Maurice Leo Benoit
Born: July 26, 1932 (Valleyfield, Quebec)
Died: December 10, 2013 (Dayton, Ohio)
Member: Dayton (Ohio) Hockey Hall of Fame
Moe Benoit won an Allan Cup in 1958, a world hockey championship in 1959, and an Olympic silver medal the following year.
With a large, block head with dark chevrons for eyebrows, squinted eyes and a half-smile hinting at menace, Benoit presented a harrowing obstacle at the blue-line.
The hard-hitting defenceman, who was also known for his hard shot from the point, played junior hockey for the Montreal Nationale, leading the Quebec Junior league in 1951-52 with 168 penalty minutes in just 46 games.
He then played senior hockey with the Pembroke (Ont.) Lumber Kings and the Trois-Rivieres Lions before joining the Belleville (Ont.) McFarlands in 1956. The Macs won the Allan Cup senior championship by defeating the Kelowna (B.C.) Packers in seven games, earning the right to represent Canada at the world championship tournament to be held the following March in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Canada swept the three games of the first round, outscoring opponents 39-2. The Macs won the first four games of the final round to claim the gold medal before losing the final match, 5-3, against the host team. (The Czechoslovaks scored a late, empty-net goal, which gave them the bronze medal ahead of the United States.) Benoit scored three goals in eight games.
The Macs returned to Canada for a parade through the streets of downtown Belleville.
When the Kitchener-Waterloo (Ont.) Dutchmen were selected to represent Canada at the 1960 Olympics, they added the experienced, 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenceman to the roster. Team Canada won six games and lost just once, 2-1, to the upstart Americans, who would go on to win the gold medal before appreciative home fans. Team Canada took the silver. Benoit recorded a goal and two assists in the Olympic tournament.
In 1960, the defenceman turned professional with the Omaha Knights of the International Hockey League, a tough, sometimes vicious circuit in which he would skate for 10 seasons. He was named a First Team All-Star in four of those seasons and a Second Team All-Star in a fifth.
The Omaha franchise transferred to Toledo, Ohio. As a playing coach, Benoit guided the Blades to a Turner Cup championship. He was traded to the Dayton (Ohio) Gems in the summer of 1966 and he would be part of two more Turner Cup champions in 1969 and 1970 with Dayton.
In 581 IHL games, Benoit scored 115 goals, adding 321 assists. He also served 508 penalty minutes, meaning he spent about 8 1/2 games in the penalty box. One of his more memorable goals was scored on New Year’s Day in 1969 when he backhanded the puck from his own blue-line to allow teammates to make a line change. The puck carried 114 feet where his opponent, Jim Shaw of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets, muffed the shot. The goal tied the game 3-3, which was the final score.
Benoit remained in Dayton after retiring from hockey, operating a small business.
Maurice Leo Benoit was born to Marie-Ange (née Montpetit) and Alcide Benoit in Valleyfield, Que., in 1932. He died in Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 10. He leaves Sharon, his wife of 30 years; two daughters; three sons; 10 grandchildren; and, two great grandchildren. He also leaves a sister. He was predeceased by three sisters, as well as sons Andre and Maurice Jr., known as Mo, the latter who died in 2006, aged 51.
Benoit returned to Belleville in 2009 to take part in a parade celebrating the 50th anniversary of the world championship. “Belleville was good to me,” Benoit told The Intelligencer newspaper at the time. “I had a lot of friends here and I still have a lot of friends here.”