The home of Harbour Grace's true spirit

Kenn Oliver
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'It's not only hockey, but everything that goes on in this town'

As you drive into Harbour Grace, the historic hamlet nestled on the north side of Conception Bay, greeting visitors is a twin-prop airplane known as a Lockheed Vega. Just offshore, at the end of the harbour that gives the town its name, the coastal vessel Kyle remains lodged firmly on a bar, as it has for some 40 years.

Peewee hockey players skate during a recent practice session at S.W. Moores Stadium in Harbour Grace. In the 50 years since its construction, the rink has undergone a number of upgrades, but has always retained its rustic charm. - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The

As for the aircraft, it's the same model female aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart piloted when she took off from the town's airstrip in May of 1932.

As you drive into Harbour Grace, the historic hamlet nestled on the north side of Conception Bay, greeting visitors is a twin-prop airplane known as a Lockheed Vega. Just offshore, at the end of the harbour that gives the town its name, the coastal vessel Kyle remains lodged firmly on a bar, as it has for some 40 years.

As for the aircraft, it's the same model female aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart piloted when she took off from the town's airstrip in May of 1932.

Emblazoned on its side is, 'Spirit of Harbour Grace.'

About two-thirds of the way along venerable Harvey Street, is S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, where many locals say the true spirit of Harbour Grace exists.

The 51-year-old building - though many long-in-the-tooth locals still bicker over its exact age - looks like most rural Canadian rinks at first glance ... aged. Inside, the scene is no different.

There have been upgrades over the years. Glass replaced wire netting years ago, a meeting room and lounge were added in the mid 1980s, the old tin walls and roof were insulated in the 1990s and some government grants and TAGS money have led to other cosmetic improvements since.

But the hockey barn that Frank Moores built in part with money borrowed from his father, Silas Wilmot Moores, and through shares sold in the community has retained its rustic charm.

At board's edge, where ice meets concrete, it's said you can't stand too long in one place or your boots will freeze to the floor. The home and away benches are on opposite sides of the rink, a result of a smaller-than-average ice surface. Its penalty boxes - glassless little cubes on the home-team side - are hardly refuge from the raucous CeeBees fans.

Fish plant supplies ice-making

Even some of the boards at the far end of the rink still have pieces of the original piping system used to push the brine and frost, used to create the artificial ice, up from the fish plant on Water Street.

In many towns, the fire hall became the community gathering place, the site of town fairs, dances and school graduations. But in Harbour Grace, from the time S.W. Moores was constructed, the Stadium has been the town's focal point.

"It's not only hockey, but everything that goes on in this town," says Fred Chafe, who came up through the minor hockey ranks into junior and the old Conception Bay North intermediate league that followed the senior CeeBees' downfall in 1969.

"From the fair, to the ball hockey that used to be played here, the roller skating. A lot of stuff went on here years ago. Here's where I met all my buddies growing up, all the boys from around Spaniard's Bay, Bay Roberts, and as far away as Cupids, Brigus, Old Perlican. Now, you can haul in anywhere to get a cup of tea, and that's from hockey."

The stadium, constructed in 1958, became the home ice the next year for the Conception Bay CeeBees, the newest entry into provincial senior hockey. The CeeBees did battle against the powerhouses of the day, the Buchans Miners, Gander Flyers and Grand Falls Andcos, winners of five straight Herder Memorial Trophy championships from 1955-59.

Unlike today's edition of the CeeBees, the majority of whom are players who played their way through the ranks of the Conception Bay North minor system, the majority of the 1958-59 CeeBees weren't natives of Harbour Grace.

Faulkners brought credibility to CeeBees

Frank Moores recruited Bishop's Falls icon George Faulkner, fresh off four years of pro hockey in Quebec, to run the team. Faulkner brought with him his little brother, Alex, and a whole lot of credibility.

One of the original members of that 1959 CeeBees squad was Jim Penney, who recalls for the first, "two or three weeks, we never did see a puck."

