Former Panthers’ goalie Jim Graves has opened up a bar near to the home of the Giants
  06/12/2007

Jim Graves is a man on a mission.

The Canadian, who has been associated with the Belfast Giants since the ice hockey Elite Leaguers were formed, has a sports bar at the Odyssey - AND has become a sports historian!

Jim (right), who first came to Belfast to work with the Castlereagh Flames in 1993 and has been associated with the Giants since 2000, opened Rockies(correct) as a museum dedicated to the Irishmen who've achieved fame in ice hockey, gridiron, baseball and boxing.

Rockies, which has been going for only a handful of weeks, has been turned into a colourful depository of sporting memorabilia.

It boasts fascinating old photographs and biographies of Irish stars such as John Kinley Tener, Samuel Anderson Nichols, Bobby Kirk, Sid Finney, Owen Nolan, Henry Cook McIlveen, Jim Alexander McFadden and Jack Riley.

You might not have heard of any of them, but Jim's relentless research has revealed them to be Ulstermen who have graced the major leagues in North America.

And he's far from finished with his quest to add to his growing 'hall of fame'.

Said Jim: and quot;These guys were big names in their day. They played for teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Rangers, the Chicago Black Hawks.

and quot;They were stars - and they all came from Ulster.

and quot;We tend to know more about Irish boxers, and, more recently, soccer players like George Best who went to North America, but we know very little about the ones who ended up playing the more traditional American sports. These guys really intrigue me and that's why I'm interested in honouring them in Rockies. and quot;

While researching the backgrounds of the stars Jim found some fascinating stories - and even tracked down relatives still living in the province.

and quot;Take the case of Tener. If you're a sports fan it's a name you might not have heard of, but America's most popular sport owes him a great deal.

and quot;Indeed, without him, baseball wouldn't be as big as it is today. and quot;

Jim's still looking for more background on the others, certain that family connections still exist here.

Samuel Anderson Nichols, for example, was born in Antrim in l869 and played baseball for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Bobby Kirk was from Belfast and played for the New York Rangers.

And Sid 'Slippery' Finney from Banbridge was a Chicago Black Hawk in the 1950s.

Added Jim: and quot;It's always a good talking point when sports fans get together - even more so when they see these old photos around the walls.

and quot;I did a lot of research with places like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and they sent me the photographs. Most of the other sports were also helpful with background and pics.

and quot;But I'm sure there are many other Ulstermen who should be included in the collection and they're the ones I want to hear about. and quot;

Jim recently found a strong soccer connection when he was told about Crusaders coach Terry Moore, a former Canadian international elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame. Terry will find a place in Jim's hall of fame, too.

And it's not just sporting heroes Jim's interested in.

He's an American Civil War buff and, because so many Irishmen fought for the Union and Confederacy, he wants to open a section dedicated to them.

Contact Jim at Rockies sports bar at the Odyssey or by emailing him at jim@rockiessportsbar.com.



 
 
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