To thousands of city residents who grew up playing minor sports, or simply playing tag in city parks in the summer, Lloyd “Red” Doran was the Father of Recreation in Belleville. Originally invited to Belleville in 1951 to take over as player-coach of the Glenroys senior hockey team and head coach of the junior Blackhawks, Doran was later named the city’s recreation director. He was the first person to hold the title. Wedged into a tiny office in City Hall – with barely enough room for a desk, chair and filing cabinet – Doran organized youth sports leagues, oversaw up to 25 outdoor rinks, founded the Belleville Arts Association and Senior Citizens Club of Belleville, initiated summer parks programs and even organized an annual Belleville-to-Trenton marathon swim.
Doran was a tireless promoter of youth, adult and senior recreational and leisure programs. Most of the programs he started are still operating today. But it was hockey that first brought Doran to Belleville. He was born in South Porcupine on January 10, 1921 and like a lot of future shinny stars from Northern Ontario, soon demonstrated exceptional skills on the frigid outdoor rinks in and around Timmins. After a stellar junior career, Doran signed with the NHL Detroit Red Wings organization and was assigned to the minor professional Omaha Knights of the old American Hockey Association in 1941. The 6 foot, 175 pound forward picked up a respectable 24 points in 39 games before his hockey career was interrupted by the Second World War. Doran served overseas with the Royal Canadian Engineers and returned to the pro ice game in 1946 with the Indianapolis Capitals of the American League, registering 33 points in 35 games. Doran’s hockey prowess earned him a promotion to the parent NHL Red Wings in 1946, playing alongside Hockey Hall of Famers like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. He saw action in 24 big league games, scoring three goals and adding a pair of assists. When he was featured as “Wing of the Week” in a Red Wing game program that season, Doran was described as “a sound, hard-going centre (who) is fitting into the Red Wing picture very capably as one of the club’s utility forwards.”
Doran later returned to the minor pro ranks and enjoyed his most productive season during the 1948-49 stanza with the AHL’s St. Louis Flyers, scoring a career-high 19 times and adding 55 assists for 74 points in 67 games. Doran capped his pro career by leading the Cleveland Barons to the AHL Calder Cup championship in 1951, contributing seven points in eight playoff games. Looking to settle down after almost 10 years of playing pro hockey, Doran moved to Belleville to coach hockey and organize the city recreation program. He took correspondence courses and graduated from the University of Western Ontario in London after studying municipal recreation.
Doran was a busy man, virtually starting Belleville’s recreation program from scratch. He took a hands-on approach and always favoured an open-door policy. Former long time city recreation department employee Robb Burrowes, who worked for several years under Doran, said Doran’s foresight and fortitude were instrumental in forming the foundation of what is today a thriving recreation and leisure program in Belleville. Said Burrowes: “Red’s efforts, whether on the sports fields or for his organizational skills, made him a valuable contributor to the lives of the citizens of Belleville and the City itself.” Doran died on June 10, 1995.0