"George had us skating, stops and starts. There were about 40 or more out there trying to make that team," says Penney, one of the fortunate ones to see his name on the roster sheet stuck on the board outside the dressing room.

Penney would go on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career.

Over the next decade, the George Faulkner-led CeeBees won four Herders and challenged for another three. And along the way, certainly buoyed by Alex Faulkner's two-year stint with the Detroit Red Wings, the fan base and CeeBees' legend grew.

"It was really something," recalls Penney today. "We didn't realize ourselves until we went on the road. We used to cross the island on the train, and when the train would stop a certain place ... well, in would come the cigarettes, apples, oranges ... Oh my son."

In Harbour Grace, the CeeBees had no trouble filling the bleachers. Regular season or playoffs, S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium was the place to be on a Saturday night.

"It was like it is now," contends Penney. "For a few dollars on a Saturday night, where do you go for entertainment out here in the bay?"

A downturn in the fishery and financial problems forced the CeeBees to bow out of provincial senior contention following the 1968-69 season. At the same time, a new brand of hockey was born in Harbour Grace, one that took in the surrounding area and started churning out quality hockey players for years to come.

At is peak, the Conception Bay North minor hockey system boasted up to 1,200 kids according to Dick Power.

Power was a stalwart defenceman in Newfoundland senior hockey who arrived in Harbour Grace after George Faulkner's departure for Corner Brook. Following his Hall of Fame playing career, Power would become a long-time manager of the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium and a minor hockey coach perhaps most famous for his hand in the moulding of Stanley Cup champ Danny Cleary from Riverhead, Harbour Grace.

"When I came here, we started getting all the other towns like Spaniard's Bay, Bay Roberts, Victoria, to come under the one system. Everybody really got behind it. You can't run a good program without great volunteers," Power said,.

Minor hockey numbers today come in around 180 to 190, but that comes as a result of factors beyond hockey's control. New neighboring associations, new rinks, out-migration from rural Newfoundland, smaller families and more sports and recreation options have taken their toll on registration numbers over the years.

For 24 years following the senior CeeBees' demise, senior hockey wasn't played at the old Harbour Grace rink. But hockey was, regardless of the level of play, a mainstay and S.W. Moores - now under the ownership of the town - remained its home.

"The school hockey here years ago was fierce," says Chafe. "This place was tight, right from the rafters."

The same could be said of intermediate and junior hockey.

Cee Bee Stars are the latest heroes

And since the CeeBees made their return to the senior hockey scene in 1993, the fervour and passion surrounding hockey in Harbour Grace and it's surrounding areas has grown to new heights.

That's not to say S.W. Moores is a sellout for every Avalon East team which comes to town. Ex-NHLer Greg 'Bird Dog' Smyth and the Southern Shore Breakers draw a packed house, while the Bell Island Wave draw half the crowd. But the overall interest in the new C.B.N. CeeBee Stars across a broad spectrum has increased.

And no wonder. What with the CeeBees' back-to-back-to-back Herder wins and the successes of former minor players Robert Slaney (leading scorer with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles), Corey Crocker (head coach of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League's Amherst Ramblers) and Matthew Thomey (a Yale graduate now suiting up for the senior CeeBees).

Oh, there's that Cleary fellow, too.

At Wescals Source for Sports in nearby Bay Roberts, owner/operator Don Spencer says sales of CeeBees swag have gone up in recent years. The most popular item being team jerseys with players' name embroidered on the back (Diamond, Gamberg and French being the most requested names). Other items include ballcaps, toques and sweaters.

And its everywhere you look. For every 10 people in the Moores rink at any given time, nine have something with a CeeBees logo.

The tenth has their garments at the cleaners.

"You don't have to be up to the rink," Jim Penney says. "You could be at the post office and look around and see the kids, even adults, with CeeBees sweaters on."

