Friday, December 27, 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  

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