WOONSOCKET – It was Bryan Ethier’s mission to take an unprecedented look at a unique and legacy-driven local sports story. Just about everyone, he came to realize, knows something about the major figures and symbolic moments that fall under the umbrella of “Mount Pride.”
Who and what else besides the presence of a legendary father-son tandem on the bench, the seemingly endless stream of state championships and countless players who went on to compete in the National Hockey League helped in catapulting Mount St. Charles hockey into a rousing tale? Surely there are backstories worthy of being unearthed and explored, and one can always ponder what the future holds for the program.
What Ethier produced was a 144-page book entitled “A History of Mount Saint Charles Hockey.” That may not seem like a lot of pages, especially when referencing a topic with the breadth of MSC hockey. To Ethier’s credit, however, he succeeded in hitting all the high notes as the book offers a nice blend of historical and cultural references – along with a few surprises.
“I knew the obvious reasons why Mount had been so successful, but I wanted to know more about the psyche of the people behind the scenes. What made this place special beyond the hockey program?” said Ethier, a Woonsocket native who moved to Hamden, Conn. the summer before starting high school. “I wanted to know about the loyalty of the teachers and the players who would come back and the impact the hockey program had on them as individuals.
“Was I very discerning in how I wrote it? Yes. I didn’t want to be a sycophant, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to just tell stories,” Ethier continued. “Things have changed.”
From what Ethier gleaned, the biggest change came with the young men who slide on a jersey with ‘MSC’ emblazoned on the front. The author writes, “Defenseman Mathieu Schneider is remembered as the first Mount star to leave the program early to play junior hockey. Schneider would go to be drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1987 draft.
The trend of leaving MSC early continued in the ‘90s when future NHL’ers Bryan Berard and Brian Boucher departed the program for what was believed to be greener pastures.
“Schneider opened the door, but once Berard left, it just became the norm to stay a few years,” remarked Ethier, a longtime contributor to the publication “Hockey Night in Boston.”
Ethier says that the impact of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, which took ownership of Mount St. Charles in the 1930s, coupled with the foresight of Brother Adelard Beaudet proved instrumental in getting Mount hockey off on its way. He writes, “When Mount St. Charles Academy opened in 1924, Brother Adelard was there to greet students and to promote his beloved sport.”
The book also features a “what if?” tone that also demonstrates Ethier’s willingness to touch upon a few topics that could become relevant sooner rather than later. The author noted that during the information gathering and interview process, he shared several conversations with current Mount coach Dave Belisle about what may or may not lie ahead.
“It’s a story that’s got spirit and longevity, but if you follow the program, you worry about if there are no more Brothers of the Sacred Heart or Belisles coaching. Those are the chains and links that are holding the whole thing together,” said Ethier, coming off a cautious sort. “I’ve wondered for years about ‘what happens from here?’ and ‘will anyone remember?’ There’s a large philosophical angle to this book.”
A number of pages are devoted to Larry Kish, the head coach who preceded Bill Belisle on the MSC bench. Prior to Kish’s arrival in the mid 1960s, the Mounties had gone through a title drought that is explained in the chapter entitled “How The Flying Frenchmen Became The Founding Frenchmen.”
To Ethier, two of the more rewarding and enjoyable aspects of the project was finding nuggets of knowledge pertaining to the Kish era and when Bill Belisle took over in the mid ‘70s, which would have been around the time he enrolled at Mount St. Charles. One person who proved instrumental was John Guevremount, a childhood acquaintance of Ethier who was a defenseman on the 1975 and 1976 Mount teams and would later return to his alma mater to teach English.
“It was sort of a fill-in-the-gap sort of story for me,” expressed Ethier.
Of course, capturing the true essence of Mount hockey would not be complete without quotes and reflections from driving forces Bill and Dave Belisle. In perhaps serving as a reminder of the shadow the 83-year-old Bill Belisle still casts over the empire he carefully and methodically built, he is affectionately referred to as “Coach Bill” in the final chapter.
“Very,” Ethier quickly responded when asked how cooperative the Belisles were. “Dave is extremely protective of his father, but in a good way. He very much wants to respect the image of his father.”
Getting a hold of former Mount standouts was “tricky” according to Ethier, though one recognizable name he was able to get a hold of Garth Snow, a goalie who helped the Mounties to their 10th of 26 consecutive Rhode Island championships in 1986-87. Snow went on to play 368 games spanning 13 NHL seasons before becoming the general manager of the New York Islanders upon retiring in 2006.
“I went through an initial list of players I wanted,” said Ethier. “If you want to hide, you can hide.”
Ethier first pitched the idea of writing a book on MSC hockey in the mid 1980s. In conversations with The History Press, a British-based publishing company that also has an office in South Carolina, Ethier mentioned about a “good story.” Eventually the project was green lighted – albeit with a few stipulations.
“I had X number of words and X number of pictures and that was it,” Ethier shared. “From the first interview to (Tuesday’s official release date), it took under a year” to complete before placing his hard work in the appropriate hands at The History Press.
Several of the photos that appear on the front and back covers were taken by Woonsocket Call and Pawtucket Times staff photographer, Ernest A. Brown. In addition, more of Brown’s photography appears throughout the book, as do pictures from Bill Belisle’s collection.
“I thank Ernie Brown for giving me the best shots,” said a gracious Ethier.
“A History of Mount Saint Charles Hockey” has a suggested retail price of $19.99 and is available for purchase at the school’s Logee Street campus and on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
“Getting a copy will not be a problem,” say Ethier.
Asked about the final product, Ethier replied, “I’m pleased overall. I think I found the heart and soul that is Mount St. Charles, and I mean beyond the hockey program. That’s what I was looking to do.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03