Who would have thought, that in a town of less than 3,500, a group of unpaid hockey players would command the type of celebrity attention they fashion. People don't talk politics at Coffee Time or Kay's Restaurant and Take Out. They talk about who the CeeBees are playing Saturday night, what players are really impressing them this season, and spreading rumours about who's going to be in the lineup or not.

S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium has five dressing rooms, but the CeeBees' have domain over one of them. At the far end of the ice beneath the scoreboard, the CeeBees come barreling out one-by-one to the cheers of their faithful. At game's end, kids flock to end of the rink, pen and paper and camera in hand, seeking autographs and photos as if it were Sidney Crosby or Cleary himself.

But it's not the senior CeeBees of today, or yesteryear, that makes Harbour Grace a town passionate about hockey. Nor is it the sum of experiences of Cleary or the Faulkners. It's not the 50th anniversary of S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, or the 40th anniversary of minor hockey.

It's cliché, but true; hockey in Harbour Grace is a way of life.

If you're grandfather was a CeeBee, and your father or mother donned the blue, red and white, chances are you will as well.

There's an undeniable sense of pride in wearing the colours that prevails among CeeBees of all ages, from the smallest squirt to the senior stars.

They're CeeBees from Day 1

"When you go to tournaments and stuff, it's like playing with Canada, when you get to wear the Maple Leaf. It's just like that for us," says 12-year-old peewee CeeBee Bradley Riggs.

"It's not something you get when you're 15 or 16. It's from the day you lace up your skates and go on the ice," contends hockey mom Joanne Barnes-Taylor.

At a recent squirt tournament in nearby Whitbourne, one young player refused to step on to the ice wearing a Timbits minor hockey jersey.

Why?

Because he's not a Timbit. He's a CeeBee.

koliver@thetelegram.com

 

Winning Hockeyville would help spruce up the old barn

Ask anyone in Harbour Grace if they need to win the 2009 Kraft Hockeyville contest to consider themselves residents of a hockey town and they will tell you, unequivocally, no.

But they won't deny a few dollars to upgrade the home of hockey in Harbour Grace, S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, and the right to host an National Hockey League exhibition game would be nice.

Two more semifinalists will be announced on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts - this Saturday night and Feb. 21 - before the ultimate winner is revealed on March 7. In the meantime, the committee behind Harbour Grace's bid to earn the honour is using that time to get the word out across the province in an effort to garner as much support during the four-day public voting window, Feb. 28-March 4.

Harbour Grace is joined by regional semifinalists Terrace, B.C., and Woolrich, Ont., in the top five. Two Quebec towns - Thetford Mines and Acton Vale are in the mix for the fourth semifinal spot, with Humboldt, Sask., and Penticton, B.C., battling it out for the wildcard.

Votes, unlimited, can be cast online at www.cbcsport.ca/hockeyville, via telephone at 1-866-533-8066, or by text message with the words "vote Harbour Grace" to 222111.

The grand prize includes hosting an NHL pre-season game, as well as a CBC's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, plus $100,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft.

Harbour Grace, as a semifinalist, is already guaranteed $25,000 in upgrades.

Organizations: Lockheed Vega, CBC, Detroit Red Wings National Hockey League Bell Island Wave Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Maritime Junior A Hockey League Wescals Source for Sports

Geographic location: S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, Bay Roberts, Harvey Street Quebec Water Street Cupids Old Perlican Newfoundland Canada Corner Brook Victoria Avalon East Maple Leaf Whitbourne Thetford Mines Acton Vale Sask. Penticton

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • paul
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Congratulations to all in Harbour Grace on your nomination as a top five finalist in the Kraft 2009 Hockeyville contest. As a former Bell Islander I have many fond hockey memories of playing in Harbour Grace at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, from minor hockey to the Battle of the Bay as the C.B.S. League champs many years ago. I will continue to monitor the Telegram and CBC on-line as I don't get much Canadian news here in the southern U.S. Good luck, I will send in my votes. As for the comments of Bruce and Don above what difference does it make what model of plane is there, you are losing the point of the article which seems to be a canvassing for votes for this pretigious award. Good luck again Harbour Grace and I hope y'all win.

