It would have been a surprise if Clint Dickson hadn’t had athletic genes from birth.
His dad, Foster Dickson, was considered one of Pictou County’s finest hockey players and one of its superior coaches. His older brother, Wayne Dickson, was a multi-sport star in high school and university.
So it was to be expected that Clint would follow in their footsteps.
Years ago, before I began writing for The Advocate, I had a wonderful afternoon with Clint and Wayne, as well as their sister Kim. We talked at length about their father, about the highlights of his storybook career, and then Wayne and Clint chatted about their own years in sports.
I enjoyed hearing their stories.
When I think of it now, I find it hard to believe Wayne and Clint have both passed away, Wayne in 2012, Clint just recently.
They were good guys.
I knew Wayne best because he was just one year behind me at New Glasgow High School. So when I was writing high school sports for the Evening News, he was one of the better players on the rugby and hockey teams and a major star on the track. He later took those talents to Acadia University, where for four years he was on the varsity track team.
Clint, six years younger, was a standout with a very fine high school hockey team, a club that reached the Nova Scotia Headmasters A championship game three years in a row, becoming provincial champs in the third and final attempt.
He starred at every level as he advanced up the minor hockey ladder
In bantam, his Maritime Steel club reached the provincial finals. In midget, he and his New Glasgow Seven-Ups defeated Sydney for the Nova Scotia crown, then knocked off Fredericton to gain the Maritime prize. In juvenile, he was also a dominant player when the New Glasgow team won the Nova Scotia and Maritime titles.
I saw quite a number of Clint’s games through the early 1960s because, at the time, I was following two of his teammates, Hal Dobson and Freddie Malcolm, who I later signed to Toronto Maple Leafs tryout forms. Clint, no question, was right up there in the talent department, alongside Hal and Freddie.
Clint, who was watched by several NHL scouts, including myself, became the property of the Detroit Red Wings. At the Detroit training camp, he worked mainly on a line with a guy named Paul Henderson. From there, he went on to play junior hockey with the Ingersoll Marlands in Ontario and, after coming back to the county, he became heavily involved in the forestry industry.
Oh yes, there’s one other matter I should mention. He married a first cousin of mine, Charlotte Townsend, in the same year that Jane and I got married.
One of the things I recall about Clint was the fact he didn’t really like to accept accolades for what he achieved, or talk about the things he did well. He much preferred to give the credit to his teammates, to his coaches. Well, he was a much better athlete, much better contributor, than he tried to convince us.
On the occasion when I talked with him, Wayne and Kim, he credited his dad, as well as coach and athletic director John (Brother) MacDonald, for passing on a solid work ethic that proved to be his biggest asset.
“They were the ones who made it possible. Without them, I wouldn’t have achieved what I did. They gave me the help and the advice that allowed me to enjoy the sport as much as I did.”
Clint was really just being modest.
There were quite a number of fine players on his teams – I think of Dobson, Malcolm, Richie MacPherson, Lawson Breen, Jimmy Irvine and Kevin Murphy – but he didn’t have to take a back seat to any of them. He always held his own on the ice.
While our thoughts right now are with Clint’s family, I can’t help but look back, once more, at Foster’s outstanding years in the game.
I watched him coach local senior teams in the post-war era, when I was just becoming familiar with hockey and its stars. When the New Glasgow Bombers won the Nova Scotia and Maritime senior championships in 1944-45, the senior Dickson was the man at the helm. It was my first experience seeing a hockey team win a title and it left me impressed.
Foster’s playing career gave him some fascinating experiences – and that must have influenced Wayne and Clint as they started off on their athletic endeavours. For instance, he spent time across the ocean and, while performing for a team in the English Ice Hockey League, he once played in front of King George and Queen Elizabeth. Another time, in a game in Berlin, he played in front of Adolf Hitler.
Closer to home, one of his favourite feats was playing for a New Glasgow club that became known as the Six Survivors when injuries and illness reduced the roster to just six players. He and his five teammates – Bruce Cox, Syd Malcolm, Bill Forbes, Don MacDougall and goalie Jimmy MacLean – almost upset the powerful Halifax Wolverines in the provincial finals.
There was a good-but-sad story in Foster’s life. It happened in 1980 when he was announced as an inductee into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. But only days before the induction ceremony, he passed away at the age of 70. What a shame he wasn’t there to experience the occasion.
Fifteen years later, following the establishment of Pictou County’s own hall of fame, Foster was inducted posthumously. It was a memorable day for the Dicksons. Kim accepted her dad’s award and Clint was inducted as a member of that 1962-63 high school championship club.
Yes, I’m convinced Foster Dickson passed on his genes to Wayne and Clint.