Pictou Advocate sports

‘The other side of Mount Thom’


When I realized Mount Thom would be pertinent in this week’s column, my curiosity took me online to see what the rest of the universe says about the countryside way up there on the big hill.

It was humorous.

This is what one source revealed: “Although we found mention of Mount Thom during our research, we really don’t have any information about it.”

There was an extra note: “The area where we believe that Mount Thom might be located is in the Atlantic time zone.”

Nothing more.

Heck, I knew all about Mount Thom before my age reached double digits. Sitting in the back seat as our family headed for Halifax in the middle of winter, I got a lesson in what “always snowing” meant.

Three-plus decades later, as our kids occupied the back seat on our way to the county, they discovered Mount Thom, too. For a different reason. As we came over the brow of the hill, seeing the smoky effluent rising from the pulp mill in the distance, one of our sons always announced: “There’s the smoke. We’re in Pictou County.”

Okay, none of this has anything to do with sports. But for old Pictonians of my generation, Mount Thom always meant something when going to sports events, especially hockey in January and February.

Travelling the old, winding road to games in Truro and beyond, there was always the worry of an unexpected storm. On many trips, I wondered if we’d get back home.

Jump forward to 2018.

Any sports-loving fan in the county knows who Ken Reid is. The Pictou-raised anchor at Sportsnet in Toronto is well-known in his hometown. Not just because his dad was a prominent doctor and politician.

Well, there’s another Sportsnet personality who has become familiar, regardless of which sports you follow.

I speak of Arash Madani.

If he needs an intro, I like to use a Ken Reid comment to identify the guy. Often, when facing the cameras, Ken refers to his colleague and friend as the guy from “the other side of Mount Thom.”

To be precise, Arash is from Truro.

Guess what he did while going to Colchester County Academy? He wrote sports for the Truro Daily News.

After getting a business administration degree at Bishop’s University, he was a public relations voice with two Canadian Football League franchises. He joined Sportsnet in 2009.

If you’re as faithful a Sportsnet viewer as I am — my living room TV is almost always on their channels — you know Arash gets around. Boy, he gets around.

This time of year, he’s a regular on Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts. In fall, winter and spring, he’s on Hockey Night in Canada. He’s been to several Olympics, and covered a number of World Series, Super Bowls, Grey Cups and NBA championships.

Whatever he does, wherever he goes, he’s a class act.

Ken first met Arash in Ottawa when the guy from the other side of Mount Thom was working for the Ottawa Renegades. That relationship has grown since the two Nova Scotians became Sportsnet colleagues.

Reid and I keep in touch with each other by email — almost always addressing things that have a Pictou County flavour. The other day, though, I asked him for a comment on Madani.

His reply: “He is one of the best reporters in the business. A true talent.”

I agree.

Thinking of the other side of Mount Thom, I recall many sports events with Pictou County teams playing against Truro opponents.

Always big rivalries.

In my growing-up years, in my early years in the media, my heart was always with clubs from the county.

In the Halifax and District Baseball League era, the Stellarton Albions were my favourites. I guess that was a natural choice, since they won three consecutive championships. Stellarton’s biggest arch-rival? The team from the other side of Mount Thom — the Truro Bearcats. Wow, as a kid, did I ever hate them.

Later, when the Twilight Senior Baseball League was the summertime thing, Pictou County fans had the Stellarton Keiths, Westville Miners, North End Cardinals and New Glasgow Bombers to choose from. Oh yes, the Bearcats often provided “outside” opposition.

It was a similar situation in hockey. Wherever you looked, there were Bearcats in the visitors dressing rooms.

The old APC Senior League that I grew up watching had different teams to support in the county. The New Glasgow Rangers won several championships. The Pictou Maripacs did it once, as did the Stellarton Royals. And — no surprise — the Truro Bearcats were never far away. As a youngster, I hated them, as well.

Current hockey fans of the competitive Pictou County Crushers are just as familiar with opponents called the Truro Bearcats. From the early years in the Metro Valley league, to the present Maritime Junior circuit, they’ve been arch-rivals, too.

I often get reminders of long-ago rivalries with Truro. Recently, the phone rang and the resulting conversation lasted for almost an hour. It was Johnny Graham, a name from the past in Nova Scotia baseball. We had a wonderful chat.

Johnny was a left-handed pitcher with the H&D Truro Bearcats. Indeed, he was a good one — a Nova Scotian among American imports.

He starred for Truro when they won the title in 1958, Stellarton’s final year in the league. Two other prominent Nova Scotians on that club were veterans Chook Maxwell and Danny Seaman. Another familiar Bearcat was pitcher Leo Parent, a big guy who earlier had some great days with the Albions.

A few days after that phone conversation, a letter arrived in my mailbox — with a photo of Johnny Graham and Leo Parent together in Bearcats uniforms. The picture sparked more good remembrances.

Yes, whenever you reminisce about Truro sports, there are lots of interesting recollections coming from the other side of Mount Thom.

Just ask Truro folks like Arash Madani and Johnny Graham.