From hockey title to medical acclaim

Pictou Advocate sports

When I first reported his hockey performances in the 1950s, he was Frankie Sim, the smartest and most talented member of a Stellarton High School team that won the Nova Scotia Headmaster’s A championship.

Skip ahead almost a lifetime and he is best known as Dr. Franklin Sim, a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon affiliated with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Quite an achievement.

In 1957, he had reached a fork in the road where he had two options – pursue a budding hockey career like other young fellows he played with and against, or face the challenges in the medical profession.

He chose medicine.

It all began at Dalhousie University’s medical school and from there, he never looked back.
Four years ago, Dr. Sim received a diversity award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, an award that recognizes members of the academy who have distinguished themselves through their careers. Praises from medical people were many and came from all directions.

Obviously he picked the best route.

More recently, he has been a friend on Facebook and I’ve been able to keep up with his activities. But the other day I was thinking of the “Frankie Sim” in his school hockey uniform because this is the 60th anniversary of the season in which Stellarton High won provincial honours.

To be precise, it was 1956-57. Stellarton High had been trying hard for a Nova Scotia crown for years. It had been 33 years since Stellarton captured a provincial title.
It was an innocent time in the mid-1950s. There were no political interruptions in the education system. There were no threatened strikes, no lockouts, no work-to-rule decisions.

Students could concentrate on their studies – and those who played hockey well played for the school under a very fine coach, John Harris MacDonald.

I had covered many of the high school games that winter for the Evening News. It was one of those seasons in which a team was aiming to write a memorable story.
My old school, New Glasgow High, had been winning county honours for years and, with the local league elevated from B to the A level, the green and white was favoured to win again.

Stellarton had other ideas.

When playoff time arrived, it was what we all anticipated – New Glasgow versus Stellarton in a best-of-five round. It was an ideal matchup.

In the opener at the Memorial Rink, Stellarton trailed by a goal with less than four minutes remaining. Then the home team took over. Or, better explained, Frankie Sim took over. He scored, scored a second time, then scored again. A hat-trick in just over three and a half minutes. His third tally – the game winner – came with just 27 seconds left.

The first sentence in my story the next day called it “one of the most thrilling finishes ever witnessed in high school hockey.”

Game two was at New Glasgow Stadium and Stellarton did it again, winning by two goals. Sim and teammate Jim Fleming each had a goal and an assist.

New Glasgow faced elimination when matters returned to Memorial Rink. Stellarton tried for a sweep, but the visitors weren’t going out easily. The teams were deadlocked in the third period when Craig McCarron got the winner for NGHS.

Game four at the Stadium saw New Glasgow take a three-goal lead, only to have Stellarton get three markers, including one by Sim. Then the home side won on a Wayne Dickson goal with 16 seconds remaining.

Crowds were getting bigger and bigger. More than 1,500 were at the Stadium for the finale. Stellarton won and, yes, Sim scored again.

The upset was complete.

Stellarton faced East Pictou in the next round. The Rurals had three talented youngsters – Lowell MacDonald, Frank MacDonald and Clarence MacDonald.

In the opener of a best-of-three set Lowell, already a professional prospect, scored five goals among eight points, Frank had four goals and three assists, while Clarence added two goals and two assists in a 12-8 win.

Was Stellarton reeling? No way. In the next game, Sim went back to work, scoring four goals and four assists in a 12-2 laugher. All was right again for Stellarton with another deciding game needed.

East Pictou’s MacDonald line would have its huge season in the sun – but not for two more years.

This was Sim’s year.

In the deciding contest, it was another four-goal Sim show. A 10-2 whipping gave Stellarton the county title.

Next opponent: Morrison High of Glace Bay in a one-game, winner-take-all provincial semi-final. Guess what and guess who? Frankie Sim was the hero once more, this time producing three goals in a 6-3 verdict.

The Nova Scotia final: Stellarton against St. Patrick’s High of Halifax, the defending champions, in a two-game, total-goal round.

The showdown opened in Stellarton with almost 1,700 fans packed in. The crowd got its money’s worth, the locals winning 7-2. The win was paced by a two-goal, three-assist performance – yes, by Frankie Sim.

In Halifax, St. Pat’s rebounded, taking a 7-2 lead in regulation, knotting the total-goal count at 9-9. The championship would be decided in overtime. Sim had both Stellarton goals to that point.

The extra session was less than six minutes old when Stellarton ended it. The winning goal? Of course it was Frankie Sim’s, his third marker of the contest.
History was made. It was the first time the Headmaster’s A championship banner came to Pictou County.

There were fine players on that club, like Dougie Davidson, Jim Fleming, Richard Hayman, Ken MacDonald, Stew and Johnny Young and Kenny Watters.

But Frankie Sim was the masterpiece. In 11 playoff games, he had scored 19 times.
Just a few months later, he reached the fork in the road. Would it be pro hockey or medicine?

Obviously, Dr. Franklin Sim made the right decision.