Conception Bay North CeeBees senior hockey team won four Herder Memorial Trophy championships in the 1960s. They were colorful. They were talented. And some of them became legends of the game.
With four Herder wins in an eight-year span and with 11 players from those teams in the provincial Hockey Hall of Fame, the CeeBees earn the No. 8 position on our list of Newfoundland and Labrador's 10 best teams.
Eight years ago, the CeeBees held a reunion and 72 of 76 invitees showed up and had a "wonderful time," according to former CeeBees player Nev Pike, who helped organize the event.
"We were concerned if we had enough activities to cover three days, but once the players got together and started talking about the old days we knew there wasn't going to be a problem," Pike said.
And they sure had a lot to talk about.
The players reminisced about when they started out as a team and verbally replayed Herder playoff games, road trips and championships.
The CeeBees' Herder-winning teams of the '60s were synonymous for an up-tempo game that drew fans out of their seats and produced some of the most exciting hockey ever played in the province.
The CeeBees were methodically built, piece-by-piece, year-by-year, with some of the best local players in the province brought together to produce a championship machine. When extra offence was needed, goal scorers were found. When defence needed strengthening, the hole was filled and when goaltending needed an upgrade, the team went outside the province and found a great one.
Conception Bay North's first Herder championship came in 1960.
The CeeBees were up against Grand Falls Andcos who were looking for their sixth straight Herder title. And while Grand Falls was able to beat the CeeBees twice in overtime, the series belonged to CeeBees' Alex Faulkner, who scored 14 goals over six games including six goals and six assists in Game 6 as Conception Bay North won the provincial senior hockey crown for the first time.
The CeeBees were able to defend their crown the following season despite losing Alex Faulkner, who signed a pro contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The CeeBees didn't skip a beat, outscoring the Gander Flyers 50-18 and sweeping the best-of-seven final 4-0.
Corner Brook Royals won the Herder in 1962 followed by the Buchans Miners in 1963. The Royals were champs again in 1964 before the CeeBees got back in the winners circle in 1965.
The CeeBees lost only two games in the '65 campaign finishing in first place, two points ahead of Corner Brook. Fan interest, according to newspaper reports of the day, reached an all-time high that season with each team taking dozens of supporters with them on the train rides across the province for weekend games.
Pike told The Telegram the train trips were longer during the pre-season, when the CeeBees would be on the road for several days with trips to Corner Brook, Grand Falls and Buchans for exhibition games and about a dozen fans would join the players in the "party atmosphere." The trips, made possible by the team's sponsor, Northeastern Fish Industries, gave the fans and players an opportunity to bond and that's probably where some of the team chemistry and long-term loyalty was born.
What made the Herder teams special, according to Pike, was the fan support at home and away from S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium. The CeeBees drew big, enthusiastic crowds at home and were a consistent, popular draw on the road as well.
The CeeBees weren't just Harbour Grace's favourite team. They attracted avid supporters from Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Salmon Cove, Victoria and Trinity Bay and had fans in Labrador.
"We were celebrities, not only in Harbour Grace, but all over," recalls Pike. "When we'd play in Grand Falls, half the stadium would be cheering for us because we had players from Grand Falls, Botwood and Bishop's Falls on our team."
Between 1958-1968, the Harbour Grace-based Conception Bay CeeBees appeared in the Herder Memorial Trophy playoffs 10 straight years, winning the Newfoundland senior hockey championship four times - 1960, 1961, 1965, 1967.
Players who skated for CeeBees hockey teams on their four Herder Memorial Trophy championship teams in 1960, '61, '65 and '67:
1960: George Faulkner, Alex Faulkner, Allan Dawe, Bill MacDonald, Carl Penney, Jim Penney, Jim Kennedy, John Thomey, Alfie Hiscock, Jim Coady, Frank Fleming, Jack Faulkner, Fred Rossiter, Bill Sullivan, Ed Pumphrey, Neville Pike
1961: George Faulkner, Doug Foote, Jim Kennedy, Fred Pardy, Frank Fleming, Mike Kelly, Alfie Hiscock, Bern Fitzpatrick, Carl Penney, Jim Penney, Jack Faulkner, Brian Wakelin, Jim Coady, Ed Dawe, Don Pierce
1965: George Faulkner, Harry Hunt, Alex Faulkner, Jim Dawe, Mac Martin, Terry Matthews, Jim Penney, Carl Penney, Ern Cole, John Fitzgerald, Gerry Lahey, Jack Faulkner, Harold Stanley, Hubert Hutton.
