By ALEX SPONSELLER The Rhode Island hockey scene lost a giant last week, when former Mount St. Charles coach Bill Belisle passed away at 92 years old. Belisle coached the Mounties for over four decades and collected 32 state championships in that span.
By ALEX SPONSELLER The Rhode Island hockey scene lost a giant last week, when former Mount St. Charles coach Bill Belisle passed away at 92 years old.
Belisle coached the Mounties for over four decades and collected 32 state championships in that span. The Mounties won 26 consecutive titles in the middle of the run.
More than 20 of his players would go on to the NHL, including first overall picks Brett Berard and Brian Lawton. Belisle would be inducted into numerous halls of fame including the US Hockey Hall of Fame, most notably.
“Let’s face it, he’s a legend in Rhode Island high school hockey. Win or lose he was always graceful and always gave compliments to the other coaches and players. He would always say, ‘The kids worked hard, worked well.’ He just loved being around the sport. He meant a lot to Rhode Island hockey,” said Warwick coach Mike Boyajian.
“The impact that Coach had was second to none. Rhode Island always had a rich history of hockey, but the mystique of Mount hockey elevated the state even more. What they were able to do for 26 straight years was impressive, they were getting every team’s best game every time someone stepped into their building.
To keep those kids focused every day to motivate and push them to be the best is a true testament to both Coach and (his son) Dave Belisle,” added Cranston coach Matt Brannon.
By the end of his career, Belisle led the nation with over 1,000 wins and would hand the program over to Dave. Mount has enjoyed perennial success since, winning last year’s title as a co-champion.
Belisle and his teams are remembered for their competitiveness and ability to rise to the occasion each year, regardless of who was on the roster.
“There were times that their team was not as powerful as some others, but they always found a way to get it done. He was a determined man, he didn’t want to lose. But he was a gentlemen, as was his entire family. We’ll miss him,” said Boyajian.
Having success year after year also made the Adelard Arena one of the scariest – but most special – places in the state to play for opposing teams.
“As a player, having the opportunity to play against them in the early 2000’s when they were at the peak of their dominance is something I’ll never forget. I had walked into that arena so many times as a kid playing youth games there, but playing the Mount was a completely different story as a high school player,” Brannon said. “You see all the banners hanging on the wall, for a second you are taken back by the history and start to think, “Imagine if we beat them tonight,’ and before you knew it, they were up 1-0 and reality set in that it was going to be a long night.”
Even in the later portions of his career, Belisle carried that drive with him.
“My first game as head coach six years ago was against them. I’m 32 (years old), first game against the Mount, nervous as can be. My boys practiced hard all week, opening night. I know Mount wants to start the season strong and make a statement to the rest of the league. We are down 3-1 with about five minutes left and we score two goals to tie them. Here I am thinking I’m going to be the greatest coach, this is easy. I go over to shake Coach Belisle’s hand and he says, ‘Good work, kid, it’s only going to get harder from here,” Brannon said. “We play them weeks later, I warn my guys, ‘They are coming in here to blow you out.’ They score three goals in the first five minutes and I said to my guys, ‘You didn’t believe me. I warned you this was coming!”
Although his wins will be remembered, so will his impact on the generations of players that he worked with.
“Just working hard, win with class, do everything the right way, no nonsense and respect the game. Respect the game and do things the right way,” said Bishop Hendricken coach Mike Soscia of what he learned from watching Belisle. “I can’t even imagine coaching that long and doing what he did. It’s unfathomable, It’s pretty impressive. Watching all of the guys that went to the pros, talking to the alumni, it’s impressive. People will always talk about Coach Belisle.”
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