The APC died 60 years ago

Pictou Advocate sports

It’s everywhere.

Old age – and the topic of aging – seems to be on the minds of more and more people. It must have something to do with growing old.

Take this past Friday morning.

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I was walking the dogs when a woman, who stopped to pat them, noted one was turning grey. She asked if that was an older dog. Soon she was telling me, “Aging is better than the alternative.”

Moments later, I was entering our complex and a neighbour made the comment right out of the blue. “If your name isn’t in the morning obituaries, it’s okay to start breakfast.”

Then, a good suggestion. I was reading my favourite comic strip when the Born Loser’s Mother Gargle remarked, “Aging is all in the mind – I don’t feel I’m getting old, I feel I’m maturing like a fine wine.”

Yes, this is a sports column.

Like every Friday, I turned to re-checking my weekly offering before sending it to The Advocate. The topic? A milestone that – of course – carried a hint of growing old.

A week earlier, I was approached by a man outside a restaurant in downtown Pictou. He said he recognized me and wanted to know what the initials APC stood for. He said he had noticed them in my column at different times.

He appeared to be old enough to be getting old age cheques on the third last business day of every month. He also looked like a fellow who frequented hockey rinks. The poor soul was wearing a Montreal Canadiens ball cap.

He didn’t know what APC meant? I knew, then and there, that I’ve gotten old. Heck, I knew what APC stood for before I started school.

Later, while driving back to Dartmouth, I realized someone could be a senior, yet never have been around in the good old APC days.

I also realized I went to my car back in Pictou without explaining that the APC in the APC Senior Hockey League stood for Antigonish-Pictou-Colchester, a circuit that operated for three and a half decades, including teams from the cathedral town to Truro.

What great entertainment it was!

The Antigonish Bulldogs, St. Francis Xavier X-Men, New Glasgow Rangers, Stellarton Royals, Pictou Maripacs (and a few other Pictou names) and Truro Bearcats were the most common clubs.

I was thinking about the league – and then it struck me. The APC has been out of business for exactly 60 years. Its slow death finally brought down the curtain after the 1956-57 season.

Sixty years, indeed.

I had grown up with APC teams ever since my father started taking me to games in the old arena in downtown New Glasgow in the final years of the Second World War. The very first players I watched, the very first players I met, were members of those New Glasgow Bombers.

Many of those Bombers are memorable names still – Tiger Mackie, Alex Robertson, Foster Dickson, Buddy Sweet, Shorty MacDougall, Boots Baird, Pete Kelly, Ray Powell and Leroy MacDonald.

I was five years old.

I don’t remember much about the actual details, little things like winning and losing. I was just a happy little kid seeing real hockey players playing real games.

That was APC hockey.

I must have learned quickly because, by the next year, it did matter to me that winning was a good thing.

That was the winter the Bombers were the best team and won the APC championship. Then they played more games, finally defeating the Saint John Beavers to win the Maritime title. It hadn’t happened since 1906.

Everyone cheered. Everyone was happy.

And, well remembered by myself, a six-year-old became a hockey fan for life.

Before I knew it, I was following hockey in other places. Two years after that New Glasgow championship, I began a life-long love affair with the Toronto Maple Leafs that never wavered.

So many of my hockey memories surround APC teams. My dad and I were in Stellarton Memorial Rink the night it opened in 1947. He and I were in New Glasgow Stadium the night it opened in 1951.

I saw many more games in Stellarton, New Glasgow and Pictou.

Before APC hockey did fold – and New Glasgow entered the Nova Scotia and, later, Maritime leagues – there were several exciting seasons locally.

The Rangers had a championship season in their first full campaign at the Stadium in 1951-52. The next year, the Pictou Maripacs, playing on artificial ice in Stellarton, were APC winners. The year after that, Stellarton took a turn winning a league banner. Finally, in 1954-55, New Glasgow was back on top.

In those first years as a young teenager, I was seeing so many games I began keeping count. That’s when I truly developed a passion for statistics.

Even while in high school, I was starting to work as an official scorer and public address announcer at the Stadium, and beginning my newspaper career with the New Glasgow paper.

More reasons to recall the APC.

Similar to life in a family, I was around, seeing a healthy and once-thriving league begin to suffer the pains of aging. It happened slowly, in front of our eyes, in rinks where crowds became smaller and smaller.

The winter of 1955-56 was among my favourites.

That season New Glasgow and Pictou County Pontiacs were on a collision course to meet in the provincial finals. Evening News sports editor Ricky Fraser covered the Rangers; he had me covering the Pontiacs. We built our own little rivalry. That series – as I’ve mentioned many times – was never played.

There was a feeble attempt in 1956-57 to get the APC back on the rails. But it was doomed from opening night. By the fall of 1957, the patient had passed away in palliative care.

Sixty years later, we feel old.