An­other era on the ice

Be­fore the days of ar­ti­fi­cial ice sur­faces, area play­ers com­peted on out­door rinks, ponds

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

Hockey ac­tion nowa­days in the Con­cep­tion Bay North area is played pri­mar­ily at two lo­ca­tions — the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace, and the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts.

It’s been this way since the Bay Arena opened its doors in 1985, some 27 years af­ter the Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace was com­pleted.

Both fea­ture ar­ti­fi­cial ice sur­faces, state-of-the-art ice resur­fac­ing ma­chines, top-qual­ity dasher boards and glass, and elec­tronic score­boards and public ad­dress sytems.

The fa­cil­i­ties are of­ten brim­ming with ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing hockey at all lev­els, and fig­ure skat­ing.

But turn back the clock to an ear­lier era, and ice hockey in Con­cep­tion Bay North was played un­der very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances.

Men and women in com­mu­ni­ties like Car­bon­ear, Har­bour Grace, Shearstown, Spa­niard’s Bay, Bri­gus, Bay Roberts and Co­ley’s Point were skat­ing — and play­ing — wher­ever and when­ever they could.

This usu­ally meant frozen ponds, but the re­gion also boasted its fair share of out­door rinks — some crude and some first-rate for the era — dat­ing back to the 1930s.

It was com­mon to use rocks as goal posts, while in many cases boots were also used. Player equip­ment was very rudi­men­tary, and goalies would of­ten wrap grass-filled bags or Ea­ton’s cat­a­logues around their legs to pro­tect their shins.

Some com­mu­ni­ties had their own out­door rinks with boards, topped off with chicken wire. Some even had lights to al­low for night games.

Not ev­ery rink had boards. Ear­lier man­i­fes­ta­tions saw snow piled high, enough to pre­vent pucks from fly­ing out of play.

Now, ev­ery com­mu­nity had its own team, and hockey in­tri­ca­cies; and its own cast of char­ac­ters to tell its in­di­vid­ual sports story.

This week, The Com­pass takes a look back at hockey in the Con­cep­tion Bay North re­gion, be­fore the days of ar­ti­fi­cial ice and me­thod­i­cal rink sched­ules.

Bay Roberts

Neigh­bour­ing

Bay Roberts has a long, deep his­tory with the un­of­fi­cial na­tional pas­time. In 1938, the Bay Roberts Rover­ines fe­male team beat St. John’s to cap­ture the All-new­found­land tro­phy.

When the Rovers and the Co­ley’s Point Point­ers men’s teams met in a reg­u­lar sea­son game in April 1955 at the old Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in St. John’s, 1,750 peo­ple from the area trav­elled to the cap­i­tal city to watch the game.

The game was moved to St. John’s be­cause of poor con­di­tions on the nat­u­ral ice sur­face of John North’s Rink in Bay Roberts.

Co­ley’s Point blanked the Rovers 3-0, re­calls Wil­bur Sparkes, who was in the Rovers’ lineup.

“They got a goal at the end of the first pe­riod, a goal at the end of the sec­ond pe­riod and a goal at the end of the third pe­riod,” says Sparkes, a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor and long­time mayor of the Town of Bay Roberts.

As for the crowd, Sparkes says he and the other play­ers didn’t no­tice the fans.

“But they were ex­cited,” Sparkes says.

Grow­ing up, Sparkes played wher­ever there was ice. Some of his favourite ponds no longer ex­ist, par­tic­u­larly one in the East End of Bay Roberts once known as Joe’s Pond. It’s now just a bog.

Sparkes would grab his skates, and leave his fam­ily home in French’s Cove and make the trek across sev­eral gar­dens to Joe’s Pond, be­gin­ning in 1944 when he was just 11 years-of-age.

“We learned our hockey on the pond,” says Sparkes.

On Green’s Road, there was an­other rink con­structed by John North, the rink’s name­sake, and Wal­ter Baggs, the long­time fire chief in Bay Roberts.

The rink was made of board, with chicken wire strung across the top. These were be­fore the days of re­in­forced plas­tic and tem­pered glass.

John North’s Rink, as it was called, was 180 feet long by 80 feet wide. The boards were four feet high, and one corner was con­structed around a shed on the prop­erty.

“When you brushed up against that, the shin­gles would fall onto the ice,” says Sparkes.

Light­ing was avail­able for night games, and there was evan a loud speaker sys­tem.

A house sits where the rink once did, di­rectly be­hind what was St. Matthew’s Hall, on Green’s Road, which is now a re­tire­ment home.

Across the street, there used to be a post of­fice, and in front of the of­fice was an old ar­tillery gun, which now sits in front of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion in Bay Roberts. On game­day there would be a post­ing on the gun as to whether the game that night was go­ing ahead.

