EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapleau Hockey Moments when "Fife, Fife" became "Fight, Fight" and the 1954 Bantams

Coach Tee Chambers with Harry Pellow and Aldee Martel of Chapleau Bantams in March, 1954, Sudbury Arena
By 1890 likely at the latest, Chapleau had its first outdoor skating rink located on Lorne Street across from the Canadian Pacific Railway shops and the YMCA, and by 1904 it had been enclosed and roofed, which seems to have marked the official start of organized hockey in the community. The earliest photos I could find were dated circa 1905, and by 1911 teams were competing for the McEwen Cup, donated by Robert McEwen, emblematic of hockey supremacy in Chapleau.

The rink on Lorne Street, with many renovations and different ownership over the years served the community and was the focal point for many outstanding winter carnivals until replaced by the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena in 1951, The memorial arena built on the site of the old rink was replaced by the Chapleau Recreation Centre which included the Mrs. A.W. Moore Arena in 1978. Mrs. Moore singelhandedly raised thousands of dollars to put artificial ice in the memorial arena in 1964.

Looking at photos of the earliest hockey teams is a real trip into the history of Chapleau as the players also had other roles in the life of Chapleau, and I remember some of them as "oldtimers" when I was a kid. Some were Ovide Payette, Simon Kruger, Omar Royal, Tommy Thompson, Gordon Sheppard, George Collinson, Herb Merrick, Harry Chartrand, Bill Morrison,Tom Godfrey (sr), and yes, even my grandfather Harry Morris. (As and aside I never knew that my grandfather played hockey in Chapleau. He would tell me stories about playing hockey on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa with "King" Clancy later with the Toronto Maple Leafs though.)

Not too long ago, I was talking with my friend Anita on Facebook about Chapleau hockey but reminded her that I did politics in Chapleau too.

"I know you did politics but really you did hockey." she replied quickly. And, you know, she has a point. I was never a very good ice hockey player (road hockey was a different story) but I started my involvement in hockey in the old rink as a goal judge as a kid for the old town league, played Bantam, became a referee and after returning to Chapleau to teach in 1969, started coaching.

Let me share an anecdote about my coaching debut which was actually with a Chapleau Midget team in Timmins. I can't remember how I ended up filling in for someone but there I was. During the game a fight broke out and upon our return home, within a few days a letter arrived from Jim Aspin, the longtime secretary manager of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association accusing the Chapleau coach (me) of encouraging his players to fight.

A meeting was called to discuss the matter and we met in the basement of the old Town Hall. The letter alleged that I was yelling from the bench, "FIGHT, FIGHT." Of course I denied it and after much discussion, Earle Freeborn, now the mayor of Chapleau, asked me if I had yelled anything from the bench. I thought for a moment and suddenly it struck me. Bob Fife, now the Ottawa Bureau Chief for CTV News, was on the team and in the midst of the fight. I said, yes I had been yelling for Fife to come to the bench. And I was yelling "FIFE, FIFE" which sounded like "FIGHT, FIGHT".

What a sigh of relief. A letter was sent to the NOHA explaining it all and it was accepted. I survived to coach another day.

As I was looking at Chapleau hockey photos I came across one declaring that the Bantam Huskies had won the Algoma Dairy Trophy in 1954 which was presented by Mrs. Broomhead. I know the players on this team well, and understand that through the years when they meet, winning this trophy counts among their great moments in Chapleau hockey. Basil Collings was their coach, and the players were Michael McMullen, David McMillan, Richard Pilon, Tim Goodwin, Charlie White, Ken Schroeder and Harry "Boo" Hong.

In those days when a team travelled to Sudbury to play hockey, as our entire Bantam team did, the CPR on at least one occasion, gave us our own railway car, attached to one of its transcontinental trains. "Tee" Chambers and L.D. "Don" Card were the coaches, and we stayed in the Coulson Hotel, and as the old saying goes, "a great time was had by all." My only memory of the game is that I actually got on the ice for a couple of shifts, managed not to score on my own goal, and completed a pass to Charlie White, who was the star of the team.

There are so many great moments in Chapleau hockey starring the incredibly great players from "Lowertown", the tournaments at carnival time for the Ernest "Sonny" Bignucolo Trophy, the NOHA playoffs, the Chapleau Huskies and their championship year of 1967 in the International Junior "B" Hockey League, the Intermediate "A" Huskies of the Northland Intermediate Hockey League, and so much more.

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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