Belleville Bearcats ready to roar

This story was published in the Fall 2022 edition of Total Sports Quinte magazine

Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte

The Belleville Bearcats Girls Hockey Association has been around for close to four decades and it’s not slowing down.

As they bounce back from pandemic restrictions the past two seasons, the organization has reason for optimism moving forward.

“We are very excited,” said longtime executive member Lynn Thibedeau. “Our rep teams have gone from four teams last season to eight teams this season from U9 to senior. Our house leagues are also and running as well.”

This season the Bearcats are offering minor teams at U9, U11 (A and B), U13 (A and B), U15 (AA) and U18 (AA). They play in the Ontario Women’s Hockey Associations’s OWHL-Southern League East Division against a range of teams spanning from Kingston to the east, Markham to to the west and Bancroft to the North and others in between.

“Our teams are just going through their scheduling process now,” Thibedeau said.

In late September, the U13 A Bearcats players enjoyed the opportunity to work with retired NHL player Andrew Shaw of Belleville at their practice.

Any players interested in playing rep hockey for the Bearcats should note that tryouts are held in the spring, usually April and May, and are encouraged to watch the organization’s website and Facebook page for details at that time.

House league is also offered, of course, for those who want to learn and enjoy the sport while developing their skills in a more recreational environment. Junior house league is for players U9 to U13.

Senior house league, meanwhile, includes the older teens and often adults as well. Sometimes moms play with daughters and the league also provides an opportunity for former players who have moved back to the area to continue playing the sport they love.

In order to accommodate all their rep and house league teams, the Bearcats utilize all four ice pads at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre as well as other area arenas in Quinte West, Madoc, Marmora, Wellington and Deseronto as needed.

Thibedeau also noted the Bearcats organization is in the planning stages for its 2023 New Year’s Classic Tournament, which was expected to return last year after being cancelled in 2021, but more provincial restrictions shut it down again in 2022.

They are excited that it should go ahead this year from Jan. 6 to 8. There are a number of different divisions offered within the age groups of U9, U11, U13, U15, U18, U22 and senior.

“We average 65 to 70 teams attending our tourney,” Thibedeau said, adding it’s great for Belleville and the surrounding area. Lots of visitors that weekend.”

It’s sure to be an exciting season ahead.

Thibedeau said the Bearcat organization has been in operation for close to 40 years and has a history of success, including developing players, that leads many to return in the future and give back.

“We have many Bearcat alumni who have gone on to university or college on hockey scholarships,” she said. “We also have many Bearcat alumni, who have returned to the area, get involved again in our Bearcat program either as a player, coach or trainer. It’s great to see them return to the Bearcat family.”

For more on the organization, check out