In 1956, an­other rink opened in Bay Roberts — Ben­nett’s Rink.

Named af­ter Fred Ben­nett, it was the first ar­ti­fi­cial ice sur­face in Con­cep­tion Bay North, ac­cord­ing to Sparkes.

It closed in 1957, a year be­fore the open­ing of the sta­dium in Har­bour Grace.

Sit­ting on a piece of land be­hind what is now the For­tune Res­tau­rant on the Con­cep­tion Bay High­way, Ben­nett’s rink saw a lot of hockey ac­tion. In 1956, for ex­am­ple, the Bos­ton Bru­ins took to the ice for an ex­hi­bi­tion game.

“I helped (goalie) Terry Sawchuck with his pads,” re­called Sparkes.

Sparkes vividly re­calls see­ing Sawchuck hold an um­brella over his head to re­pel the heavy ran that day.fell that

pa­niard’s Bay

Spa­niard’s

Bay had a lo­cal team, the Pi­rates, that used to play in the 1930s, prior to the build­ing of a rink in that com­mu­nity. The team played in Bay Roberts and some­times on Bell Is­land.

Spa­niard’s Bay had two out­door fa­cil­i­ties for hockey, re­calls re­tired ed­u­ca­tor and long­time hockey fig­ure Ed Neil. One was built in 1948 in Back Cove, or “The Mash.”

“It was headed up by Jim Ran­dall,” Neil says. “It had low boards along the sides and high boards on the back.”

There was a club­house next to the nat­u­ral ice sur­face, which con­tained a stove and served as a dress­ing room for the play­ers. The rink also had lights.

“Across the har­bour we could see the lights of John North’s rink,” says Neil.

The ice sur­face sat in the area across from the park­ing lot of to­day’s Holy Redeemer El­e­men­tary.

When you brushed up against that, the shin­gles would fall onto the ice. — Wil­bur Sparkes

of Bay Roberts

A few years later, Harold Nose­wor­thy built a sec­ond rink in the town. It was lo­cated on the cur­rent site of O’neill’s Gar­den­land, says Neil.

Play­ing on these rinks were the team of the day, the Rangers. They played teams from Til­ton and Up­per Is­land Cove, but were not in the same di­vi­sion as Shearstown, Bay Roberts and Car­bon­ear.

“They used to be called matches, the name taken from foot­ball.”

He re­mem­bers watch­ing the leg­endary baby bonus line — Wes Gosse, James Jewer and Mike Brazil.

“They were all col­lect­ing a baby bonus at the time,” Neil ex­plains.

Other great play­ers Neil re­mem­bers watch­ing were Fred Smith, Cliff Mercer and Fred Shep­pard.

Bri­gus

Ge­orge Jer­rett says hockey was a big deal in Bri­gus, and he should know. Jer­rett was a part of the Bri­gus Bru­ins team that squared off with the Har­bour Grace Se­niors in the first game played at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace in 1958.

He says when the team went into St. John’s to play teams at the Old Forum, there would be two or three bus loads of fans go­ing in over the Con­cep­tion Bay High­way. “Peo­ple loved hockey,” he says. Jer­rett says on the days of games the store would be alive with the talk of hockey — how they were play­ing, what kind of team they were and who they thought would win.

While the res­i­dents of Bri­gus played hockey on ponds in the town, there was only one out­door rink. It was lo­cated in Wil­cox Gar­dens, where the Blue­berry Fes­ti­val takes place nowa­days. The rink was owned by Jer­rett’s par­ents, Ernest and Janet Jer­rett.

Built in 1949, the rink was 178 feet long and 60 feet wide.

Here the Bru­ins played the likes of Co­ley’s Point, Bay Roberts, Shearstown, Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace in the old Con­cep­tion Bay North league.

Teams from St. John’s would also make their way out to Bri­gus for games.

Play­ers like Jer­rett and his broth­ers, Char­lie and Dave, Howard Roberts, Les­lie Bar­rett, Bill Roach, Haw­yard Fry and Percy Ride­out were just a few of the stand­outs who skated on Jerret’s out­door rink.

Har­bour Grace

Of course, Har­bour Grace is the birth­place of the Ceebees fran­chise. The great Ge­orge Faulkner came to the town in 1958, with the open­ing of the new sta­dium.

Be­fore its con­struc­tion, play­ers like John Thomey, Jim Pen­ney, Jim Coady, Carl Pen­ney and Ed Pumphrey needed a place to play. Prior to the Ceebees, the town had a team called the Har­bour Grace Se­niors.

“There wouldn’t be a sta­dium if it was not for the CBN league,” says long­time Har­bour Grace hockey stal­wart and town coun­cil­lor Bud Chafe.

Prior to the open­ing of the sta­dium, there was a rink on the site of the old liquor store on Har­vey Street, says Chafe. He can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly when it was built, but he fig­ures it was some­time in the 1950s.

