INKERMAN ROCKETS – THIRD CHAPTER
Word Spreads Fast about a Little Team with Big Talent
Even though I’d told my Dad I wanted to play for the Inkerman Rockets one day, I actually had no idea where Inkerman was. It wasn’t surprising, few people knew of the tiny speck on the map between Ottawa and Cornwall. The next year, at the ripe old age of 16, I tried out for the Rockets but LaPorte wasn’t interested in the 150-pound high school player from Glebe Collegiate, he passed on me but took not one, not two but three of my older team members on the Glebe team. It was an amazing moment for Glebe hockey, which hadn’t turned out a hockey player since Bill Cowley back in the thirties. So, with center Lev McDonald, winger Billy Lynn and goaltender Bert Feltham filling out the Inkerman Roster, there wasn’t much space for me.
Disappointed but not disheartened, I jumped to junior hockey that season with the Ottawa Montagnards and worked to prove myself. I made the second all star team at center behind Bill Dineen of St. Pats, a future Detroit Red Wing. I guess I’d proven my mettle because after that season, I had gained enough attention to receive an offer from Bucko McDonald to join his Sundridge Beavers, a tough intermediate team located somewhere north of Toronto. Luckily, I’d also gained someone else’s attention and Lloyd LaPorte came calling.
He knocked on our door and told my parents he’d like to move me to Winchester where I would go to school and live. I’d be billeted in a room over the barber shop. He’d pay me $25 a week “expense money.” It was a better offer than one I’d received from Bucko McDonald and my parents, who valued an education, liked and trusted LaPorte who was a school teacher himself. They allowed me to sign with the Inkerman Rockets.
Even though the Rockets still had no junior league to play, we played a lot of hockey the next season. We played exhibition games against intermediate and senior teams in places as far away as Clinton and Lake Placid, New York.
At home, we played on natural ice in a tiny barn of a rink in Winchester. Anywhere we played, home or away, we filled the arenas. The Rocket’s reputation for clean, fast play had spread and people were eager to see us for themselves and hopefully see their home team beat us upstart Rockets. Of course, at home we were heroes and for our fans, we could do no wrong. If some tough old veterans tried to smack us around, our fans would bristle. It wasn’t unheard of for a few of our fans to leap over the boards and involve themselves in the action, trying to get at our tormentors to pummel them into submission and they were successful and more than one occasion. Those were different times and it didn’t occur to anyone to charge an overly passionate fan with assault.
But of course, what goes around comes around and our road games were truly frightening. Teams we played in bigger, tougher towns like Finch, Maxville, Alexandria and Cornwall didn’t appreciate being embarrassed by a bunch of fast-moving teenagers. When they caught us, which we didn’t make easy, they would get in their licks and we’d take a thumping.
One night in Maxville, we scored the tying goal with seconds to play. Our opponents were so incensed they lashed out at us with sticks and fists. When the referee moved in to keep peace, he was belted to the ice. Overtime was called for, but LaPorte told the home team he was conceding. “I won’t have my kids trampled to death for the sake of winning,” he said. And we scooted out of there. When we reached our bus, we were thankful the hometown fans hadn’t slashed our tires and we made our getaway.
We had experienced remarkable success and had managed to win almost all our games that season and by the time spring was on the horizon, we were in splendid condition, full of confidence for the junior playoff grind ahead…
More Inkerman Rocket stories another day.