How good of a hockey player was Moe Benoit, who played a few years with the old Dayton Gems but never made the National Hockey League?
Well, how many NHL players can say they won a world championship and played in the Olympics, winning silver?
Moe Benoit is on the list.
“In those days, if you won the Allan Cup (which replaced the Stanley Cup after that trophy went to pro teams), you represented Canada in the World Championships,” said Benoit, who has lived in the Englewood area for the past 40 years, now in Randolph Twp. “You didn’t have all the teams filled with NHL stars.”
Benoit, a defenseman, played for the Belleville McFarlands in the Ontario Hockey Association Senior Division, which beat the Kelowna Packers for the Allan Cup in 1958. That qualified the Belleville team for the World Championships in 1959, which it won, and the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif. The Canadian team came in second to the surprising U.S. team, which won for the first time.
Last spring, Benoit went back to Canada to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that World Championship. He is mostly retired now, although he retains a small business and vacations often in Florida. A few weeks ago, his jersey was also retired by today’s Gems in a Hara Arena ceremony.
In his words
“We went to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to play in the World Championships and played 34-35 games in 23 different countries (on the way) to make money to cover our expenses. We lost to the Czechs in the final, but we had already won the cup. We had flown over, and took the old Queen Elizabeth on the way back. I remember there was a big storm.
“After Belleville, I played at Kingston, Ont., in a senior league and got an offer to come to the States. I spent three years in Omaha (Neb.) with a split team, partially owned by Montreal. Sam Pollock (of Montreal) wanted me to stay in Omaha, but the franchise moved to Toledo. I went as player-coach. In our first year, we won the Turner Cup (for the International Hockey League championship). I was in Toledo three years.
“Dayton was coming into the league (1964 entry). I wanted to come here. It seemed like a better place.
“While I was here, I tied up with Guild & Landis Insurance and stayed here ever since, from 1966. I have a small business, but I don’t work at it much. My wife, Sharon, and I have seven kids (some from a former marriage), 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“Players are faster today. They’re bigger and have better equipment. It was a different style when I played. A little slower. I used to hit pretty hard, and had a good shot. But the players are faster now, much faster. I probably could have played another couple years, but I retired in 1970 after four years with the Gems. I was lucky with the teams I played with.
“When I retired, I worked with travel hockey and a senior team 2-3 years in Troy, the Sabres. It was too much. I still go to games.
“This March, we had a reunion in Belleville. There was a parade, and there was snow. Everybody had 20 gallon cowboy hats on. It was a great time. We had played the Russians at Maple Leaf Gardens, and we played a Russian team in Toledo. They were pretty good. They were a big team, but we beat them in Squaw Valley.
“It’s been 50 years since I was in the Olympics, and I’d like to go to Vancouver to see a game, but tickets are tough to get. I don’t get back to Montreal much, since most of my family is here. But I do have two sisters still living there.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2157 or mkatz@DaytonDailyNews.com.