Pictou Advocate sports

Nicholson hails work by Sandy MacDonald


PICTOU — A local hockey historian and retired educator has rekindled his memories of a devoted hockey instructor who is originally from Pictou.

Jim Nicholson became aware that Sandy MacDonald had a youth hockey program named after him, while a charity event was organized to generate funds for the program in February at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The event consisted of a charity hockey game that included alumni with the NHL’s New York Rangers, whose club is affiliated with the program.

The Sandy MacDonald Youth Hockey League’s purpose is to help bring hockey to under-served communities through groups that include the civic center and the Rangers.

The funds will first offset the cost of acquiring equipment and other items for the under-10 youngsters who join the program.

“I’ve known him all my life,” said Nicholson, who noted he and MacDonald keep in touch and frequently exchange greetings and conversations. “He was into hockey big-time. He was a very good hockey player, and his work at the rink was always above and beyond. He was able to motivate people and organize things.”

MacDonald grew up in Pictou and was 11 years old when the town’s rink got the town’s first artificial ice.

He attended one of Nova Scotia’s first hockey schools for three summers in Kentville and later joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

He left the RCAF a year later in 1966 to play junior hockey in Cape Breton.

An ankle injury sidelined him from pro hockey in the fall of 1969, which altered MacDonald’s life.

He applied for a job as assistant rink manager and hockey director at the Harvey School Skating Rink in Katonah, N.Y.

The ice rink and school manager was the late Bob Naylor, who had already established an international referee school, a summer high school hockey league, a figure skating camp and a summer resident hockey camp.

MacDonald established his hockey development clinic that emphasized skill development over youngsters’ travelling to play hockey games.

He enjoyed an association with Boston University, whose varsity hockey team at the time included Pictou native Dave Wisener.

MacDonald later became ice arena director at the civic center’s McCann Ice Arena in the late 1970s, when his association with the Rangers organization began.