December 02, 2013

Dipsy Doodle Dandies


Not far from Saskatoon is a tiny town called Delisle. It's farming community centered around a train stop. But it is famous for hockey superstars and hockey's biggest family.

In the 1940s brothers Doug and Max Bentley starred for the Chicago Blackhawks. They toyed with NHL competition much like the Sedin twins do in today's game. Max would later be traded to Toronto where he'd find Stanley Cups and individual glory, with the duo reuniting in New York. They are both forever enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Hockey pundits like to mention their brother Reg. Reg went on to his own standout career in senior hockey in the Canadian prairies. He also played 11 NHL games, all with Chicago and often on the same line as his brothers. In fact, Reg's only goal was assisted by both Doug and Max, making it the first time in NHL history three siblings were all in on the same goal!

Not a lot of people realize how big the Bentley family hockey team was. William Bentley, a one time speedskater turned farmer, had 13 children! And when he wasn't raising cattle, he was raising hockey teams.

All 13 children played hockey from an early age. They would play on frozen sloughs on the farm, or on the packed-down roadways nearby. Scoop Bentley, the third oldest son, said they all became great skaters because they "had to skate around slop piles in the yard." And their trademark heavy wrist shots were credited to their farm chores, most notably milking cows.

Five of the boys graduated to the Canadian junior leagues all at the same time. Doug, Max, Reg, Scoop (real name was Wyatt) and Roy all played for the Drumheller Miners (pictured above) between 1937 and 1939. In that 1939 season the five bros scored 93 of the team's 120 goals! They did all this while running a gas station that the family purchased upon news that their boys were moving to Alberta.

Now those five boys were Western Canadian hockey legends with two of them going on to become amongst the greatest NHL players to ever play the game. And the oldest brother was Jack, who never played at a serious level because, as his father later lamented, he had to help out on the farm too much.

But the brothers were no match for their 7 sisters, who father William said "could beat the blisters off the boys nine times out of ten." That may have been stretching it a little bit, but that's what the proud poppa told Stan Fischler once upon a time. He would always act as the referee for the backyard games between the boys and the sisters - Billie, Mary, Pearl, Ruth, Tannis, Grace and Jane.

And we can't forget to mention the Bettys. The three NHLers - Max, Doug and Reg - all married prairie girls named Betty. They had to be renamed Betty-Max, Betty-Doug and Betty-Reg!

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