Pictou Advocate sports

Catching up with Tom Macdonald


It’s been well-established that communications have changed greatly in this technical age in which we live. For one thing, I’ve seen it in my profession. I used to enjoy getting work-related phone calls — at the office, even at home.

That’s no longer the case.

There are far too many scam artists on the other end of the line. You know, the voice that claims to be working for the Canada Revenue Agency and wants you to phone back. Or the woman who says your credit card rate will be reduced if you provide your card number.

I reached a point where I no longer hear those ridiculous pronouncements. I simply don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize the caller’s name or number.

I prefer dealing with emails in my inbox. I can quickly determine which ones are legitimate. Most of the time, they’re fine.

Consider one I got recently.

The subject was “Remembering Pictou County” — the name of my second book. It quickly caught my interest.

“It has been a while since we last bumped into each other,” the content began, “and I have long intended to write and tell you how much I enjoy reading your articles online from the Pictou Advocate. Your recent postings have pushed me over the edge and I wanted to pass on some memories that were triggered as a result of reading them.”

How could that not make my day?

The email, referring to many of the old sports personalities I’ve written about, was from Tom Macdonald, a retiree who lives in Ottawa.

Who’s he? A former Pictonian — still one at heart — who was growing up in New Glasgow in the early 1960s, my infant years with The Chronicle Herald.

A sample of his memories: “One of your articles added (Father) Bobby Day to the equation. I remember Bobby showing up at the West Side rink when I was just a kid — maybe over Christmas — with a brand new set of (goalie) pads. Based on your article, it must have been when he was at St. FX.”

Another of Tom’s recollections: “I really enjoyed your features or anecdotes on many other memorable names such as Ernie Hafey, John (Brother) MacDonald, Alex Robertson, Jim MacDonald and Ducky MacLean. Jim and Ducky were like big brothers to me and we had lots of laughs playing golf for nickles at Abercrombie in the late 1960s.”

So who is Tom Macdonald besides being an online Advocate reader?

Well, he played hockey for New Glasgow High School — remember that grand old place that was up on Albert Street?

Starting with the 1962-63 team, he named former teammates — like co-captains Hal Dobson and Kevin Murphy; like Clint Dickson, Fred Malcolm, Lawson Breen, Barry MacDougall, goalie Richie MacPherson; like defencemen David Bain, Kirk Sutherland, John Campbell and Tom Curley.

“Many of our players,” Tom wrote, “had been with the Seven-Up Midgets that won the Maritime title two years earlier. I believe we (NGHS) were undefeated during the regular season and ran into a highly-motivated East Pictou team in the playoffs. They beat us in the first game of a two-game total-goal series (but) after a serious pep talk from (coach) John Brother, we won by several goals.

“The (provincial) finals were held in Halifax. Four teams were involved and after winning a semi-final game, we ended up beating a strong Halifax St. Pat’s team in the sudden-death final.”

That wasn’t all.

“The following week the juvenile playdowns started. Don Nelson and I went to play with the midget team (ages 15-16). John Brother had picked up two East Pictou standouts, Gerard Pellerine and Rip DeCoste, and the team won the Maritime title.”

After 1962-63, nine players graduated from school.

“There was a promising group of midget-aged players coming up behind them and Brother made the decision to keep that group together as NGHS’s ‘B’ team. The ‘A’ team was left with five returning skaters, a goalie, Francis McChesney. We played the entire season with six forwards and two defencemen, Tom Curley and Barry MacDougall. The ‘B’ team went on to win the provincial championship under Alvin Sinclair.”

The 1964-65 NGHS team, Macdonald remembers, “had 11 skaters and two goalies who came from the previous ‘B’ team. That group included Scott MacDougall, Colin Cameron, Alan Conway, Brian Murphy, Gary Morrison, Bob Sangster, Jim MacLeod, Wayne Wadden, Jim Sutherland, Brent Fraser and goalies Gary Withers and Ted Borden.

“Don Nelson and I were the only holdovers from the ‘A’ squad. We both went on to play for Dalhousie University – Don from 1965-68, and me from 1968-72. Our 1964-65 team was a group of pretty good players that seemed to fly under the radar for most of the regular season. We went on to beat a highly-regarded Kings Collegiate School 16-2 in a two-game total-goal provincial final.”

That ‘64-65 win gave the school provincial titles in three consecutive seasons.

What became of Tom Macdonald?

He joined the Royal Bank “right out of high school” in 1965. He took a leave of absence from 1968-72 to attend Dal where he received a commerce degree. He then worked with the bank until 1981, in Truro and various branches in Halifax. He later served in Saskatoon, Montreal and Calgary.

He settled in Ottawa in 1981 and joined Export Development Canada, remaining with them until 1994, providing lending support to Canadian exporters doing business in Western Europe, South America and Asia. Tom ended his working career as an international business consultant.

Now 70, he lives in Ottawa with his wife Jennifer. A son and daughter also live in the Ottawa region. Oh yes, Tom is “still enjoying playing hockey four hours a week.”

So you see what a columnist can learn just by checking emails.