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We will never see another Bill Belisle

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The Rhode Island hockey community recently lost perhaps its most notable member, as former Mount St. Charles coach Bill Belisle passed away at the age of 92 last week.

Belisle coached the Mounties for four decades and guided them to an astonishing 32 state championships in that period. He would finish his career with over 1,000 wins and become the winningest high school hockey coach in the country.

From there, he would be inducted into a handful of halls of fame, with the biggest being the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

I am not a native Rhode Islander and Mount is not in the Beacon Communications coverage area, so my exposure to the Belisle family has been minimal. As an outsider looking in and someone who is a sucker for sports history, my mind was blown when going through his resume and accolades throughout the course of the past week.

Prior to his passing, I was well aware of his presence in the local hockey community. I knew of all the state titles, I knew that his name stretched beyond the borders of Rhode Island.

However, when reading the fine print, I was amazed.

In terms of on the ice accomplishments, how one team could win 26 consecutive state championships is beyond me. Especially in hockey in Rhode Island. The Ocean State has some of the country’s best teams and always has. Between Mount, La Salle, Hendricken, Burrillville, some of the older Cranston powerhouses, Mount went head to head with some fantastic clubs and had unprecedented success.

Belisle also had the team remain elite across four decades. Although the championship streak was snapped, the team never truly fell off and is still enjoying success in this next generation, much because of the bar that he set. The longevity, the consistency, the caliber of performance, incredible.

Then we get into the off the ice stuff. When speaking to some of our locals that knew him and the program, the one thing that was consistent was the mentioning of how much he enjoyed being around the kids.

There are times when coaches like Belisle are remembered by their athletic achievements. It’s fair, especially when you accomplish what he did. But sometimes that drowns out the impact these titans make as mentors and teachers. Not only did Belisle love the kids, love teaching the game, but he just loved being part of the community up on the hill. Generations of kids still speak of his mentorship that has been passed down to their kids. You don’t coach a school for 40 years without leaving a tremendous impact.

We may never see anything like the Belisle Mounties again. An elite program for nearly half a century, a team that is a title favorite year in and year out. The program that he built is remarkable and is still among the best in the state today, years after he retired.

Congratulations on a historic legacy, Coach Belisle. 

This past Friday, the Hendricken hockey team hosted the Mounties at the Thayer Arena for a big Division I clash, and the Hawks would run away with the 5-2 win to continue to roll this winter season.

It’s still early on, especially considering how much the pandemic has effected the schedule with postponements. So far though, I have been excited with this race and feel that next month is going to be thrilling to watch.

To this point, La Salle is undefeated, but the Hawks rolled to a lopsided exhibition win a few weeks back. That means that Hendricken must be the favorite, right?

Well, East Greenwich beat Hendricken 3-2 to insert itself as a contender as well. Although Mount has gotten off to a shaky start, it would be unwise to count it out. Meanwhile, Burrillville has a good unit, as does Smithfield. Warwick and Cumberland are also two teams that by season’s end could be factors.

Division I hockey is always fun to keep up with in the state, but this year seems to be even better than the norm. The powerhouses have been beating up on each other while those teams that are considered a level below are holding their own and giving them a reason to be respected. The next few weeks will be telling, but now with an actual sample size to judge things on, it really appears to be anyone’s division to grab hold of. It’s crowded at the top.

Lastly, I need to touch on the Patriots one last time now that their season has come to an end.

I must say, although I am satisfied with what the team accomplished overall, that performance on Saturday was discouraging.

Buffalo was the favorite, as it should have been, but to come out and be pummeled in all three phases in the playoffs? Very, very disappointing.

The defense was totally exposed after some doubt began creeping in the last few weeks, the lack of firepower on offense reared its ugly head, and the special teams unit did not make any sort of difference. The coaches failed to adjust throughout, and the Pats never really put up much of a fight. The game was over by halftime. 

Again, this season was a success. After failing to reach the playoffs the year before, the team won 10 games, found what appears to be a capable young quarterback to build around, and regained some confidence that was lost. 

That said, there is still plenty of work to do and to consider this team a contender going into next year is impossible. The defense is officially old and slow, and although Mac Jones will improve with experience, this offense is still in dire need of some artillery. The two tight ends brought in were OK, but not real difference makers. In today’s NFL, a strong rushing attack just isn’t enough and the Pats found that out the hard way.

This season was a step forward and I believe New England will be a playoff contender next season. This team needs some work before we can consider it to be back in the elite, the Super Bowl contenders. It was a solid season, but a frustrating end. 

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