Local group to be admired

PA-pictou-advocate

Old Pictonians like me, whether we’ve stayed or moved from the county, can still remember the Stellarton Albions of Joe Fulgham, Billy Werber and Baby Rogers and their three straight championships in the legendary Halifax and District Baseball League in the early 1950s. It was a wonderful time to be a fan.

We can still recall, too, the Trenton Scotias of Ralph Cameron, Jim MacNeil and Barry Sample and their provincial and Maritime senior softball victories in the 1950s and early ’60s. It was another great era being in the big crowds in the Steeltown.

We can still think back to the mid-1960s and the softball Thorburn Junior Mohawks of Allan MacLaughlin, Gordie MacKinnon and Sammy MacDougall and their three consecutive Maritime titles. The action out in the Vale was tremendous in those summers.

We can still reminisce about hockey’s New Glasgow Rangers of Nelson Wilson, Bert Dalling and Daryl MacMillan and the championship teams they had, especially in 1951-52, 1954-55 and 1964-65. It was fun spending cold nights at New Glasgow Stadium.

And, we can still sing praises for the Pictou County Senior Rugby Team of Francis Long, Peter Rutledge and Kerry Patterson, a club that won a remarkable seven Nova Scotia and four Maritime championships in eight years in the 1970s. Not many teams in any sport can dominate like that.

Yes, no matter how far or how little our memory goes back, the county has a super history when it comes to team sports.

But know what? I’m beginning to believe, more and more, that the current Weeks Hockey Organization, with its Crushers of the Maritime Junior A League, and its major midget squad, may be the county’s best sports entity ever.

The organization is to be admired. When the Crushers clinched first place in the league last week, they were simply putting a bit more frosting on the cake. Just days later, the Midgets completed their fantastic comeback in their league playoff series against the Cole Harbour Wolfpack

Achieving big things has been a habit since the junior team moved from Halifax to New Glasgow in 2004-05, joining the midgets who have now been in business for more than three decades.

The Maritime league celebrated its 50th anniversary this season, having been born the Metro Valley Junior Hockey League in 1967. The New Glasgow Bombers were an early participant in what was then a junior B circuit. That club folded, leaving the county without a junior representative for too long a time.

For hockey fans who love that level of the game, it was happy days are here again when the county got back into junior.

Since then, it’s been a grand story. The Crushers have done just about everything there is to do over the last 13 seasons. They hosted the league’s all-star game in 2005, and the loop’s entry draft the following year. In 2008, the club had the Fred Page Cup and surprised everybody by winning the event against the defending Pembroke Lumber Kings to advance to their initial Royal Bank Cup appearance.

The franchise shifted from the Stadium to the Pictou County Wellness Centre five years ago and, in their new environs, have registered the best attendance figures in the league. Last year they got possession of the Kent Cup after coming close in their two previous attempts.

You just can’t talk about the junior operation without singing praises for the midget club ever since the late Scott Weeks stepped up to sponsor a local team.

It was a class franchise from the start. As a result, there have been a lot of fine players going through its ranks, including Jon Sim, Colin White and Derrick Walser.

It’s been good times. It’s also been great that the organization continues to carry the Weeks name, in honour of its founder.

I never knew Scott personally, but I was quickly aware of his contributions to minor hockey when, back about 1985, he decided to sponsor a team in the provincial AAA midget league. Like the Crushers who followed, that midget club had almost instant success.

Through friends and hockey fans, I was aware of how proud Weeks was of the franchise and the high points it achieved. Strong people were in key positions and it paid off.

It was such a sad time, a decade later, when he passed away following a long bout with cancer.

A community like Pictou County can’t help but be happy that Scott had gotten into hockey when he did. He not only was willing to help the sport, he helped other groups in the area. No wonder he was inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame.

The best news: the torch stayed in the family.

The Weeks involvement didn’t miss a step, thanks to Scott’s widow Audrey, who willingly assumed the task he was doing. Audrey was also into sports when she was younger – a basketball player, a speed skater and a track and field athlete. It was nothing unusual when she joined the effort.

Something Audrey told me during a get-together years ago I’ve never forgotten. Many people, she said, were still going to games and feeling Scott was still there. He established the ground work and left his mark.

Imagine how proud Scott would be today if he saw how classy, as well as successful, the organization has remained.

No wonder the Crushers and the rest of the Weeks group have been producing such a fantastic record.

Despite being into my 63rd year in the newspaper business, I have never been able to purchase a reliable crystal ball capable of making accurate predictions.

That said, I do think of an Advocate column I wrote in 2004, at the time the Crushers arrived from Halifax. In it, I predicted the team would “succeed big time” in the county.

I’m so pleased it has.