1967: George Faulkner, Carl Penney, Gary Simmons, Jim Penney, Mac Martin, Bern Fitzpatrick, Doug Moores, Nev Pike, Jim Hartling, Gerry Lahey, Don Crane, John Fitzgerald, Joe Hunt, Jim Dawe, Doug Sheppard, Peter Babb.
Hundreds of CeeBees supporters helped jam Memorial Stadium on the weekends when Conception Bay North played the St. John's Capitals in an atmosphere that could only be described as intense.
Some players were paid players in those days.
Bill Abbott, in his book Herder Memorial Trophy: A History of Senior Hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador, tells the story of CeeBees' Bern Fitzpatrick and fellow Bell Islander Mike Kelly driving to Harbour Grace in 1961.
"We had to check in at the fish plant to get our money," recalled Fitzpatrick. "Well, Alfie (Hiscock) was a better player than Mike or myself and he got $70 a week. Mike was better than me and he got $65 and they paid me $60. That was pretty good money back then. We practiced twice a day and stayed at a boarding house in Harbour Grace."
That sort of money wasn't much of an incentive to win the Herder.
It was principally the atmosphere in the CeeBees' dressing room among the players, according to Pike, that produced the championship teams and life-long friendships.
"We were like a family," said Pike, a forward/defenceman with the CeeBees. "A big group, but all the same. Everybody supported one another. There was no such thing as someone crawling down your throat if you made a bad play."
Corner Brook opened the '65 final with a win, but the CeeBees persevered. Alex Faulkner, back from the NHL, led all scorers with 21 points over the five-game championship series.
The end of an era was on the horizon for the CeeBees with their final Herder win in 1967.
The CeeBees, backed by the brilliant goaltending of Alberta native Gary Simmons, the goalie brought in to solidify that position, won the Herder four games to one over Gander. Simmons would go on to play in the NHL for the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons and Los Angeles Kings.
The CeeBees, with permitted pickups Lyle Carter, a goaltender from Gander, defencemen Lloyd 'Toy Toy' Gallant from Buchans, forward Jacques Allard and defenceman Dick Power from the Gander Flyers, made history that season when they became the first Newfoundland senior club to compete for the Allan Cup Canadian senior hockey championship.
Moncton Hawks took the best-of-five series 3-1. However, the CeeBees were without the services of Alex Faulkner and Jack Faulkner.
"We could have gone a lot further if we'd had them in the lineup," Pike maintains.
The next year the CeeBees were knocked out in the Herder semifinals which brought to an end one of the great dynasties in provincial senior hockey history.
The object: To select the 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Six prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy, John Browne and Kenn Oliver of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Teams must have been primarily comprised of athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador, competed in or represented the province, or country, in athletic competition. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
Jill Brewer: A long-time diving coach in St. John's, Brewer is head of the St. John's recreation department. A former Canada Games coach, she is a member of the St. John's Molson Athlete of the Year Committee.
Ian Campbell: A two-sport star (hockey and baseball) with the Guards in St. John's during the late 1950s and '60s, Campbell was the 1963 and '65 St. John's athlete of the year.
George Faulkner: Newfoundland's 'Mr. Hockey', Faulkner was voted the No. 1 athlete on The Telegram's Top 10 list of athletes last year. He is a Newfoundland Sports and Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Famer.
Kathy Gosse: A long-time sports reporter at the Clarenville Packet, Gosse knows how to play the game, too. She was the 1972 St. John's Female Athlete of the Year.
Chris Green: A Corner Brook radio personality for over 30 years, Green has called play-by-play in hockey from the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to the American Hockey League (Cape Breton Oilers). Today, Green anchors the morning news for CFCB radio in Corner Brook.
Joe Wadden: A long-time baseball and basketball standout in St. John's, Wadden is a member of both the provincial hardball and hoops Halls of Fame. He is a 2009 inductee into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
1. TBA -May 23, 2009
2. TBA - May 16, 2009
3. TBA - May 9, 2009
4. TBA -May 2, 2009
5. TBA - April 25, 2009
6. TBA - April 18, 2009
7. TBA - April 11, 2009
8. Conception Bay North CeeBees
9. '66 Terra Novas junior baseball
10. Sue Anne Bartlett curling team