  • Jeff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    The wrong link is given in the story to the CBC Sports Hockeyville website. The correct link is: www.cbcsports.ca/hockeyville.

    Good luck Harbour Grace!

  • Beverley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Great Article Ken...Thanks for giving Harbour Grace added publicity. Congratutations to all involved & good Luck in making Harbour Grace Kraft Hockeyville 2009! To each & every one out there who can vote when it's time....Heave it outta ya! I know I'll have all my Ontario Friends Voting!! Good Luck Again & Thanks to all the Volunteers for all the behind the scenes hard work & your dedication! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Harbour Grace wins!

  • Mary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Kudos to Kenn Oliver...What a wonderful piece of Sports Journalism...forget the type of plane....jsut concentrate on the Name...Spirit of Hr. Grace...says it all. Kenn , you are to be commended. What wonderful memories you have bought back...The excitement is just as great now in the Old Barn as it was back in the 60's, when we watched Mr. Power, Mr. Penney, and the Faulkners.They started a TRadition that will continue for many years to come.You have covered a lot of History in your Piece and it is sooo nice to read positive news.Once again, congrats on a fine job....keep your pen to the paper...we'll keep our stick on the ice and our ears to the phones to make sure we are Hockeyville 2009...Cheers!~

  • D
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Great story and good luck to Harbour Grace. Very nice comments there Paul!

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    My recollection of the aircraft on display in Hr.Grace, is that it is a Douglas DC-3,and not a Lockheed Vega.

  • bruce
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Last time I was in Harbor Grace the aircraft on the pedestal was a DC3 built by Douglas aircraft.

  • paul
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Congratulations to all in Harbour Grace on your nomination as a top five finalist in the Kraft 2009 Hockeyville contest. As a former Bell Islander I have many fond hockey memories of playing in Harbour Grace at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, from minor hockey to the Battle of the Bay as the C.B.S. League champs many years ago. I will continue to monitor the Telegram and CBC on-line as I don't get much Canadian news here in the southern U.S. Good luck, I will send in my votes. As for the comments of Bruce and Don above what difference does it make what model of plane is there, you are losing the point of the article which seems to be a canvassing for votes for this pretigious award. Good luck again Harbour Grace and I hope y'all win.

  • Jeff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    The wrong link is given in the story to the CBC Sports Hockeyville website. The correct link is: www.cbcsports.ca/hockeyville.

    Good luck Harbour Grace!

  • Beverley
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Great Article Ken...Thanks for giving Harbour Grace added publicity. Congratutations to all involved & good Luck in making Harbour Grace Kraft Hockeyville 2009! To each & every one out there who can vote when it's time....Heave it outta ya! I know I'll have all my Ontario Friends Voting!! Good Luck Again & Thanks to all the Volunteers for all the behind the scenes hard work & your dedication! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Harbour Grace wins!

  • Mary
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    Kudos to Kenn Oliver...What a wonderful piece of Sports Journalism...forget the type of plane....jsut concentrate on the Name...Spirit of Hr. Grace...says it all. Kenn , you are to be commended. What wonderful memories you have bought back...The excitement is just as great now in the Old Barn as it was back in the 60's, when we watched Mr. Power, Mr. Penney, and the Faulkners.They started a TRadition that will continue for many years to come.You have covered a lot of History in your Piece and it is sooo nice to read positive news.Once again, congrats on a fine job....keep your pen to the paper...we'll keep our stick on the ice and our ears to the phones to make sure we are Hockeyville 2009...Cheers!~

  • D
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Great story and good luck to Harbour Grace. Very nice comments there Paul!

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    My recollection of the aircraft on display in Hr.Grace, is that it is a Douglas DC-3,and not a Lockheed Vega.

  • bruce
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Last time I was in Harbor Grace the aircraft on the pedestal was a DC3 built by Douglas aircraft.