The bait was too tantalizing to ignore.
Like a mother’s or grandmother’s classic recipe in a time-worn family cookbook, the essential ingredients were there to produce a nourishing topic — a friend’s idea, my own enthusiasm, plus a sports magazine’s inspiration.
The friend contacted me after seeing my column noting that I had reached my 65th anniversary in the media. “Too long a career,” he said, “not to reveal something about your favourite experiences — maybe telling us the best sports teams you’ve seen in Pictou County?”
Yes, very tempting.
More recently, Sports Illustrated, the “bible” I’ve been reading since it was first published in 1954, carried an “editor’s letter” to explain why they altered their tradition of naming an individual as “sportsperson of the year.” In a curious change, they gave the 2018 nod to a team — the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
I didn’t question the decision.
Why not honour a team if it’s deserving of such recognition? I liked their explanation, too: “Three titles in four years undeniably stamps them as a dynasty, the likes of which we might not see again amid the relentless churn of pro sports.”
The word catching my eye was “dynasty.”
Immediately I thought, that’s how I’ll follow up on my friend’s suggestion. Rather than giving my opinion on the best individual clubs – for example, the 1964-65 New Glasgow Rangers hockey team — I’ll name what I feel are the best dynasties I’ve watched on the home front.
I’ve always enjoyed and admired teams that are good enough, not just to win a championship, but to be successful for more than one season.
There have been some great ones in the pros.
In hockey, there were the Montreal Canadiens and their five consecutive Stanley Cup winners in the last half of the 1950s, the Detroit Red Wings and their seven consecutive first-place finishes between 1948-49 and 1954-55, and the Toronto Maple Leafs and their four Stanley Cups in the 1960s. I should also mention the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers.
How could such feats be ignored?
In baseball, there were the New York Yankees from just about any decade you wish to review. That’s the case when a franchise makes 40 World Series appearances, winning 27 of them. In basketball, think of the Boston Celtics and their eight consecutive NBA titles between 1958-59 and 1965-66. More recently, we can’t overlook football’s New England Patriots.
Nova Scotia, too, has had its share of dynasties.
There were hockey’s Halifax Atlantics in the early 1950s with consecutive national major senior crowns, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs and their three Calder Cup crowns in the 1970s, and the Cole Harbour Scotia Colts in junior hockey a couple decades ago. And that great Dartmouth Moosehead Dry era in baseball.
There were the hockey, basketball and football dynasties produced at St. Francis Xavier University, Acadia University and Saint Mary’s University. Each of those campuses had turns of exceptional runs. And, heaven forbid, let’s not leave out the women’s curling reign of Colleen Jones and company.
If you’re still with me, I’ll explain what I’m planning.
Keeping those professional and provincial achievements in mind, I’m going to concentrate on good old Pictou County and name what I believe are its premier dynasties. To designate a time frame, I’m going back almost three-quarters of a century, to my earliest years attending sports events as a kid.
As I’m sure you’re aware — particularly if you’re familiar with the memorabilia at the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame — there have been a number of teams that had major successes in two or more seasons. I’ve already been looking back and, I admit, it’s a huge challenge to compare one against another.
My blueprint — editor Jackie Jardine permitting — is to devote a column to each of my top three choices. Just like the Olympics – gold, silver and bronze.
Easier said than done.
I learned what it’s like to attempt to choose one team over another, one athlete over another, one executive over another, when I spent 10 years on the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame selection committee. It’s an eye-opener to see how many different views you get when a dozen or so people gather around a big table trying to make the proper decisions.
There’s much to consider.
As Sports Illustrated explained, “For all the individual brilliance of Steph Curry — a selection few would have protested — the Warriors have always been best viewed through a collective prism.”
It’s true in many cases.
Another factor that makes such an exercise more difficult is comparing teams from different sports. It’s much the same as rating individual performers, such as attempting to compare a hockey player to a boxer, or a baseball pitcher to a football quarterback.
But, I must add, it was a fun exercise weighing the pros and cons of teams I observed through the years. For a decade and a half, I was working in the county and seeing the action from the sidelines. Since then, though keeping a strong personal interest in things Pictonian, it was a bit harder to judge performances from down the road.
Oh yes, did I mention I’m going to make you wait for my choices?
I’m not giving hints right now. Instead, I’ll do it this way: Next week’s column will have my choice for the third best dynasty. The following week, I’ll do the same with my runner-up decision. Finally, on March 27, I’ll name my overall winner. A gold medallist, so to speak.
That way, I’ll try to keep interest in each selection as we move through the month of March. Let’s just say it’s my way of warming up the hot stove and getting spring here a little sooner. In the meantime, have some debates on the issue over those double-doubles at Tims.
Next week: The county’s third best dynasty.