Former McMaster coach and player, who was integral in a historic Hamilton hockey triumph, dies at 82

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Published December 20, 2021 at 10:56 pm

University hockey is known as the best-kept secret in Canada, and Bill Mahoney helped build the game over his time in Hamilton.

Mahoney, who was an all-Canadian selection and the tournament MVP when the McMaster Marlins captured the first CIAU national title in men’s hockey in 1963, and then coached the team for a decade and a half, died on Dec. 16 at age 82. Mahoney was diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

A former assistant coach in the National Hockey League with both the Washington Capitals and Minnesota North Stars, Mahoney earned induction into both the McMaster and Peterborough sports halls of fame. He was the first homegrown player to captain the Petes, in the 1958-59 season when the coach was none other than Scotty Bowman.

Following a fling in minor pro, Mahoney pursued higher education and played hockey at at McMaster. In 1962-63, the first Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (now U SPORTS) men’s hockey tournament was organized in Kingston. Led by the likes of Mahoney, the Mac Marlins won the Queen’s Cup, the championship of the combined Ontario-Quebec league, for what proved to be the only time in the team’s history. That entitled them to represent the region in a final four-style tournament.

McMaster defeated St. Francis Xavier in the semifinal, then knocked off the favoured University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the championship game. The T-Birds were coached by the great Father David Bauer, who was the creator of Canada’s first full-time national team.

Following his graduation, Mahoney became the Marlins coach. His bio on the Peterborough sports hall of fame website notes that he helped grow the game by forming a coaches association and conducting seminars on coaching. He also organized the first known hockey school that emphasized helping pro players improve their skating skills.

Following a coach-of-the-year campaign in 1978-79, the Peterborough connection led to Mahoney getting a chance in the NHL. He joined Gary Green, a former Petes coach, on Washington’s coaching staff. He later guided the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team in Adirondack, N.Y., and had a two-season stint in Minnesota.

After leaving hockey in his mid-40s, Mahoney shifted to operating Tim Hortons franchises that he owned. He settled in London, Ont., where his funeral mass is being held on Tuesday (Dec. 21).

McMaster de-iced its men’s hockey team in 1989. But the ’63 Marlins were not forgotten. In 2003, the Hamilton Bulldogs honoured the team on the 40th anniversary of the championship.

Mahoney is survived by his wife, Doreen, children Jeff Mahoney and Karen Bellehumeur (Dave), and granddaughters Julia Bellehumeur and Angie Bellehumeur. The funeral mass for him will be held at London’s Holy Family Parish at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Those wishing to make a donation Mahoney’s memory are asked to consider the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex.

(Cover image via McMaster University athletics.)

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