As I drove over Mount Thom towards New Glasgow last Wednesday, my favourite radio station fading off in the distance behind me, I was left alone with a lot of thoughts going through my mind.
Thoughts of Brad Marchand.
I thought of the 2003-04 hockey season in which the Hammonds Plains native scored 47 goals and 89 points in just 49 games with the Dartmouth Subways in the AAA midget league. He had impressed me a great deal in the games I attended. He looked like a kid with a very bright future.
I thought of his four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League when he scored over 100 goals with three different franchises. I remembered in particular the games I watched him when he was playing with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2007-08. He’s going to make it as a pro, I surmised.
I thought of his nine years with the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins, in which he scored over 20 goals in seven of those years, including 110 goals in the last three seasons. He had made it and, a few months ago, I wrote a column linking him to Cole Harbour’s Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon. The awesome threesome from Metro.
But those good things on my mind quickly switched to the bad incidents, the ugly incidents, the ones that led to six suspensions and three fines. Every time I turned to a Bruins game on television, I wondered – and worried – what’s he going to do tonight?
Sadly, the worst was still to come.
The “licking incidents,” as they’re being called, lowered the Marchand image to its lowest level of his hockey career. There were just too many ridiculous, disrespectful and disgusting actions that cannot be tolerated. Childish, idiotic actions, embarrassing actions that are destroying all he has achieved since his minor hockey days.
You may have seen the Associated Press article in which Marchand admits he must “really take a pretty hard look in the mirror” and realize the actions, some of the things he’s been doing, must be ended. I find it hard to imagine, however, that he’ll stick to that challenge.
By this time, I had arrived at my destination — a visitation at the P & K MacDonald Funeral Home on Merigomish Road.
As is often the case, I had conversations with several acquaintances — inside the funeral home and outside in the parking lot. One of the people I chatted with briefly was old pal Courtney Malcolm.
A few minutes later, I was heading back over Mount Thom.
Again I was left with my thoughts as I drove home – but this time they were very different thoughts. Not thoughts of Brad Marchand, but thoughts of Courtney Malcolm.
You may wonder why.
Well, you see, much earlier — about 70 years ago — I had watched a 16-year-old Courtney Malcolm playing senior hockey with New Glasgow in the APC Hockey League at the old Arena down by the East River. Soon I was learning about his budding career that seemed to be moving towards the NHL.
So how could I possibly attach Courtney’s long-ago hockey career to an embarrassment like Marchand?
I’ll try to explain.
I was just nine years old when I saw the kid from south-end New Glasgow playing senior with the likes of Boots Baird, Tiger Mackie and Alex Robertson.
Courtney went away a few years after that and, in the fall of 1952, he was in Guelph, Ont., attending a New York Rangers training camp. As was the case for other hopefuls, it was the pivotal time for the young Pictonian.
But fate intervened.
During a workout, he was skating towards the opposition net when he fell on something ingrained in the ice. He wound up crashing into the goal post.
There were no helmets or face masks in those days and, besides suffering severe leg injuries, blood poured from his head.
A promising career ended that day.
He was taken to hospital where he remained for two months. Surgery after surgery failed to correct his damaged leg.
Finally, returning to New Glasgow, he began working as a sports reporter with the Evening News. He walked with a cane.
It wasn’t the end of his story.
After covering a game in Stellarton one night, he fell on the sidewalk. He wound up with a built-up shoe. He would later try some hockey in the local commercial league, and he began refereeing.
He left the News, taking a job at the car works in Trenton. Unfortunately, once again fate interrupted. He fell and broke his leg, this time in a different place. There were more surgeries, more hospital time. He missed work for 18 months.
Malcolm, the kind of guy any community would love to have, got married, had a family and volunteered for many events and causes around town.
Yet that one thing lingered on his mind — what would it have been like to have played, even one game, with the New York Rangers?
“It would have been nice,” he told me once.
The other day, unintentionally, my thoughts mashed Marchand’s career with Malcolm’s.
Marchand, who turned 30 last week, got all the breaks and wound up being a star — a position he obviously hasn’t been able to handle properly.
Meanwhile, Malcolm, now 87, remains the good guy he always has been, wondering what might have been – and showing us that he had the character to overcome the circumstances that fate had dealt him.
I’ve admired Courtney Malcolm ever since that year I watched the 16-year-old competing with players twice his age.
I remain proud to call him a friend.
As for Brad Marchand, here’s one old hockey follower who will no longer link him with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon.
He doesn’t deserve the recognition.