Newfoundlanders admired Danky

Pictou Advocate sports

It’s something that happens year-round, whether it’s hockey season or not. You arrive at a Tim Hortons anywhere on earth, any restaurant from McDonald’s to Montana’s, any place where two or three are gathered together to chat.

It’s always the same.

Yackety-yack, yackety-yack. Hockey conversations, hockey debates, even hot hockey arguments fill the air – and they don’t have to be connected to the NHL’s post-season or the Crosby-Subban rivalry.

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Just by accident, I had a chat with a total stranger at my favourite Tims the other day.

I was sipping my medium with double milk, minding my own thoughts, when this old fellow offered a greeting from the next table. It may have happened because I was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs golf shirt. He asked if he could join me.

He pulled up a chair and started talking. From the accent, I knew instantly that he was a Newfoundlander. Not that I have anything against Newfoundlanders. I don’t. My mother-in-law was one all her life, even though she lived in the Annapolis Valley.

Anyway, this guy and I began talking hockey, an easy thing to do anytime. We talked about the Pittsburgh Penguins, we talked about Sidney Crosby and, yes, his confrontations with P.K. Subban. We talked about why I was a Leafs fan.

Then he focused on something specific.

“You may be able to help me,” he said, as I kept monitoring his dialect. “I’ve been wondering about a very good hockey player we had in Newfoundland. He was from Nova Scotia and was one of the best we ever had down home. I haven’t heard of him in years. I think he came back to Nova Scotia.”

I found a chance to get one up on him. I tossed a question at him, “Do you mean Danky Dorrington?”

“By Jove, old man,” he blurted, “that’s exactly who I mean. You know him?”

I guessed correctly because, on other occasions, people from Newfoundland – Corner Brook in particular – have told me what a great player Danky was.

Frank (Danky) Dorrington was someone I loved watching play hockey. Someone I admired in many ways.

I told the Newf he couldn’t have hit closer to home. I explained how Danky was from New Glasgow, my own hometown, that he and I had been friends since the 1950s, that I was a journalist and often wrote about Dorrington.

This fellow seemed well over 80 years old. He said he really admired Danky. “A lot of us did.” He added that Dorrington had many great years playing in Corner Brook. “I went to the games all the time,” he added.

The Corner Brook Royals were a consistently good team, in a good senior league, and Danky piled up many goals and assists with them.

For the record, Dorrington arrived in the Newfoundland city in 1961-62, the year after he had helped the Amherst Ramblers win the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League championship and advance along the Allan Cup trail.

He spent 13 years with Corner Brook, highlighted by 10 seasons with 20 goals or more, including three 40-goal campaigns and three 30-plus seasons. His performances on The Rock concluded a hockey career in which he scored 906 goals – 749 of them in senior and professional ranks. Move over, Gretzky

Yes, Danky entertained fans wherever he played.

I told my coffee-drinking pal the sad news first, that Danky had passed away four years ago, at the age of 80, just a brief time after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

He didn’t know that.

I explained that it was in the late 1970s, right after Danky’s brief coaching stint in Corner Brook, that he and his wife Angie came back to New Glasgow, primarily because their handicapped son needed to be placed in a group home and they found an ideal one in New Glasgow.

I told the guy that Corner Brook was one up on New Glasgow. While Danky played so many years there, he never came back to New Glasgow to play senior in his hometown. It was something, however, that almost happened. It was something he really wanted to do.

The closest he came was in 1960-61, when he was leaving the Johnstown Jets in the Eastern Hockey League.

Danky had told me how he wanted to join the New Glasgow Rangers that winter. Both the Rangers and Amherst were trying to get him. A deal, unfortunately, couldn’t be worked out with New Glasgow.

Instead, Ramblers officials met Dorrington at the Halifax airport and signed him right then and there. In the playoffs that year, Danky scored 16 goals in 15 games. The Rangers? They didn’t even make the playoffs.

The Newfoundlander seemed pleased when I gave him the news that the Dorringtons really enjoyed Corner Brook and, though there was a positive side to returning to Nova Scotia, they knew they would miss Newfoundland, that they thoroughly enjoyed living there.

When I got home, I checked a column I did with Danky in 1998. In it, Dorrington told me, “It was a big loss leaving (Corner Brook) because, gosh, we knew everybody in Corner Brook, everybody in Newfoundland actually. There are times I wish I were still there because I really liked the area and I liked what you could do there.”

Though he was five years older than myself, I loved watching him play hockey on his way up the ladder, from Lourdes to the junior Trenton Scotias and, after his two great seasons with the Northside Franklyns in Cape Breton, to the Scotias when they were in the APC senior loop. After that, he took his gear and played elsewhere for 20 years.

One of my biggest disappointments was when he didn’t get signed by New Glasgow in 1961. It would have been great to have watched him in a Rangers uniform.

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Hugh Townsend
A New Glasgow native and Nova Scotia sports journalist for more than 60 years.