1991-92 West Island Senior Hockey League champs
The Port Hood Bees defeated the Whycocomagh Oilers in six games to win the first Oran Cup. In no particular order, the roster of the 1991-92 Port Hood Bees included: Greg MacInnis, Danny MacDonald, Dean MacDonald, Wayne Batherson, Glenn MacMillan, Darren MacDonald, David MacMaster, Kevin MacDonald, Darryl MacDonald, Larry Spears, Terrence MacNeil, Tom MacDonald, Todd Sutherland, Lennie MacDonald, Robbie Spears, Allan MacDonald, Johnny Gillis, Daniel MacEachern, Rodney Gillis, Shawn Campbell, Darren MacEachen, Stephen Gillis, coach Lewis MacDonell, coach Rob MacInnis, trainer John Johnston, equipment manager Anthony Beaton.
January 13, 2021
-by Bill Dunphy
On Sept. 18, 1991, a meeting was held in Mabou to discuss the possibility of starting a Senior hockey league in Inverness County.
The rest, as they say, is history.
That first meeting was called by John MacIntyre, of Mabou, who at the time had the interest of hockey people in Port Hood, Cheticamp, and Inverness.
By the end of the month, a six-member executive was in place and five teams were ready to go for a November start: the Mabou Senior Blues, Port Hood Bees, Cheticamp Merchants (who changed their name to the Alouettes), Whycocomagh Oilers, and Inverness Maroons.
David MacMillan was elected the league’s first president at an earlier meeting, but stepped down when he decided to play for Mabou.
Tommy Batherson was elected to replace him, heading an executive that included: Elias Larade, 1st vice-president; Ian McNeil, 2nd vice-president; Frank MacEachern, 3rd vice-president; Debbie Beaton, treasurer; Bill Dunphy, secretary.
A design-the-logo contest was won by Ian Cameron, earning him a season’s pass to all the games at any arena.
Nobody was quite sure what to expect starting out, but it soon became apparent that hockey fans in the county were ready to support it, and the teams didn’t disappoint.
The first game was held on Nov. 16, 1991, at the Mabou Athletic Centre between the Senior Blues and Cheticamp Alouettes.
Tommy Batherson, along with Ryan MacInnis, dropped the puck to officially launch the league, with Marc Larade and Trevor MacInnis taking the draw.
With 300 people in the small rink, Robert Smith, on a pass from Robert MacDonald, scored 29 seconds into overtime to give Mabou a 5-4 win.
And so, the 10-year journey began.
As the first season marched towards playoffs, the Port Hood Bees were the class of the field, clinching a playoff berth early and finishing with a 20-2-2 won-lost-tied record.
Meanwhile, it was a dogfight to the end for the other four teams. Whycocomagh pulled ahead of Inverness in the final week to finish second, with the Maroons in third.
The Mabou Blues took the final playoff spot over the Alouettes, who were dealt a blow in the final weeks of the regular season when Markie Merry, Marc Larade, and Fidele Lapierre all received stiff suspensions for an incident in Port Hood.
The semifinals began with Port Hood vs. Mabou and Whycocomagh vs. Inverness.
The Bees eliminated the Blues in five games.
Bees goaltender Craig MacLean recorded the league’s first two shutouts of the season to start the series with a pair of 6-0 wins.
Mabou rebounded with a 7-3 win in game three, but the Bees would not be denied, winning the next two games 6-2 and 8-4.
In that final game, the Bees’ top line of Johnny Gillis, Darryl MacDonald, and Dave MacMaster combined for 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Oilers and Maroons were locked in a seesaw battle that would eventually require a seventh game to decide it.
Whycocomagh opened the series at home with an 8-2 win only to lose 11-3 in Inverness.
There was no shortage of firepower in that series, with John Frank Toney, Allan Brown, and Eddie Cameron all in the top 10 playoff scoring, as were Darryl (Rocco) Aylward, Eric Fraser, and James MacLellan for Inverness.
In game three, MacLellan scored four times as the Maroons took a 2-1 series lead with a 7-4 win.
In game four, Scott Bonnar scored four for the Oilers and Glen Buis scored the first-ever WISH League overtime goal to lift the Oilers to a 10-9 win to tie the series once again.
All hell broke loose at the Whycocomagh Arena in game five when Derrick MacFarlane scored a powerplay goal with 43 seconds left in the game to give Whycocomagh a 9-8 win and a 3-2 series lead.
Upset with the call that put Bobby MacNeil in the box with 1:04 remaining in the 8-8 game, the Maroons, including coach Bobby MacLean, swarmed referee Allan MacDonald after the game. No punches were thrown, but MacDonald later announced he would not officiate WISH League games.
The Maroons staved off elimination at home in game six with a 6-4 win, but the Oilers wrapped up the series with a 7-4 win.
This set the stage for a Bees-Oilers final, but it was all Bees in game one as Port Hood, led by MacMaster, Johnny Gillis, and Daniel MacEachern hat tricks, beat the Oilers 15-2.
However, the Oilers showed up for game two and quickly tied the series with an 8-4 win.
Controversy came calling once again in the third game of the series.
The Oilers won the game 9-6, but the game was later awarded to the Bees after it was determined goaltender Jimmy Ellsworth was ineligible to play for Whycocomagh.
It was the second time in the season that Oilers general manager Murdoch (Wheeler Dealer) MacKinnon ran afoul of the eligibility rules. He took flak near the end of the regular season for signing former Senior AAA Bees player Kelvin Fraser to help the team secure second place.
Other league managers accused MacKinnon of having too many players from away in his stable. But MacKinnon was unapologetic.
“I don’t mind it one bit, and to a certain extent, they’re right,” he said. “We got the team we wanted. What was it (he was accused of), 38 players? Actually, it was more like 64 if you count the guys who came out for a skate.”
With the Bees up 2-1, Port Hood went up 3-1 with a 6-5 win in Whycocomagh. The Oilers staved off elimination with a 9-7 win in Port Hood, but on March 26 in Whycocomagh, the Bees became the first WISH League champions with a decisive 9-3 win and a 4-2 series victory.
“It’s just like I won the Stanley Cup,” said a champagne-soaked Wayne Batherson after the game. “It’s the first thing I ever won and it feels wonderful.”
Rodney Gillis had a hat trick for the Bees, who along with Larry Spears and Robbie Spears, racked up 23 points together in the final two games.
Darryl MacDonald scored twice and singles were scored by MacMaster, MacNeil, Larry Spears, and Danny MacDonald.
Craig MacLean was stellar in goal, making key stops early, including stopping the Oilers on a couple of five-on-threes.
Cameron, John Frank Toney, and Robert Bernard were the Whycocomagh goal-scorers.
And so, ended the first season of the West Island Senior Hockey League, with everyone eager for season two.
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