Bombing missions with ex-NHLer recalled

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Young volleyball player loves sports

By Lyle Carter


Eric MacMillan is keeping an eye on the Stanley Cup playoffs these days.

Fact is the 88-year-old Upper Onslow resident has been a fan of the sport for more than 70 years.

"I remember the enjoyment we got from playing hockey back in the 1940s and earlier," said MacMillan. "We had a lot of fun playing on outdoor ice.

"I did play a couple years for Colchester County Academy and after that I played a few games for the North River Aces in the Truro District Hockey League."

But his favourite hockey story dates to the Second World War.

"In 1944, while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, a young bomb-aimer by the name of Ernie Dickens became my roommate," recalled MacMillan, who was a a navigator and gunner.

The pair flew together with a seven-man crew and ran into some serious trouble over Germany during one mission.

"We were forced to land at Manston, an emergency landing field in England. Our aircraft was badly shot up and had to be taken out of service."

Shortly afterwards, the crew filed into a nearby mess hall and Dickens gave MacMillan a shout.

"Hey Mac, look here."

MacMillan and Dickens then viewed a calendar on a wall with the names and pictures of Toronto Maple Leafs who were serving in the war.

And there, front and centre, was a picture of Dickens who, prior to enlisting in the military two years earlier, was a defenceman who had played 23 regular season and playoff games with the Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs. Those 1941-42 Leafs, in fact, were famous for overcoming a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in the final.

"You can't imagine how I felt," recalled MacMillan. "Here I was, a 19-year-old kid from Nova Scotia flying with one of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It was really something to me and during a time when Toronto's Syl Apps and Gordie Drillon were national heroes."

Dickens and MacMillan went in different directions shortly after coming close to being shot down over Germany.

"I was happy to learn later that Ernie had survived the war," MacMillan said.

Dickens played briefly with the Leafs in 1945-46 and later would spend four full seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

He died in 1985.

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An inactive lifestyle is the bane of many young people nowadays.

That description doesn't, however, apply to Josh Dorey, a 14-year-old Princeton Heights resident who especially enjoys competitive sports.

"You meet a lot of people through sports," Dorey said. "I enjoy learning new things and I love competing."

Dorey, a rookie volleyball player with the Truro Tide (16 & under) enjoyed a special moment recently at the provincial championships in Halifax.

Playing against the Dalhousie Tigers, Kentville Waves, Amherst and Halifax, the Tide played five matches and won 10 straight games.

"It was nice to go undefeated and win provincials," Dorey said. "It was a real good experience. Everyone on our team was right in it. Every player contributed fully.

"I thought that it was a great year. We played in seven tournaments, more than 50 games and we went undefeated."

Tide coach Paul Tufts feels Dorey has a bright future.

"This is the first year Josh played club volleyball," Tufts said. "Josh was a defensive specialist. We're expecting more play for Josh during coming years."

Dorey can't wait until next season.

"I'm looking forward to playing again," he said. "We'll have a number of real good players coming up from under-14. We'll be strong again."

Dorey also plays volleyball and basketball for Bible Hill Junior High. A participant with both the ski club and bike club in Bible Hill, previously he spent six years in gymnastics.

"I carried the Rick Hansen medal during the fall in the Run for Life," he said. "I love playing pond hockey and I'm a fan of the Truro Bearcats in junior hockey."

Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.



Organizations: Toronto Maple Leafs, Colchester County Academy, Truro District Hockey League Canadian Air Force Detroit Red Wings 4 Chicago Blackhawks Dalhousie Tigers Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Germany, England, Halifax Nova Scotia Toronto Bible Hill Princeton Heights Amherst

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