. At about the same time, Armand “Bep” Guidolin joined the team from the North Bay Trappers of the Northern League. Guidolin had played against Crawford in the Quebec Hockey League. 

Along with some guidance from Wren Blair, general manager of the Whitby Dunlops, the players and Denyes pooled their resources to ice a team to challenge for the Allan Cup. One of the first players they approached was Moe Benoit. Benoit is described in Aaron Bell’s history of the McFarlands as “an imposing opponent”, but that does not do justice to what Moe brought to the arena.

They say that great teams are designed from the goaltender outward. Gordie Bell was responsible for the net. Crawford, Jean Paul Lamirande, and Benoit formed an awesome defensive corps. That was the nucleus of the Belleville team which won the World Championship in 1959 in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Benoit endeared himself to the Belleville fans almost immediately. There was a great rivalry between the Macs and the Dunlops, absolutely no love lost between the two. The Macs took 101 minutes in penalties in only the third home game between the teams. In those days, there was only one penalty box for both teams. Benoit continued one of his scraps in the box, and issued an apology to “The Hockey Public of Belleville and the Officials” for his actions the next day.

Floyd Crawford had a monumental fight with Harry Sinden, with both men tumbling ten feet over the side of the penalty box in the fray. They were both cautioned by one of Belleville’s finest to show some dignity. Benoit hooked up with Whitby player-coach Bus Gagnon for an early season battle of the heavyweights.

George Carver’s description in The Ontario Intelligencer: “Gagnon, it appears, also made the unfortunate mistake of selecting Moe Benoit as target bait. Moe was in his element, and politely pulled the sweater over Gagnon’s head, and proceeded to pummel what was underneath it. It took two minutes for Gagnon to get his hair back in place.”

Former teammate David Jones was amazed at Benoit’s game. “Moe was an exceptional hockey player, and led the defense. He was very effective on the power play. But above all, he mixed really well with people.”

Lionel Botly also patrolled the blueline with the Macs. He described Moe as “The People’s Choice”. But he also loved his unbelievable hip checks. Benoit cruised the ice, looking for unsuspecting foes foolish enough to have their heads down. He would send them flying, some times over the boards. (Note: There was no glass around the boards at The Memorial Arena. Andre or Paul Mercier, or perhaps Harry Rollins would shove the opponent back onto the ice.)

Lionel also recalled Moe’s restaurant on Front Street, a place where people congregated to talk hockey.

Moe played four games for the Kingston Frontenacs in the Eastern Pro League before heading south of the border. He then spent the next ten years in the International Hockey League with the Omaha Knights, the Toledo Blades and the Dayton Gems. He was named to the All Time IHL All Star team, and was selected as the All Time best defenceman in the IHL.

In 1960, he joined several Whitby Dunlops and Kitchener Waterloo Dutchmen to play in the Olympics, winning a silver medal.

Keith MacDonald also played with Benoit for several years. Amongst other things, Keith was impressed with Moe’s slap shot. “It was just coming into its own, from guys like Bobby Hull and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. Moe could really fire it, and sometimes it was on the net”.

Russ Kowalchuck also noted Moe’s fine people skills. “When I arrived in Belleville, Moe took care of me. He was a great hockey player, and a good team man. Everybody loved him.” Wayne “Weiner” Brown went through many of the hockey wars with Moe, and appreciated his ability. “He was a great player, and a great guy”.

Moe is survived by his wife Sharon, two daughters and three sons, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

 James Hurst

December 18, 2013  

Monday, December 09, 2013


Doc is Hanging Up the Spikes

Some of us were caught napping today when we read that “Doc” Halladay was retiring from baseball. In a move with some precedent, he signed a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, so that he would retire as a Jay. He did spend the past four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the bulk of his career, twelve seasons, was spent on the mound for the Jays.


For many of us, the trips to the ballpark in Toronto to see Halladay on the mound were so worthwhile. He brought a special kind of magic to the game, and showed us how the game could be played, without the assistance of performance enhancing drugs.


At six feet, six inches, he had an advantage from the mound. When he crossed the white line, and headed to the rubber, it was all business. There was little hesitation between pitches, and when he had his best stuff, you were almost guaranteed to be out of the park in less than two hours. Nowadays, games will drag on for more than three hours.


Harry Leroy Halladay was a first round draft pick by the Jays in 1995. But it was not until September 20, 1998, that he would begin his work with the Jays. Never considered to be an overpowering pitcher, he worked hitters with nasty stuff. He could hit the spots, and make the ball dance with his variety of pitches. He drove batters to distraction.


Baseball is noted for its myriad of statistics, and Doc’s name is near the top of the list in many categories. He logged a lot of innings for the Jays, appearing in more than 400 games, with 2749 innings to his credit. He was a workhorse, and he is now paying the price. He says that he is retiring because of problems with his back.


At the end of the career of a great baseball player, there is always discussion about his entry into the Hall of Fame. For a pitcher, the yardstick has always been 300 wins. That is changed in recent years, for a variety of reasons. Halladay won only 203 games; however, he will be given serious consideration for the Hall for several other reasons. He won a Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in both the American and National Leagues.


He pitched a perfect game, then added a no-hitter in his first post season start with the Phillies in 2010. He won 22 games in 2003, still a Blue Jay club record.


Another dominant pitcher who came up with the Jays, Chris Carpenter, has also announced his retirement from the St. Louis Cardinals. He also stood six inches over six feet. He spent six seasons with the Jays, and amassed 2 219 innings in his career. He also won a Cy Young in 2005, and was the Comeback Player of the Year in 2009, after sitting out the 2008 season in rehabilitation.

As the Jays improved nearing the 2010 season, it would have been a treat to see a healthy Carpenter working with Halladay as Blue Jays. That was not to be, and the Jays have not won all of the marbles for several years.


Halladay’s legacy also includes the work he did for the community, through the Jays Care Foundation, and through his own quiet efforts.


Without being too cynical, it is worth a mention to say that there will not be a tag day for either Halladay or Carpenter. Carpenter made almost one hundred million dollars in his career, and Halladay a hundred and a half. Not too shabby.


But the game has lost two classy individuals.



James Hurst



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