Pictou Advocate sports

Too bad it’s not all three of them

Sports

From the very beginning — some 37 years ago now — there were three of them.

Always three.

They were born in New Glasgow, within eight months of one another, during what was the 1977-78 hockey season. Even before starting school, they were ready for minor hockey. New Glasgow Stadium would become their second home.

For all three.

They were determined to excel in the sport — always as teammates — as they progressed through novice, atom, peewee and bantam ranks.

When they graduated to Pictou County’s AAA midget program, all three were with the local side. By then, hockey followers knew they had a trio of promising youngsters in their midst.

Next came the first big jump to major junior. That sent them in different directions in pursuit of their dreams.

Jon Sim, a forward, spent his major junior years with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting. Colin White, a defenceman, starred in the Quebec circuit, almost entirely with the Hull Olympiques. Derrick Walser, another blueliner, split his major junior days with the Quebec league’s Beauport Harfangs and Rimouski Oceanic.

All three knew the next step would be to professional hockey.

Then came the 1996 NHL draft. Sim was drafted 70th overall by the Dallas Stars. White was chosen 49th by the New Jersey Devils. Walser, considered a bit small for defence, wasn’t selected, but signed later as a free agent with the Calgary Flames.

Pictonians don’t need to be reminded of the years that followed. They’re fully aware of the threesome’s season-by-season adventures. All three achieved long careers in the pros.

Jump ahead to October 2019.

It’s hard to believe, but Sim reached age 42 last month, White will be 42 in December, Walser next May.

So what’s happening with them?

Two of them — Sim and White — are being inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame at ceremonies in Westville this Saturday.

Both earned their hometown recognition after distinguished careers in the NHL. Their successes included Stanley Cup championships — one for Sim, two for White.

It’s truly a pleasure to join Pictonians in congratulating them on this new milestone. I know how they’ll feel. It seems only yesterday that I entered the hall — yet it was 24 years ago.

Right now, though, there’s something on my mind that I must address with a question mark: Where’s Walser?

Unfortunately, he wasn’t chosen to accompany his two friends into the hall. In my mind, his absence leaves a very noticeable void.

It would have been a wonderful story if the three minor hockey teammates were united again on this memorable day.

So why only two?

First thought, Derrick didn’t spend nearly as much time in the NHL as Jon and Colin, but — get this — he did play 1,087 games in professional leagues. That’s a lot of hockey. It’s also quite a significant feat.

Don’t overlook the fact that, yes, he did play in the world’s highest league, appearing in 91 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

I took myself into the files of Wikipedia, the major on-line site that calls itself “the free encyclopedia.” I analyzed the arithmetic and it’s rather amazing — the three New Glasgow guys are so close in pro games played.

My math concluded that Walser was in 1,087 pro contests — 91 in the NHL, 460 in the AHL, 536 in major European leagues.

The others?

Sim played 968 pro games — 484 in the NHL, 174 in the International League, 245 in the AHL 65 in Europe. White’s statistics show he was in 1,134 games — 911 in the NHL, the remaining 223 in the AHL.

Just look at the total — the three played 3,189 professional games. That’s about 45 years of hockey. Pretty awesome, I think.

From a Pictou County perspective, the only comparison would be with Thorburn’s Lowell MacDonald, always considered the top local player of our generation. In 13 NHL seasons – very limited because of injuries and other situations – he was in 536 games.

The math would indicate Sim, White and Walser all achieved commendable careers in the pros. All three lived their early childhood dreams.

That’s why I believe so strongly that all three — not just two — should be entering the hall together.

Okay, there may have been justifiable reasons why the selection committee made its decisions. It isn’t easy serving on such a group.

After I was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 2003, I was asked to serve on the provincial selection committee. I did so for 10 years.

That’s where I discovered — very quickly — that there are reasons, arguments and situations that come into play in making selections.

Ironically, it was on that committee that a Pictou County hockey player was the centre of my frustrations, the reason I resigned from the group after a decade.

During those 10 years, Nelson Wilson’s nomination came before us several times. Each year I argued how, in his injury-shortened career in senior hockey, he scored more than 300 goals. His scoring and other achievements, to me, exceeded those of many hockey players from other parts of the province who were inducted into the Halifax-based hall. My repeated arguments kept falling on deaf ears.

I had watched Wilson playing throughout his career. I probably saw more than two-thirds of his performances, at home and on the road. The fact some of my committee colleagues weren’t even born when the New Glasgow star achieved so much was another cause of my frustration.

But getting back to the Sim-White-Walser situation, I don’t need to be told that what’s been done has been done.

I’m just left to hope that, sometime in the near future, those kids who fell in love with hockey together in the early 1980s will once again be linked.

All three of them.