HOCKEY ICON REMEMBERED
Bill Sidney’s contributions to Cape Breton community remembered
The late Bill Sidney played key role with Screaming Eagles, local hockey.
Many great players have put on a jersey and taken to the ice in the history of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
Though he never wore the jersey, Bill Sidney will be remembered for his equally important off-ice contributions to the local Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club and other sporting ventures in the community.
Sidney, who was part of the group that first brought the team here and served as the club’s first president, died Wednesday at age 86.
“It was a gamble,” Sidney told the Post in 2002 about efforts to get a QMJHL team.
“We had to go out and find the shareholders at the time. That was no easy task.” Sidney’s contributions to local hockey stretch well beyond the arrival of the Eagles. Among many other things, he was he became part of the management group of the famous “Cinderella” Miners hockey team in 1955 and was the founding president of the Cape Breton Metros Hockey Association in 1969.
The Metros played two season in the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League with Halifax, Dartmouth and Charlottetown.
“What happened was we took the best guys we could find in each of the (Cape Breton) communities,” Sidney said in a 2014 interview with the Post. “And when we didn’t get what we wanted here, I went looking in New Brunswick, Charlottetown and places like that. From every angle, the operation was A-1. You’ll find lots of guys around here in their 70s and 80s who will tell you that it was the best junior hockey we ever had.”
Though it would thrive for a time, the arrival of the American Hockey League’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs would lead to the end of that league. Sidney took a couple of years away from hockey before helping to start the Cape Breton Metros high school hockey tournament in 1972.
It became a much-anticipated event that lasted 15 years until the final tournament in 1986 at Centre 200.
“It was a very high level of competition,” Sidney told the Post in a 2002 interview.
“A lot of kids who played junior were playing high school then.”
The tournament started with six teams but continued to grow to the point where Sidney would bring in the best teams from every province.
Stuart MacLeod, Sidney’s longtime friend and associate, suspects it was the success of the Metros hockey association that led to the Metros tournament and then an investment in the Eagles.
“The two years they had the team in the league they had sold out Glace Bay and North Sydney Forum and must have made a lot of money because 20-30 years later they were still investing in the Eagles,” MacLeod said.
“When the opportunity to have a major junior team came, Bill Sidney on behalf of the Metros group bought three
shares in the team.”
His impact on the community wasn’t limited to just hockey, according to MacLeod.
“Bill would be called upon to collect money for various community things,” he recalled.
“You knew when your receptionist said ‘Bill Sidney is here to see you,’ the first thing you would do would be to get your chequebook. You weren’t going to get away with saying no to Bill Sidney.”
Always willing to offer an opinion and share his opinion is among the many ways Manning MacDonald will remember Sidney.
“He was the citizen extraordinaire,” said the former MLA and mayor of Sydney.
“Not many people were able to combine the kind of life that he did involving family, business, sports and community involvement. He did them all well over the years.”
Sidney was civic-minded, according to MacDonald, to the point where he offered to sit on the city’s economic development committee as a volunteer for 15 years, offering valuable
advice to council.
The Kiwanis Club and other organizations also benefited from his volunteer efforts.
“A lot of people don’t know that Bill did a lot for individuals over the years that people still don’t know about. He did step up when need was there. And all of that combined with running businesses very successfully through the years and employing a lot of people through good times and bad,” MacDonald said.
“He certainly left many footprints around the community. People will know for years that Bill Sidney was there.”
Visitation for Sidney will be held Saturday from 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Sydney Memorial Chapel. His funeral service will be Sunday at 2 p.m. at the United Heritage Church.
Bill Sidney, seen in this file photo, was being remembered for his many contributions to the community on Thursday. Sidney, who died Wednesday at age 86, was instrumental in bringing the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club to Sydney and was helped assemble the famed “Cinderella” Miners junior hockey team in 1955.