“I can re­mem­ber shov­el­ling the snow off of it, many a time,” he says.

Prior to this rink, there were rinks at the Greenspar build­ing and across the road from it. This build­ing used to be the old St. Paul’s High School and the school had its own rink. Cathy Martin and the late Bill Martin owned the rink across the street from the school.

The games played on these rinks were al­ways “filled to ca­pac­ity,” says Chafe.

As time pro­gressed, hockey be­came even more pop­u­lar in the town, es­pe­cially with the ar­rival of Ge­orge Faulkner and the Ceebees.

Car­bon­ear

The last stop on the out­door rink tour is Car­bon­ear. The town only had a sin­gle out­door rink, but hockey was still played on Car­bon­ear Pond and other ponds west and north of the town. It was called the Car­bon­ear Rink, and was built largely by Billy How­ell and his sons in 1927.

When it came time to put on the roof, the project be­came a com­mu­nity af­fair, with ev­ery­one lend­ing a hand.

“It was the only in­door rink in the bay,” says Car­bon­ear his­to­rian He­ber Mcgurk.

Lo­cated be­hind the for­mer Dr. Mcma­hon’s premises, one could ac­cess the rink via Tucker’s Lane. The roof was de­stroyed in 1930, only three years af­ter its con­struc­tion. When it was re­built, it was re­named Ju­bilee Rink.

“It was built in the year of the King’s Ju­bilee,” says Mcgurk.

Mcgurk re­mem­bers when the “big teams” would come to play at the rink two or three times a week. It was an ex­cit­ing time to be a hockey fan in the town. Some­times this ex­cite­ment turned vi­o­lent.

“The fans would … start fight­ing,” he says.

Ev­ery­one in town had a team they loved to cheer for.

“They were en­thu­si­as­tic about the teams, and loved to talk about their favourite one,” says Mcgurk.

Car­bon­ear pro­duced some great play­ers, like John Goff, Bill and Jack Pen­ney and Walt Earle, just to name a few.

Mcgurk was a “rink rat” and watched these play­ers square off with Con­cep­tion Bay’s finest.

Now, not all hockey was re­stricted to the out­door rinks that lit­tered the land­scape of the era. Play­ers in Shearstown honed their skills on the Shearstown Pond, while on the Koch in Bay Roberts there were two or three games hap­pen­ing at the same time.

Spa­niard’s Bay had Mint Cove Pond, which was a pop­u­lar place, ac­cord­ing to Ed Neil.

It was golden era for hockey in the re­gion, when cit­i­zens proudly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported and cheered on their lo­cals teams. Times have changed, but in the mem­o­ries of those who were there in those early years, it was great en­ter­tain­ment, says Neil.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo cour­tesy of Ron How­ell Sub­mit­ted by Gary Brushett

The Ju­bilee Rink in Car­bon­ear was op­er­ated by Roy How­ell un­til 1955, and then sold to the Ki­wa­nis Club. It was torn down in the early 1960s. Rovers player Wil­bur Sparkes poses in the corner of John North’s rink in Fe­bru­ary 1955.

Sub­mit­ted photo

The 1955 Bay Arena Rovers, taken at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in St. John’s. Mem­bers of the team are: front (l-r) — John Hillyard, Frank Mercer, Art Win­sor, Gor­don Snow, Wil­liam Bad­cock, Greg De­laney and Doug Brad­bury; back — coach Bren Daw­son, David Mercer, Fred Hussey, Wil­bur Sparkes, Ed Car­a­van, Wal­ter Yet­man, Mac Par­sons, Wel­don Par­sons and Ches Brown.

Sub­mit­ted by Ge­orge Jer­rett

The Bri­gus Bru­ins team who played the first game at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in1958. Team mem­bers were: front (l-r) — Dick An­tle, Bill Kennedy, Clay­ton French, Charles Piercey, Bill Roach, Danny Brown and Dave Jer­rett; back — man­ager Lloyd Lemin, Clarence Pom­roy, Andy Sprack­lin, Pat Con­nolly, Char­lie Jer­rett, Reg Roberts, Bonse Walker, Tim Roberts and Ge­orge Jer­rett.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

The brush marks the area where an out­door rink was made from the pil­ing up of snow in the east end of Bay Roberts.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Across from what is now Holy Redeemer El­e­men­tary in Spa­niard’s Bay, a rink stood on this land in the mid­dle part of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

The white picket fences form the out­line of John North’s rink, which sat on this prop­erty in Bay Roberts in 1950.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Benett’s Rink used to sit here, be­hind the For­tune Res­tau­rant in Bay Roberts.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Be­hind the old Liquor Store build­ing in Har­bour Grace, there is a piece of bar­ren land which used to be the site of an out­door rink in the town.

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