He let his play do the talking

Pictou Advocate sports

There were two bits of information — call it gossip if you like — that I wanted before I began writing this week’s column.

Though my files on Pictou County sports people are pretty extensive, I knew I didn’t have the answers and realized a folder-by-folder search wouldn’t be much help. Instead, I phoned a mutual friend in New Glasgow.

How many candles were on Don (Ducky) MacLean’s cake the last time he had a birthday? How many years has he been standing on his feet cutting hair?

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The answers came quickly: “He’s either 84 or 85 years old and he’s been cutting hair for 100 years.”

Can Ducky dispute either number?

Before I made the phone call, I did a search on the Internet without any luck. Ducky’s name just didn’t come up.

So I looked for the Tartan Blade Barbershop, the Highland Square Mall location in New Glasgow where I understand the former hockey player talks about sports endlessly while keeping his scissors in action.

What I found were comments by two customers.

Said one: The barbershop is “home to old Ducky MacLean, the best-known and best-loved barber in town.”

That’s the Ducky I wanted.

The second respondent noted the shop has “a cool decor with an emphasis on hockey and historical Pictou County memorabilia.”

Got it.

Why a focus on the old fella at this time? Because this is the day the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, thanks to Barry Trenholm, is holding a book launch and signing (from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at the mall for my new book, Remembering Pictou County.

Not being particularly familiar with the mall, I asked Barry for the exact location. “It’s going to be out in the mall itself,” he said, “between Tim Hortons and Ducky’s barbershop.”

Two busy places.

I haven’t seen Ducky more than once since I left the county almost 50 years ago. Here’s my chance to at least say hello, I thought.

Why my interest in Ducky’s age and his work history? Why aren’t there lots of details in my files about his hockey and barbering careers?

Simple — I have never interviewed him.

Back in APC Hockey League times, the talented centre starred for the New Glasgow Rangers and Pictou County Pontiacs.

Sure I wanted to interview him — but he always deflected my requests. He told me to write about his teammates, that they deserved the attention more than he did.

So that’s what I did.

Forget about him? No way. I loved watching the guy play. I loved his enthusiastic approach to the sport. I loved the way, despite his lightweight size, he could outshine opponents of any dimension. I loved the way he could score goals and set up goals. He was a darn good hockey player.

I tried different times to write about him, but he preferred I go to the other guys. To his teammates, to his opponents.

But he was hard to ignore.

The 1954-55 Rangers were a perfect example of Ducky MacLean’s worth. That was the year import goaltender Paul Leclerc doubled as coach and the team ran away with first place in the APC schedule, posting an impressive 30-9 won-lost record.

The club then won the league playoffs. Despite the presence of such veterans as Leo Fahey, Ralph Cameron, Nelson Wilson, Bert Dalling and Jimmy MacDonald, it was — you guessed it — Ducky MacLean who led the way with 58 points, including 21 goals.

The first season I covered a senior hockey club was in 1955-56, my last year in high school. Evening News sports editor Ricky Fraser assigned me to the Pontiacs, a team without a league, a team that had veteran senior players like Al Legere, Mark Babineau, Kent Storey, Alex Robertson, Danny Dorrington, Shorty Aikens, Billy Dunbar and Joe Brown. Ducky? He was again the top point-getter.

Three teams tried to revive the disbanded APC League in 1956-57, one of which was the Pontiacs. It was the same story — Ducky had the most points on the team and finished fourth in the league scoring race.

By the start of the 1960s, a Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League was in operation with the Rangers, Amherst Ramblers, Windsor Maple Leafs and Halifax Wolverines. Right in there among the likes of Wilson, Fahey, Dalling and Cameron in the New Glasgow lineup was MacLean — still holding his own with the top players in the provincial circuit.

Skip ahead to a September day in 1995. Ducky and I met up again on a significant afternoon at Branch 28 of the Canadian Legion in Stellarton. On that occasion he was inducted into the local hall of fame for hockey and baseball, while I was inducted in the builder category.

We had a nice chat, but no interview.

The Ducky MacLean story would have been an intriguing one to write about. He was one of 10 siblings – not an error – in a north end New Glasgow family. It was a very sports-minded family too.

One of his brothers was Jack MacLean, the former New Glasgow mayor and long-time educator in the county. Jack was admitted to the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for his involvement with a championship St. Francis Xavier hockey team. He also coached and refereed for years in local rugby and hockey leagues.

Youngest of the MacLeans was Sonny, who had plenty of footsteps to follow. In the end, his hockey play earned him berths in the Pictou County and St. FX halls of fame. Another of the brothers I watched in action was Harvey.

I remember them all.

Had I gotten to write about the barber, during or after his hockey days, I’m sure there would have been some enjoyable tales to tell.

Meantime, all these years later, at the Tartan Blade, the clipping just goes on and on.

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