Bulldogs and Alexanders

February 24, 2024

After an absence of close to 20 years, the Ontario Hockey League returned to Brantford ahead of the 2023-2024 season in the form of the relocated Hamilton Bulldogs. Due to impending renovations and long term closure of the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, the Bulldogs officially moved to Brantford and the upgraded Civic Centre on a three year lease commencing with the current ’23-24 campaign.

All has gone well for the new Brantford Bulldogs. They are an absolute contender in the Eastern Conference of the OHL — and they are playing before sellout crowds of about 3,000 — as they battle the Sudbury Wolves for first place.

To be sure, the OHL has done well in its return to Brantford, which was previously home to the Alexanders. The erstwhile Alexanders iced a number of competitive teams and produced a lot of players for the National Hockey League. The biggest problem back then was that they did not draw well at all the Brantford Civic Centre.


They were here for a good time, not a long time.

To be sure, their history is one of modest length yet the Brantford Alexanders remain an iconic Ontario Hockey League franchise mainly because of the number of high performance players who wore their red-white-and-black jersey from 1978 to 1984.

Initially the Hamilton Red Wings, then the Hamilton Fincups and St. Catharines Fincups, the franchise moved to Brantford in 1978 only to return to Hamilton in 1984 to become the Steelhawks. From there it became the Niagara Falls Thunder before another relocation of the franchise resulted in what are now the Erie Otters.

Meanwhile, even though the OHL was never a big hit in Brantford, where the Alexanders drew average crowds in the 1,500 range, alumni representing the erstwhile the A’s reads like a virtual who’s who.

Consider the lengthy list of Alexanders alumni who made an impact in the OHL and then went on to play in the National Hockey League — goalies Allan Bester, Rick Wamsley and Chris Pusey, defensemen Mike Lalor, Randy Ladouceur, Ric Nattress, Bruce Bell, Mark Botell and Tony Curtale and forwards Mike Bullard, Shayne Corson, Dave Gagner, Dave Hannan, Mark Hunter, Bob Probert, Greg Terrion, Perry Anderson, Kevin LaVallee, Jason Lafreniere, Jeff Jackson, Len Hachborn, Paul Marshall, Darryl Evans, Mike Hoffman, Mike Millar et al.

And the list of high end players who skated in Brantford who may not have become NHLers but do have a history as memorable Alexanders is just as impressive — goalies Darren Cossar and Rick Pikul, defensemen Grant Anderson, Tom Searle, Tom Della Maestra, Dave Robson, John Meulenbroeks, Rob Moffat and Tyler Verhaeghe and forwards Todd Francis, Rick Goodfellow, Chris Kurysh, Ron Leef, Terry Maki, Rick Pickersgill, Arthur Rutland, Scott Vanderburgh et al.

Notably, from a Sault Ste. Marie standpoint, the Alexanders have a strong link to the Soo via a number of the above mentioned players.

Of those, Terry Maki is a Soo boy while Dave Hannan, Bob Probert, Bruce Bell, Dave Robson and Arthur Rutland (who was born and raised in Wawa) all played for the Greyhounds before or after they suited up for Brantford. 

Gary Corbiere

The Alexanders never won an OHL championship — nor did they ever make it to the league finals — but they had some success under coach-general manager Dave Draper.

Three times the Alexanders hooked up in memorable playoff series with the powerhouse Soo Greyhounds only to lose all three times — including a seven-game affair in 1981-1982.

Meanwhile, and again on a Sault Ste. Marie note, it says here that, pound for pound, the toughest player to ever wear a Brantford Alexanders uniform was left winger Gary Corbiere.

Standing in at 5-foot-10 and tipping the scales at 175 pounds, the hard-nosed Corbiere played in 85 games for Brantford after being acquired in a trade with the Sudbury Wolves for fellow forward Dean DeFazio.

As much as he made an impact as a feisty, fearless youngster who improbably made the OHL despite not being drafted, Corbiere went on to make a further name for himself beyond hockey. 

Hailing from Batchewana First Nation just outside Sault Ste. Marie, Corbiere would go on to become a famed lawyer before he tragically drowned in Lake Simcoe on August 8, 2004 at age 41 while out on his boat. He had a cottage on Georgina Island and traveled frequently to the mainland to work in Toronto.

Corbiere was the lawyer who successfully argued in the Supreme Court of Canada for the right of off-reserve, First Nation peoples to have a substantial say in the decisions made on their reserve. The legendary, landmark case in constitutional law became known as the Corbiere Decision.

Members of Gary’s family still reside in the Sault Ste. Marie area. His dad, John (Duke) Corbiere, once served as chief of Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways.

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