By Vincent Joyce
EDITOR’S NOTE: Vince Joyce is a sports fan and former Pictou resident now living in Halifax. In his younger years, he used to write hockey reports for The Pictou Advocate under the alias Hamburger Harry.
One of Nova Scotia’s greatest hockey teams has almost been forgotten with the passing of time. This team nearly won every game it played and it packed the old Halifax Forum to the rafters. The team in question is the Halifax Junior Canadians. From 1965 to 1969, this team played out of the Forum and it played to sold out crowds.
In the spring of 1965, Fred McGillivray Sr. and Mike Kelly travelled to Montreal, Que., and they finalized the plan for the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadians to sponsor a Junior Team in Halifax. This started one of the greatest teams in Junior A Hockey that the Maritimes has ever seen then and now. The Halifax Junior Canadians won the Nova Scotia Junior A title and The Maritime JuniorA title three consecutive years in a row.
The Halifax Junior Canadians played as an independent team playing local teams from across Canada and they also played the top Russian National Team that came over to play teams from every province. The Junior Canadians stood their ground for a while and Fraser “Plummie” Rice and Bobby Sheenen scored the first goals against the Russians, but the Russian team proved too strong, winning the game. In 1968-69 they played crowd-pleasing games against the touring Swedish and Japanese teams.
The Halifax Junior Canadians had many great players that went on to play in the National Hockey League — players like Buster Harvey, Errol Thompson, Bobby Sheehan and Mike Hornby, just to mention a few. Our local Pictou boy, Fraser Rice, was drafted by The Boston Bruins of the NHL and from there he went on to play in the Ontario Senior A League. He also was the team’s Most Valuable Player and he won the Ontario League scoring title. Players like Gary Geldart, Wayne Maxner, and Jamie Kennedy played semi-pro through the years after they started with the Halifax Junior Canadians
Others like Roddy Bossy went on to be great university stars. He won the university scoring title and the league’s Most Valuable Player several times. Also, Mike Hornby, the Saint Mary’s University hockey star, led the Maritime Intercollege League in scoring while smashing the all-time assist record. In 1968 he was named Saint Mary’s athlete of the year and was awarded a gold medal.
Other great hockey players were Mike Kinsman, Gary Withers, Jim Moore, Bob Stoddart and Bob Shannon, just to mention a few more from the Halifax Junior Canadians. Many players are still playing Old Timers Hockey today. I could go on and on and on but I’ll stop here.
Fred McGillivray (president/general manager) and Mike Kelly (vice-president), who have been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, have called the Halifax Junior Canadians “one of the greatest teams they have ever been involved with”; yet after 50-plus year this great team has never been recognized or inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.
I put an application in to the Hall of Fame to have the Halifax Junior Canadians inducted. In 2016 the form was sent in and it was accepted. Since then, the Hall of Fame have inducted a university basketball team who, in 1978, won the national championship. The other two years they did not induct a team of any sport. It was not because they did not have a team that they could have inducted because they have The Halifax Junior Canadians file. By the way, should there be a team inducted each and every year. In 2019, they decided to induct five athletes and two coaches, not fair to the teams. Does not make sense. Something’s wrong here.
Read Hugh Townsend’s article in The Advocate on October 16, 2019, “HE’S RIGHT”. What’s going on? How can we get the Halifax Junior Canadians inducted? We have already put in the application, been accepted, the Halifax Junior Canadians have already proven and shown how great a team that they were, the two big guys — Mr. McGillivery and Mr. Kelly — have made great statements about their team and many indorsement letters along with many old newspaper clippings have been sent in to prove how great the team was.
Are there any old hockey fans out there who remember this great team and can help me? Send me an endorsement letter to put in my files to show your support and most important, send one to the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. Something has to be done to help this great team. It is time this team receives the honour and respect it should have received many, many years ago. The Halifax Junior Canadians need your support — both past and present — to have them take their place in the history of hockey.