Pictou Advocate sports

Ducky was heart of the ‘Kid Line’

Sports

Don (Ducky) MacLean was the centre — and the very heart — of what we called “the Kid Line” of the New Glasgow Rangers during the 1954-55 hockey season.

No, that wasn’t a news update circulated at St. Paddy’s Day parties last weekend. It wasn’t a scoop from Ken Reid on Sportsnet. And it certainly wasn’t something recently fabricated by any of us who spent a lot of enjoyable evenings at New Glasgow Stadium during that long-ago winter.

To be precise, it’s a correction.

You see, in my Advocate column two weeks ago, I made brief mention of the threesome that sparked that particular Rangers club that won the APC Senior Hockey League championship and went on to the Maritime finals. The names I gave were Bert Dalling, Billy Billick and Ralph Cameron.

It may have been a lapse in my concentration. It may have been a flicker of memory loss at the wrong moment.

Nonetheless, I was offside.

The error? Billick was not on that youthful line. Matter of fact, he wasn’t even playing for the Rangers that year. More accurately, he had 20 games with the rival Halifax Wolverines.

If I were getting a haircut right now at the Tartan Blade Barbershop in the Highland Square Mall, Ducky would probably shave my head instead of giving me a trim. For my misdeed, I’ll spend two minutes in the penalty box and consider the error rectified.

I proclaim, here and forevermore: Ducky centred that talented unit, with Dalling on left wing and Cameron on the right side. All three were among the league’s top seven point-getters.

What a year they had!

The Rangers played 39 regular season games, finishing atop the standings with a remarkable 30-9 record and 60 points. Halifax was a distant second.

None of us of a particular age group should forget the three guys on that Kid Line. According to local statistician Corey Hartling’s book, MacLean led the way with 21 goals and 37 assists for 58 points; Dalling had 32 goals and 23 assists for 55 points, while Cameron accounted for 23 goals and 29 assists for 52 points.

If my math is correct, that’s 76 goals and 89 helpings for 165 points.

Make no mistake, New Glasgow had other fine assets on their roster. The goalie, who doubled as coach, was Paul LeClerc, who previously played for legendary Toe Blake. LeClerc played every game. Veteran forwards included Leo Fahey, Nelson Wilson, Jimmy MacDonald, Kent Storey and Brian Lewis, while the defence had Arnie Baudoux, Jackie MacLeod, Bernie Lamonde and Larry Blackburn.

Besides New Glasgow and Halifax, the league included the Pictou Royals, St. Francis Xavier X-Men and Truro Bearcats.

In a column I wrote in the New Glasgow News 18 years ago, I began: “The way I remember it, the 1954-55 Rangers were as close to being a powerhouse as you could get.” I don’t think, these 63 years after the ‘54-55 season, I need to adjust anything I wrote.

It was a powerhouse.

And, yes, that well-known, long-time barber was the spark, the inspiration and the drive, even though he was physically smaller than most of his teammates.

How could I forget?

There was quite a playoff run, as well. That’s when the drama intensified with each and every game.

League semi-finals put the Rangers against the fourth-place Xaverians in a best-of-nine series. They went nine games, New Glasgow winning by a 5-3 games margin plus a tie in Antigonish. Only the ninth game was won by more than two goals.

Next was the series every Pictou County fan wanted — New Glasgow versus Pictou, a best-of-seven affair to determine the APC champions. The Rangers, though, were too much for Pictou, taking the set four games to one. Only the wrap-up — a 5-0 shutout — wasn’t close.

Three title teams remained to decide a Maritime representative in Allan Cup action — the Rangers, the Valley Senior League winning Kentville Wildcats and the Atlantic Coast league champion Moncton Hawks.

New Glasgow faced Kentville in a best-of-seven showdown. It wasn’t much of a showdown, the Rangers showing their superiority. It turned into a four-game sweep, New Glasgow outscoring their opponents 27-13.

Moncton was next, but keep in mind that the Hawks won what was considered a much higher calibre of league, featuring many of the stars who previously played in the defunct Maritime Big Four. Results proved the assessment correct. This time it was New Glasgow that dropped four straight decisions. Moncton went on to win one series in the Allan Cup playoffs before bowing out of national competition.

But let’s get back to the Kid Line and Ducky MacLean.

It was just four months ago that I wrote a column on him, explaining how he always shunned requests for an interview. It wasn’t that he didn’t like me — or at least that’s what I thought. He simply wanted the focus on teammates.

There’s one thing you learn if you ask about Ducky around town — he’s as popular a barber as he was a hockey player. Customers will tell you he handles scissors with the same expertise he exhibited with hockey sticks.

I tried to pinpoint his age, but the best I could do is call him a man in his mid-80s. That’s impressive for a man who spends so much working time on his feet.

People love him.

One comment I’ll repeat: “His barbershop is home to old Ducky MacLean, the best-known and best-loved barber in town.”

Next time I went to my own barber in Dartmouth — he’s actually older than Ducky at 88 years of age — I asked if he knew his counterpart in New Glasgow. “Of course I do,” he replied. “He’s a great guy.”

So there you have it. Ducky MacLean centred Dalling and Cameron on that long-ago Kid Line.

I won’t forget.