It doesn’t matter when or where the subject comes up.
It can be during a morning discussion with friends at Tim Hortons. It can be while sitting in a local rink watching a minor hockey game. It can be when meeting up with someone during a walk in the neighbourhood.
Anywhere, anytime, it’s a topic that always rattles my chains.
If you want to get me going, just bring up the number of teams from Pictou County that have been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
Do you know how many? Or should I ask, do you know how few?
Or try this one: How many of the county’s hockey teams are in the hallowed hall?
For a county with so many championship clubs through the last 100 years, it’s a situation that doesn’t make me laugh.
Just so you’ll know, there have been two softball franchises, one baseball club and a track and field team that have been admitted.
Interestingly, there were two teams from just before the Second World War that made it. The 1937 New Glasgow High School track team was given the nod in 1980, the year the revived hall was doing a catchup of entries. The 1937-38 Stellarton Monarchs softball team got the okay in 1989.
Interesting, too, the other two clubs were feted in the provincial hall after achieving similar three-in-a-row championships. They were the Stellarton Albions, who won the Halifax and District Baseball League in 1951, ‘52 and ‘53, and the Thorburn Mohawks, who captured Maritime junior softball crowns in 1963, ‘64 and ‘65.
Take nothing away from the successful recipients. Each and every one was deserving.
The NGHS track team won the Canadian junior championship in Calgary 80 years ago under Harold Smith, a former road runner himself.
Vernon MacDonald, who was always described as fleet-footed, captured the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes. Bob MacDonald won the quarter-mile event and Herb Mills took the half-mile. But it was the one-mile relay that made the squad famous. MacDonald, Mills, John McCormick and Murray McLeod set a national record.
Two of the New Glasgow runners, though registered in the junior level of competition, also competed in the senior division and did well there, too. Bob MacDonald posted a third in the senior quarter-mile, and Vernon MacDonald was fourth in the 100-yard dash. Meantime, in the field events, Bill Moore placed third in the javelin and discus.
The track success was the year before I was born, so I only know what has been handed down by oldtimers and newspapers. Alex Nickerson, sports columnist in the Halifax Herald, had quoted coach Harold Smith in 1936 as predicting New Glasgow would win the Canadian title. Wrote Nickerson: “In many quarters that statement was greeted with amused chuckles. The chuckles turned to cheers a year later.”
The Stellarton Monarchs won back-to-back Nova Scotia senior championships in 1937 and ‘38, and they added a Maritime title in 1937. Best known of those players were Clary Potts, John (Twit) Clarke, Ernie Works and George Whytewood. The club was known for its strengths in batting, pitching and fielding.
The other Stellarton team, the Albions, were the only club in the legendary H&D League to win three straight titles. They did it with powerful lineups, under coach Bill Brooks. Most of the players were young Americans, but locals Harry Reekie, Syd Roy and John (Brother) MacDonald played big roles. No other club won three championships in a row. The H&D circuit provided the highest calibre of ball ever played in the province.
The Thorburn Junior Mohawks took their three straight Maritime crowns with a talented group of teenagers who gave their best under coach Tommy Forsyth. Allan MacLaughlin and Gordie MacKinnon were the best pitchers on the team — and they were also the best hitters. But it was still a team effort each summer that produced the victories.
What amazes me and bothers me at the same time is the fact there hasn’t been a single Pictou County hockey team inducted provincially. Not the New Glasgow Rangers. Not the New Glasgow Junior Bombers. Not the Stellarton Royals. Not the Pictou Maripacs. Not the Trenton Junior Scotias. Yet all of them were champions at one time or another.
Hey, not even the Pictou County Rugby Team that won seven Nova Scotia championships and four Maritime titles in an eight-year period in the 1970s have made it.
To be fair, the Nova Scotia hall has not neglected the inductions of individuals. In the athlete, builder and media categories, they have been more than generous. For instance, when I was inducted in 2003, alongside me were hockey and baseball player and coach Leo Fahey, golfer Graham MacIntyre and baseball pitcher Clyde Roy.
After my own induction, I served on the selection committee for 10 years. In several of those years, hockey star Nelson Wilson’s name was up for consideration. Time and time again I tried to explain what a talent he had been.
He scored more than 300 goals in senior hockey, despite having his career cut short by injury. An uncle of 13-year NHL player Lowell MacDonald, Wilson had all the makings of a professional, though he elected to stay in the county and in his career at the phone company. Every time he was up for consideration, the committee rejected him.
It may not be fair of me to single out one rejected star, but it demonstrated to me that it’s sometimes much more difficult than you would expect to win over the selection people. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, I felt they did a good job in those years.
I just don’t understand how no Pictou County hockey team has ever been voted in, and only one team in any sport — the Mohawks — has been inducted into the hall in the last 28 years.