Oh the nicknames. They’ve been around hockey ever since the first puck was dropped on Big Pond in Windsor 200 years ago.
And we seldom forget ‘em.
There were Gump, Terrible Ted, Boom Boom, Mister Zero, the Rocket, the Pocket Rocket and the Russian Rocket. And, of course, Mr. Hockey, the Great One and the Golden Jet. Some played for Punch, some played for Toe.
There were teammates like the Big M, Chief and Red; there were the Eel and the Eagle; the Road Runner and the Entertainer; the Flower, the Hammer, Cowboy and Suitcase.
And, oh yes, before I get shouted at from his Hockey Night in Canada perch, there was — and is — Grapes.
Those labels, I’m sure you recognize, were all attached to National Hockey League personalities.
What about closer to home? What about players who plied their skills on local teams right in Pictou County? And players on visiting teams coming into the county?
When I was a kid, there were Boots and Buddy, Shorty and Tiger, Sonny and Junior. I can’t forget Tic and Kink. And we mustn’t forget Chick and Gummie, Buck and Bucko. And we can add Gussie, Bun and Murph, as well.
In more recent years, there were Danky, Ducky and Blinker; Lugs, Stan the Man, the Iceman and, of course, Gun. How about Coke and our very own Big M?
The visitors benches were often occupied by Muckle, Hap and Rocky; Doggie, Duke and Dugger; Big Train, Peanuts, Chook and Moe. The Toiler, Old Lamplighter and Dutchy were around, too. There were Pee Wee and Bessie, Porgy and Porky, and there was always a Moose somewhere nearby.
But all of this is a lead-in to a guy who, when I was growing up, was known by my favourite of all nicknames.
He was Crazy Legs.
I was pretty young — maybe five or six at most, watching games with my father at the old Arena in downtown New Glasgow. “Crazy Legs” was playing for some very fine New Glasgow Bombers teams.
His nickname caught my fancy the first time I heard it. That would have been during the 1943-44 season and the next year, 1944-45, when the club brought New Glasgow its first Maritime senior championship in 38 years.
I’m remembering, of course, the late Alex (Crazy Legs) Robertson, a well-known guy around town who played senior hockey for two decades.
I should point out, if he were still alive, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year.
If you were around in those long-ago times, you’ll recall he wasn’t very big. He was just five-foot-seven and around 150 pounds.
To be truthful, I never did know how he got his nickname, but it could have been the fact he was a rather ungraceful skater. He wouldn’t have won figure skating competitions. But make no mistake, he was a good and interesting player to watch.
You have to go back to 1937-38 and ‘38-39 to pick up his career with the junior New Glasgow British Consols. It was in 1939-40 that he first laced on his skates for the Bombers in the APC league. He played with the team through the championship season, with a couple detours — one with the New Glasgow Volcanoes, one with the Truro Bearcats.
After that, he left the Bombers fold for a few years, playing with the Saint John Beavers who won the strong Maritime Senior Hockey League and advanced to Allan Cup play. He was with the Bearcats and Dartmouth Arrows of the same league; then made a return to the county with the Stellarton Royals.
When New Glasgow Stadium opened in 1951, there was Crazy Legs, once again, with the Bombers. He stuck with the franchise when they became the Rangers the following winter. There was another season with Stellarton, a year in Grand Falls in the Newfoundland league, the 1955-56 campaign with the Pictou County Pontiacs, then his finale with the 1956-57 Rangers.
He could score. In fact, he netted about 150 goals in his senior career, climaxed by a great winter with the 1951 Bombers when he had 25 goals and 60 points in just 19 games.
I never had the opportunity to interview or write about Crazy Legs, but I certainly knew him back in my New Glasgow years. We often chatted about hockey matters and I remember asking him what was the best time he had in senior hockey. He said it was the senior title the Bombers brought to New Glasgow in 1944-45.
I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the strength of that club, but I can still remember much more about it than simply liking that Crazy Legs nickname.
The goalie on the Bombers that year was Shorty MacDougall. Twelve years later, he was my math professor at St. Francis Xavier University. And, yes, he and I talked hockey several times during that association.
And there was Buddy Sweet who spent four years with the Bombers, including the ‘44-45 champs. He was a defenceman, also from Antigonish, and I got to talk to him during his New Glasgow years because he boarded with my aunt and uncle. We kids thought it was pretty neat having one of the Bombers in the neighbourhood. At St. F.X., I met up with him again. He was operating what was called the Wagon Wheel in downtown Antigonish. Yip, another guy I reminisced with while playing his pinball machines.
It may sound like Crazy Legs was just a hockey player. Not so. Best way to underline his athletic versatility is to note he was inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in 1990 — for hockey, baseball, softball and bowling.
Though I never had that chance to interview him, he was fun to talk to and, for sure, I’ve always remembered that nickname I first heard 74 years ago.