By Jack Miller For Total Sports Magazine
What community was once home to the Black Hawks, Eagles and Rockets? Here’s a hint. It’s not Chicago, Philadelphia or Houston.
In fact these hockey teams and many more have called Belleville home at one time or another at the senior and junior levels since 1942. And now as a new hockey era in Belleville and the Quinte area is about to begin with the Senators it seems like a fitting time to look back.
Think of hockey in Belleville and the OHL “Bulls” will be the first team to come to mind for just about everybody which makes sense. Not only did they represent the most recent era of hockey in our city, the Bulls were also the deepest rooted of their ten predecessors spanning almost two generations. The first two years were spent in the former Provincial Junior “A” Hockey League before a 34-year run at hockey’s highest junior level.
Before the Bulls came along the Metro Junior “B” Belleville “Bobcats” ruled the local hockey scene commanding full houses on Friday nights at the Memorial Arena. Those games included the long standing tradition of “bootlegging” it up Market Street to the nearby Queen’s Hotel to belt down a drink or two between periods. And before games patrons of the day will remember the site of team owner Jim “Snipe” Mathews sitting at a table just outside the doors to the rink with two decks of playing cards and a paper bag. He used them as raffle tickets for a chance to win one of two “large samples” from the LCBO.
The “Bobcat” era ran from 1972 until they re-located to Trenton when the Bulls joined the OHL in 1981. The team did return to Belleville in 1987 before relocating to Wellington two years later to become the “Dukes”.
Of course the other significant hockey era belonged to the Belleville “McFarlands” from 1956 to 1961 – a well documented Senior “A” amateur team playing in the Ontario Hockey Association. Their five-year run included an Allan Cup (Canadian Senior Hockey Championship) in 1958 and a World Championship a year later. The “Macs” disappeared two years after that pushing Belleville off the hockey map for five years. Belleville would re-join the Senior loop as the “Mohawks” in the fall of 1966 followed by the “Quintes” in 1970 before the “Eagles” made a one-year appearance in 1973.
Belleville’s first junior team was called the “Rockets” (1949-50).
It wasn’t unusual for teams to incorporate their sponsor’s name into their nicknames. McFarland Construction was the most obvious. The Belleville “Reliance” was the city’s first OHA Senior team in 1942. They were sponsored by the Reliance Aircraft and Tool Company. Even the “Bobcats” were named for their principal sponsor, local lawyer Bob Temple.
However of the ten different names carried by Belleville senior and junior clubs over the decades there is one that stands out for its peculiarity – the Belleville “Memos”. They were a senior team that operated in 1954-55. I have no idea where that name came from. Perhaps they were sponsored by a stenographer