Feb 092010


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.

Inkerman Rockets Team Photo 1948-49

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.

Continue reading »

Feb 082010


People must have laughed when LaPorte, the high school teacher from the small town of Inkerman, population approximately 100,  applied for a junior A  franchise.

“There’s not a single junior A calibre player in your area,” he was told.

Inkerman Rockets Team Photo 1948-49

Still, to everyone’s surprise, he was awarded a franchise.  When nay-sayers protested that “No team is going to play on your rinky-dink rink”,  he retorted that he’d find a rink and he’d have no trouble bringing in players.

And by golly, he did find a rink and he found those players.   He recruited farm boys who played on backyard ponds all winter.   Two of them, the Duncan twins, became outstanding juniors. He found a 15 year old in Prescott, Ontario—as lad named Leo Boivin—who went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NHL.

I was about 15 years old when I first saw the Rockets play. I lived in Ottawa then and my dad took me to a junior playoff game at the old egg-shaped Auditorium where I played my high school games.  “You watch these kids from Inkerman ,” my dad told me. “This fellow LaPorte has some boys who can skate like the wind. They don’t have a league to play in so they play exhibition games all season. They’ll do well against St. Pats.”

When I saw them skate out for the warm-up I felt sort of sorry for them. They were little fellows, most of them. And their hockey pants were too small. Surely they’d be no match for St. Pats, the Ottawa City league champs.

Then the game began and the Rockets went to work. They whipped the Ottawa boys easily that day with non-stop skating and an energy that was truly impressive. Twins Erwin and Edwin Duncan, supplied most of the offense and that stocky sparkplug  named Leo Boivin was awesome. I’d never seen anyone skate backwards like he did.

I was so impressed I told me dad, “That’s the team I’m going to play for some day.”

More about the Inkerman Rockets another day.

 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Feb 072010

Inkerman Rockets – THE FIRST CHAPTER

Every so often, when I was a member of  the Hockey Night in Canada telecast team, someone high in  the crowd at the Montreal Forum or Maple Leaf Gardens would shout down to me, “Hey Brian, remember the Inkerman Rockets?” I would look up and wave and shout back, “You bet. How could I ever forget them?”

I was pleased and proud  whenever anyone recalled that I played for the Inkerman Rockets, a scrappy junior A team that was the talk of the Ottawa Valley in the 40’s and 50’s.

No village so small ever produced a team so good. Inkerman was so  tiny – possibly a hundred residents – that it didn’t even have a hockey rink. And there was no league for an Inkerman team to play in.   Inkerman did have a school though and a schoolteacher named Lloyd Laporte, who loved the game and he enjoyed nothing more than giving kids an opportunity to play it.  He built a small rink in the school yard and began organizing  teams and games.

He even coached a team in the Winchester Town league. Winchester was a slightly bigger town, five miles down the road.  But he had a dream of bringing a team to Inkerman.

At the end of his first season with Winchester, Laporte found himself with a $48 surplus in the kitty. He figured this might be almost enough to purchase new jerseys for a new teamin Inkerman.  So he drove 30 miles to Ottawa one day and there he found a real bargain in a sporting goods store. On sale were more than a dozen red and white sweaters (Nobody called them jerseys back then) with a huge letter R on the front.

The clerk said, “Some team ordered these but never picked them up. They’re a great buy for $48 dollars if your team nickname begins with R.”

Laporte said, “I’ll take them. And I’ll name my team the Rockets.”

I’ll share more about the Inkerman Rocket’s story on another day.

 Posted by at 8:00 pm
Dec 082009

Winnipeg Danny

That’s what the Snowbirds hockey team calls our friend from Manitoba. He’s a slight, dark-haired 65 year old and he’s a charter member of our club. We play out of Fort Myers, Florida three mornings a week and  it’s a bonus if Winnipeg Danny is on your side. He knows the game and plays it well.  His passes are sharp and on the mark. He’s a clever playmaker and an excellent skater, a presence on the ice. He’s a good scorer because his shot has not lost its sting and he drills a lot of pucks over the goalie’s shoulder into the upper corner of the net. In the room he’s quiet, intelligent. When he talks  we listen  because he knows his hockey. He’s a gamer, he fits in.

Yesterday I missed our ice time because I’m recovering from bruised ribs. But I got a call late in the afternoon from Dave, who is our leader and organizer.

“I’ve got bad news,” he said. “Winnipeg Danny left the locker room after our workout and sat down on one of the benches next to the rink. He told one of the players passing by that he felt a “bit hot” and then lay down on the bench. His teammate talked to him briefly, then said goodbye.

Moments later, another player came out of the room and saw Danny face down on the floor. At first, he thought Danny was about to do some  pushups or some such thing but then noticed there was no body movement. He called for help and luckily, on this day,  two firemen from Fort Myers were playing with us. They sprang into action, felt for a pulse and found none, then used a paddle and CPR to get Danny’s heart pumping again. The firemen knew immediately what to do. None of the rest of us would have.  The firemen literally saved Danny’s life–at least for the moment. Danny was rushed to a nearby hospital then flown by helicopter to another hospital where surgeons waited. Danny was rushed into an operating room. I was told that stints were inserted but that procedure was unsuccessful  for some reason, Danny’s chest was opened for bypass surgery.

All day his teammates  communicated their shock and concern by phone and email and one or two talked with Danny’s wife.

We’re all waiting for further word on the status of Winnipeg Danny.

He’s alive and in recovery but not out of danger. Not even close. How long, we wonder, was he facedown on the floor with no heartbeat? How much potential damage did he suffer in those brief moments?

Life can be so fragile, so uncertain.

We’re just a bunch of old hockey jocks, reluctant to give up the game we love. We know the risks we take but we play on. It could have been any one of us who tumbled off that bench and fell unconscious to the floor.

But it was Danny, a good fellow, a good teammate, and we pray for his full recovery.

He may never play hockey again but he’ll always be one of us, one of the Snowbirds.

Brian McFarlane