Pictou Advocate sports

Still no local hockey team

Sports

Nova Scotia sports addicts undoubtedly know and understand the procedures followed by the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame when it adds new inductees to its hallowed hall.

It’s been an annual celebration for nearly 40 years.

The hall’s selection committee carries out its mandate, deserving recipients are announced, and the winners anxiously await induction night.

The 2018 list is out.

There’s Halifax soccer player Mary Beth Bowie who starred at Dalhousie University and the University of Connecticut before spending four years with Canada’s national team and playing at the 1999 FIFA World Cup.

There’s Truro gymnast Kristan Burley who represented Canada at the 1996 Olympics and seven world championships, collecting several medals.

There’s Anna Stammberger, a Prince Edward Island native who had a great career with Dalhousie University, captained the national team, spent a number of years playing professionally in Germany, then returned to coach the Dal women.

There’s the Saint Mary’s Huskies men’s basketball team that won the national crown by beating the Acadia Axemen in that memorable all-Nova Scotia final at the Halifax Metro Centre in 1978.

And there are two new builders, Tom Doucette, who served as head coach of Canada’s junior men’s softball team and was a top college basketball coach; along with Peggy Gallant, who coached women’s soccer and volleyball at St. Francis Xavier University.

That’s three athletes, two builders and a team.

I’m happy for each and every one of them. Since being inducted myself 15 years ago, I much better appreciate what the honour means.

Oops, I forgot a new inductee — a horse.

Yes, a four-legged horse is in the induction lineup — harness racing’s Somebeachsomewhere. That should create a whole new category at the hall.

The hall follows several objectives, including one I believe best sums up what the hall is all about: “To recognize, honour and pay tribute to individuals, teams or organizations who have achieved extraordinary distinction in, have given distinguished service to, and who have made major contributions to the development and advancement of sport in Nova Scotia.”

I was on the selection committee for 10 years — 2004 through 2013 — so I fully understand how difficult it is to determine inductees. It’s especially true as sport in Nova Scotia grows stronger and stronger.

My big concern is that qualified individuals and teams from decades ago get overlooked as more new candidates become qualified.

I mention it, not as a critic, but as a born-and-raised Pictonian and, for the last 14 years, a weekly columnist with this newspaper.

A question I keep being asked: Why are Pictou County hockey teams never selected to the Nova Scotia hall?

I’ve wondered, too.

Why bring it up? Because you don’t have to be from Pictou County to understand the county’s hockey history. A great history.

I believe three areas of Nova Scotia stand out as premier hockey regions — Halifax-Dartmouth, Cape Breton and, yes, Pictou County.

Yet how many county hockey teams are in the provincial hall?

None.

No hockey team from New Glasgow, Stellarton, Pictou or Trenton has been selected. But all four towns have had championship seasons.

In all these years of recognizing Nova Scotia sports excellence, just four Pictou County teams in any sport have been chosen — one in senior softball, one in junior softball, one in senior baseball, one in high school track and field.

That’s it.

Clubs like the New Glasgow Bombers, New Glasgow Rangers, Stellarton Royals and Pictou Maripacs have had winners at the senior level. The Trenton Scotias have won Maritime junior honours, and high school clubs have reached the top more than once. No list is complete without the more recent Weeks Construction organization.

For now, I’ll focus on one team.

To do so, I go back to the powerful Nova Scotia — later called Maritime — senior league in the 1960s. In that brief but exciting time, the circuit had three franchises that dominated.

The 1960-61 Amherst Ramblers were the first powerhouse winning the Maritime crown. It took 47 years, until 2008, before they were inducted into the hall. It should have happened sooner. That was one tremendous hockey club.

The 1963-64 Windsor Maple Leafs were the next powerful entry, a club that took the Maritimes, then whipped a Montreal team in Allan Cup play, overwhelming the Quebecers 29-7 in three games. It was 26 years later, in 1990, that those Leafs were granted a pew in the provincial hall. Another selection that should have come sooner.

In the league’s final season, 1964-65, the New Glasgow Rangers won the championship with what was arguably the best roster ever assembled in Pictou County. And here we are, 53 years later, and no nod from the selectors in Halifax.

I get irritated thinking of it.

I wasn’t very old when I watched a New Glasgow team win a championship in the old Arena in New Glasgow. Those Bombers were so talented during the final years of the Second World War.

Later, when I got into the newspaper business, I had already seen the 1952-53 Pictou Maripacs and 1953-54 Stellarton Royals enjoy title seasons. Then there were the championships New Glasgow won in the 1950s.

By the 1960s, I was with The Chronicle Herald, reporting on senior hockey, serving as league statistician, and writing regularly about the league for The Hockey News.

I saw the Amherst and Windsor championship teams up close, knew how great they were, and agreed they belonged in the Nova Scotia hall — but I saw even more of the Rangers and believed they were just as impressive, just as deserving of induction.

I recently turned 80 and know I’ll never see a revival of senior hockey. I’ve loved the sport all my life and, still considering myself a proud Pictonian, I’ve never forgotten the champions from the county.

I just don’t understand why not one has been honoured in Halifax.