Hockey Scotias turned senior

Pictou Advocate sports

The name Trenton Scotias — so familiar in local softball and hockey circles in the 1950s — has been one of my favourites, even after all this time.

For several reasons.

The first summertime assignment I received from Evening News sports editor Ricky Fraser was to cover the senior softball Scotias. That was in 1954, following my grade 10 school year.

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I loved every minute.

That was just a few seasons before the steel town club rose to Maritime senior B, then senior A, championship status. It was a wonderful era for Pictou County softball.

Even earlier, the Scotias label was attached to junior hockey success. That was highlighted in the 1951-52 season – the first full winter in the sparkling new New Glasgow Stadium.

Remember?

Long-time goaltending star Hughie MacDonald was at the helm of the juniors that featured rising stars like Ralph Cameron, Jim MacNeil, Danny Dorrington and Jackie MacArthur. They were talented enough that year to capture the Maritime junior B title.

That championship won, they were given a major challenge by being thrown into a showdown with the dynastic Halifax St. Mary’s, the power-packed squad that owned the Maritime junior A crown for several years. The Scotias lost that series, but make no mistake about it, they made a good account of themselves.

That 1951-52 performance climaxed the Junior Scotias franchise.

Teenagers become 20-year-olds — and in junior hockey, that’s too old. Move on, guys, to other challenges.

For many of the Trenton players, a significant decision was made — the Scotias would enter the APC Senior Hockey League, the regional loop that had been around since the 1920s.

When the 1952-53 season arrived, Trenton jumped into a five-team league that included the Stellarton Royals, Pictou Maripacs, Truro Bearcats and Antigonish Bulldogs.

Cameron, MacNeil, Dorrington and MacArthur continued wearing Scotia colours in the team’s senior baptism. Others included Blinker Callaghan, Jack MacDonald, Tiger Mackie, Bun MacDonald, Red Malcolm, Wes MacDougall, Bax Ryan and Hymie Hunter.

To no one’s surprise, really, junior coach Hughie MacDonald put on the pads and played 15 games with the seniors, sharing the netminding load with Bill James.

Going senior was a big jump.

Trenton made a good effort but finished the regular schedule in last place — and out of the playoffs — with a 9-22-1 record.

That was the year the Maripacs, finishing second to the pennant-winning Bearcats by three points, upset Truro in the finals to gain the league title. Two major reasons for that were veteran linemates Tic Williams and Mark Babineau.

The Scotias weren’t discouraged.

Returning for another APC appearance in 1953-54, Trenton faced almost the same setup. There had been one franchise change, however. In Antigonish, the Bulldogs withdrew and were replaced by their neighbours, the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

Cameron, MacNeil and Callaghan were the most prominent returnees, but the Scotias took on a whole new look with additions like Frank (Danky) Dorrington, back from star duty with the Northside Franklyns in junior play; Danny MacFayden, Kent Storey, Al Legere, Brian Lewis, Doug Leadbetter and goalie Yves Trudel.

With more experience, the steel town improved considerably, showing a 14-21-1 record over a 36-game schedule, but still spent another campaign in the basement.

This time, however, they gained a post-season berth because St. FX — in third place behind Truro and Stellarton — weren’t involved in the league playoffs until they completed their business in intercollegiate ranks and returned for the finals.

After being shut out in their initial campaign, the Scotias placed two of their group among the top 10 scorers. Dorrington had 22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points, while MacFayden added 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points. Stellarton’s Jack MacKenzie won the scoring crown with a 37-41-78 offensive line.

The Scotias were handed a big assignment in their playoff debut — the second-place Royals in a best-of-seven quarter-final.

It didn’t last long.

Stellarton outscored Trenton 28-8 to take the round in the minimum four games. Only the last game, a 6-4 loss, was close.

There was no shame in the outcome.

The Royals had a great squad that winter — despite ending as runners-up to the Bearcats. After disposing of the Scotias, Stellarton won the best-of-five semi-finals by surprising Truro three games to none. The Royals then beat the Xaverians in a best-of-seven final, four wins to two, to grab the APC honours.

They weren’t finished there, going on to spank the Windsor Maple Leafs four games to one to become Nova Scotia champions. Only in the Maritime final were the Royals stopped, losing to the Fredericton Capitals 4-1 in games.

It proved to be the second and last senior competition for the Scotias.

When action resumed in 1954-55, New Glasgow was back into the fold, joining the Pictou Royals — a Stellarton and Pictou merger – as well as Truro, St. FX and the Halifax Wolverines.

There were no Scotias and, just a year after that, there was no APC league following almost 35 years of operation.

To complete the picture, the 1955-56 season is the one remembered as the year the New Glasgow Rangers and Pictou County Pontiacs were qualified to meet for the Nova Scotia title — the series that was never played and left us all with a bad taste in our mouths.

One further postscript explains that a final attempt was made in 1956-57 to return the APC loop to its old status. Unfortunately, a three-team setup — comprising the Rangers, Pontiacs and Antigonish — was only a one-time resumption of the old league.

After all this time, there has been no on-ice return of the Trenton Scotias label.

OVERSET FOLLOWS:But memories live on.

In 1991, four decades after Trenton’s Maritime championship, the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame welcomed Hughie MacDonald and his 1951-52 Scotias into its hallowed halls.

The honour was indeed earned.

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