For a decade, from 2004 to 2013, I served on the selection committee of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
I had three regrets.
I couldn’t convince enough members of the committee to get Nelson Wilson into the hall, regardless of how often or how extensive I argued his case. Mission was never accomplished.
Yet here was a guy good enough for senior hockey at the age of 17, played on four senior championship teams, and scored 300-plus goals despite his career ending far too soon because of a major injury. He could easily have reached 500 goals.
Later, I couldn’t get enough support from my committee colleagues to get Bertie Dalling into the provincial hall. A second mission failed.
Dalling helped Lourdes midget and juvenile teams win Maritime championships. He was a key part of an outstanding line — with fellow Pictonians Frank (Danky) Dorrington and Billy Billick – that sparked the 1952-53 Northside Franklyns when they ended the seven-year reign of the dynastic Halifax St. Mary’s and captured the Maritime junior title. Later he had an outstanding minor pro and senior career, helping New Glasgow win three championships.
In 2016, three years after I resigned from the selection group in frustration, Wilson and Dalling supporters asked me to submit briefs on behalf of each of them in that year’s nomination process. Another mission fell on deaf ears.
I thought of those regrets again when 85-year-old Dalling passed away in the Aberdeen Hospital two Saturdays ago.
Bertie’s death was a shock. Nobody had phoned or emailed me with the news. It wasn’t until the following Monday morning that his familiar face jumped out at me on the obituary page in The Chronicle Herald.
Pictou County had lost another good one.
I thought of many things that morning — about Bertie, of course. And I thought, too, about that tremendous Northside line of Dalling, Dorrington and Billick.
They were a threesome that seemed to be around forever – at least since I began prowling local hockey rinks in the late 1940s and early ’50s.
Initially, they were together in 1948-49 when an outstanding minor hockey program was established at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Stellarton.
All three were self-developed.
Dorrington’s first hockey experiences were on the streets of south-end New Glasgow, playing with other kids in the neighbourhood. Billick was introduced to the game when he was a youngster growing up in Stellarton’s Red Row. Dalling got his hockey baptism outdoors in Westville.
They came together — between the ages of 12 and 14 — helping the Lourdes midgets and juveniles win Maritime championships in back-to-back seasons.
That was the start.
Then, in 1952-53, the Northside Franklins were bidding to knock off the powerful Halifax St. Mary’s who had won seven consecutive Maritime junior championships. Dorrington, Billick and Dalling were teammates again on that club.
They formed an all-Pictou County line that actually became the most explosive junior threesome in this part of the country. With the trio scoring most of Northside’s goals, they upset Halifax, ending what was probably the longest hockey dynasty ever at any level in the Maritimes.
After that, they went into senior hockey.
Dorrington would play all his senior outside the county, with teams like the Amherst Ramblers and the Corner Brook Royals. Billick and Dalling, however, stayed at home most of the time, primarily with the New Glasgow Rangers. Dalling did stray, however, to New Haven, Bathurst and Moncton.
They were more than talented hockey players. All three could play on ball fields with the best. And all three were great guys, the kind you liked being around.
In 1965, I was president of the Stellarton Keiths in the Twilight Senior Baseball League. That season we won the league title and went on to capture the Nova Scotia championship. Dalling was a key member of that club and I really got to know him in those few months. A class act all the way.
Time marches on and, before we knew it, all three were into their 80s. That’s when we live by the year, if not by the day.
It’s hard to believe five years have gone by since Dorrington passed away, two months after his 80th birthday.
Then this winter took its toll. Two days after Christmas, Billick died in his mid-80s. Now, eight weeks later, Dalling passed away at 85.
We’re left to remember them.
Through the years, I interviewed all three on countless occasions, always enjoying time with each. There were chats at their homes, conversations at Tim Hortons. Wherever, I could review their respective careers without notes, without reminders of what they had accomplished.
I remember, in the early 1960s, when Danky was a star with Amherst in the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League. I talked with him at length when reports were circulating that he might come home and play for the Rangers. New Glasgow made an offer but he decided to go to Newfoundland. There he became a local hero who loved the community. He never did join a Pictou County team, though he lived his final years in New Glasgow.
Billick and Dalling were together again with the Rangers, highlighted by the 1954-55 year under goalie and coach Paul LeClerc. That was the winter Billy and Bertie, alongside Ralph Cameron, formed the exciting “Kid Line” when New Glasgow won the Nova Scotia title.
Dalling would go to Windsor briefly to play with the Maple Leafs in the Nova Scotia league, but he soon returned to the Rangers. Billick, smaller physically than Dorrington and Dalling, made up for his size with aggressive play wherever he performed.
All three are gone now, yet they’re still together – as inductees into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame. Dorrington entered the local hall in 1991, Dalling in 1994, and Billick in 1995.
That mission, at least, was accomplished.