“You have done so much for St. Sebastian’s over the years.” There are numerous individuals for whom these kind words could have been uttered by Headmaster Bill Burke. In this case, they were shared in a letter Headmaster Burke wrote in 1996 to Mickey Belle Isle, a man who worked “behind the scenes” to support St. Sebastian’s School for a long time.
Mickey Belle Isle first came to St. Sebastian’s in 1958, accompanying Ed Summers to the School’s outdoor ice skating rink to work on the rink’s refrigeration. Mickey must have liked the School, because he stuck around and became the official ice manager. Aside from a brief foray as the ice manager for the Kennedy Rink in Hyannis, Mickey became synonymous with St. Sebastian’s hockey. He managed the rink on Nonantum Hill and then in 1982, he came with the School as it migrated to its current Needham campus.
Although Mickey lived in Needham, St. Sebastian’s was not the only place his talents were utilized. On New Year’s Day in 1951, he famously performed on a 20-by-60-foot float, titled “Frozen Fairyland.” The contraption made history at the Tournament of Roses Parade for being the first parade float with an ice skating rink on it. Although he was heavily involved in designing the float, unfortunately, since it was too warm, all Mickey ended up doing was simply waving to the crowd. A photograph of the momentous event hangs in the Smithsonian.
That was Mickey though, a self-educated man. “Mickey was a bright guy who, when he wasn’t working, was reading up on just about everything,” said Henry Lane ‘49, the man for whom the current St. Sebastian’s Rink is named. As the former athletic director and hockey coach, Lane knew Mickey quite well. He commented that Mickey held several patents on skate-sharpening machines.
He was an incredibly skilled skate sharpener. Having had his personal skates sharpened by Mickey, Lane commented that, “Mickey had claimed that you’d be 30% faster after he sharpened your skates!” “The blades were like velvet,” stated Paul Stewart, former National Hockey League player and referee. Mickey had sharpened skates of many NHL players, and he always sent back their skates the same day he received them. “The bottom line was Mickey was a teacher,” said Mickey’s close friend and colleague Jack McKillop, “whether it was skating, how to sharpen skates, or refrigeration.” Mickey had consulted two Olympic silver medalists, Kitty and Peter Carruthers and had even sharpened the skates of Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano.
This talented and revered man dedicated himself to managing St. Sebastian’s hockey rink and will always be a part of our history. Mickey Belle Isle passed away on October 7, 2016. The rest of Headmaster Burke’s letter reads, “an intelligent, multi-talented man, you have held together our rink operations so incredibility well. We owe you much gratitude.” Thank you, Mickey, for your many years of service to St. Sebastian’s School.