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Under Bill Belisle, Pawtucket's Keith Carney learned many valuable lessons at Mount St. Charles

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Pawtucket native, Mount St. Charles legend and NHL veteran Keith Carney, left, said a big reason he reached the pinnacle of his sport was the coaching of Bill Belisle, center, who died Wednesday morning. Carney played a role in Mount’s unprecedented 26 straight state titles from 1978-2003. Also pictured at the 2014 Mount St. Charles Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony is Dave Belisle, far right.

Part of the true upper crust when the discussion centers around the best of the best players among the Mount St. Charles hockey mystique, Pawtucket’s own Keith Carney can attest to the two sides of Bill Belisle.

“I always loved hockey but going to Mount and playing for Coach Belisle and [his son] Dave, it was different. You learn about the passion for the game based off the passion they instilled through the passion in their coaching,” said Carney when reached at his Arizona home Thursday – one day after it was learned about the elder Belisle’s passing at age 92.

“Preparation and hard work and things like that can help you to be successful. I was lucky to learn it at a young age and was able to carry it forward … taking that information and being able to achieve and push myself to the next level,” added Carney. 

After wearing the famed Mount sweater from 1985-88, Carney went on to star at the University of Maine before getting selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the 76th overall pick of the 1988 NHL Draft. He went on to play 17 seasons in the NHL with some of the highlights including an appearance in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals (with Anaheim) and his appointment as captain of the Minnesota Wild in 2006.

Clearly, the lessons imparted upon Carney by Belisle carried the former to the kinds of heights that are unreachable for so many.

“He was hard, he was demanding. That’s one thing the players can rally around,” said Carney, “but looking back, you knew putting in the work and preparation is what it took to be successful … the pride in how to handle yourself along with your work ethic and being a good teammate by working hard for the next guy. You learn teamwork through hockey and Coach Belisle stressed that.”

Naturally, the dynamic between Carney as well as his fellow Mountie greats changed after they no longer were directly bound by Belisle’s coaching. In many ways, Carney saw his high school hockey coach in a whole new light whenever the opportunity to cross paths presented itself.

“Things lighten up when he’s not your coach anymore,” said Carney. “I’ve played golf with him and spent time with him. You know the man’s heart … he cared about all his players and wanted the best for everybody. He wanted them to succeed and do what they wanted to do with their lives. You could see that each time you talked to him.”  

Carney received a phone call concerning Belisle not long after the coach passed away Tuesday.

“It was definitely sad news hearing about Coach Belisle,” said Carney.

Follow Brendan McGair on @BWMcGair03

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