Editor’s Note: April 1 marked the first week Hugh Townsend hadn’t written anything for a newspaper in 66 years — 3,431 weeks to be exact. He has been writing for The Advocate for 16 years, having written more than 832 columns. While our regular columnists are on temporary hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hugh offers this new perspective…
I became acquainted with Hughie Sim almost four decades ago.
He was coaching the East Hants novice hockey team that included his two oldest sons, Mike and Jon. Our son Graham was the goaltender for the Cole Harbour Wings in the same league.
I quickly took an interest in Hughie when I discovered he was Westville-born. But heck, that wasn’t anything new with me. I was always curious about anybody from Pictou County.
I didn’t realize at the time that the Sim name would become prominent at every level of the sport.
Hughie had started hockey at the Stellarton Memorial Rink when he and some of his pals would hitch-hike from Westville. He once told me, “We’d spend the whole day at the rink, then hitch-hike back to Westville.”
He went on to play for Westville High, then for Fraser MacLean’s New Glasgow Junior Bombers in what was then the Metro Valley league. His career ended with the Saint Mary’s Huskies in university hockey when a serious knee injury halted his athletic dream. Instead, he became a banker.
He wound up in North River, P.E.I., where he was encouraged by former NHL player Forbes Kennedy to get into coaching, Later his AAA midget team made it to the Air Canada Cup in Halifax. He was bitten by the coaching bug.
I had scouted for the Toronto Maple Leafs through the 1960s, so I was particularly interested in Hughie when I discovered he did the same thing with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Sim story sure didn’t end with Hughie. His three boys — the youngest, Andrew, had joined Mike and Jon in the Pictou County minor program after their dad was transferred to New Glasgow.
For Pictou County folks — and fans beyond — the Sim brothers were soon better known than the old fella.
Mike, now 44 years old and an investment advisor with the TD bank in Halifax, played junior hockey with the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario league, then enjoyed a great university run while obtaining degrees from Acadia and the University of New Brunswick. He had a brief minor pro career after that.
Jon, now 42 and a very successful coach in local hockey circles, climbed the hockey ladder to the very top, winning a Stanley Cup championship with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99. That brought the big silverware to the county for an unforgettable celebration.
He had a well-travelled career in professional ranks, playing with eight different NHL clubs, Dallas, the Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders. He also was with six minor pro organizations, and had stints with teams in three European countries.
Let’s not forget about Andrew. The young guy — now 38 — got his reputation as a goaltender and became talented enough to play for four Ontario junior clubs, followed by a year with the Halifax Oland Exports in the Maritime circuit, and four campaigns with St. Thomas University. He’s now with Sobeys in Halifax, where he’s a director of sales for Atlantic Canada.
No wonder, years ago, Hughie made these comments when we chatted about the three brothers: “I’m pretty proud. I think they’ve all done well in the situations that they’ve been in. They’ve all worked hard. I think they got where they did because there was just no quit in any of them. They didn’t know what the word quit meant.”
So is that where the curtain came down on the Sim hockey story? No way. It has simply moving on to a third generation.
Pictonians who keep track of hockey matters know all about it.
The much-travelled Jon equalled his dad in another category — having three sons. And yes, they’re all hockey-playing sons. How could it be any other way?
Landon, a 15-year-old, who played this past winter with the Pictou County Weeks Midgets, is the one who has brought the family name back into the spotlight. The news is out all over town that Landon has been drafted by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. It happened in what is called the OHL’s priority selection draft.
And grandfather Hughie?
It gives him another reason to be proud. He knows a door has been opened for the third generation of the family. And, though he knows there’s still a long road ahead for the youngster, he’ll be cheering that Landon follows in the footsteps of his dad and two uncles.
There’s something else worthy of mention. It should be noted that this isn’t the only minor hockey player with the Sim name these days. Lane, a 12-year-old, played AAA peewee this season, while Ewan, at nine, was on the AA atom squad. No one will be surprised if they, too, develop into future prospects.
Though he’s not old enough yet to drive a car, Landon showed he is mature enough to be a very excited youngster after hearing last week’s news.
“It was awesome,” he told New Glasgow sportswriter Adam MacInnis. “That was the team I wanted to go to. It’s so cool. It’s such a big-market team. Everyone knows them. It’s just an awesome place to play.”
Well-known Mark Hunter, general manager of the London team, had watched Landon in Pictou County during the 2019-20 season. He is reported to have told Jon he was impressed with the youngster’s tenacity and skill.
Adjectives like those certainly sound familiar when addressing players with that three-letter surname.
Is another Sim about to be on the way to something big?
Don’t bet against him.
In the meantime, his dad sounds very much like the family patriarch sounded to me a generation ago.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jon told the New Glasgow writer, “when you watch your kids and the love of the game is there.”
For sure, it’s clearly a case of deja vu all over again.