‘We had a great following. It was a very exciting time.’
As most local hockey fans are aware, the Truro Bearcats will play their final Maritime Junior Hockey League game at Colchester Legion Stadium tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Eastlink Division-leading Yarmouth Mariners will be the visitors.
Afterwards, most of the top-level hockey events will take place across town at the new Rath Eastlink Community Centre, but the old rink certainly produced plenty of great memories since its opening in 1965.
“During the first two years, intermediate A hockey drew large crowds at the stadium,” recalled Win Matheson, a star forward with the Brookfield Elks. “We (the Elks) won back-to-back Nova Scotia championships beginning in 1965-66.”
In 1967-68, the Truro Bearcats joined the APC (Antigonish-Pictou-Colchester) Junior B Hockey League and won the league championship before losing to the Windsor Royals in the mainland finals.
A great early stadium moment saw a reported 3,300 fans file through the gates for the third game of the mainland final on March 14, 1968, a 7-5 Royals decision.
“I played during the Bearcats first four seasons,” said Randy Crowell, the team’s leading scorer three seasons in a row. “We joined the Metro Valley Junior B Hockey League the second year.
“We had a great following. It was a very exciting time. We were mostly local players playing under a coach, Hugh Matheson, who knew how to win. We had our share of championships and it has all led to lifetime friendships. Fans still occasionally share stadium memories from more than 40 years ago.”
Tom Guinan of Truro has been a regular at the stadium over the years, faithfully supporting junior B, senior and junior A Bearcats squads.
“It’s hard to know where to start when recalling great moments at the stadium,” he said. “Those early junior B championships certainly produced exciting times and we were all very proud of the TSN Bearcats winning the Allan Cup (national championship) in 1997-98.
“For the past 15 years, it’s been great watching these very competitive junior A Bearcats. This is a high-calibre hockey and we’ve had a couple championships to boot. Owner Stu Rath deserves a lot of credit for the kind of hockey we’ve got to watch in Truro these past 20 to 25 years.”
Doug MacKenzie, of Salmon River, has also been a staunch fan.
“A great moment for me was as a teenager during the late 1960s,” said MacKenzie, the longtime recreation director for the Town of Truro. “We stood in long lineups outside the stadium to get a ticket for a Junior B Bearcats game.
“Later, there was the competitiveness of those Truro TSN Bearcats teams during some great senior series against strong New Brunswick teams and then came the transition to junior A hockey. I love the youthful energy these young Bearcats players bring to the rink. It’s hard to describe the excitement each year when playoff time comes around.”
Yes, there are many wonderful and historic moments associated with the Colchester Legion Stadium and it still appears to be in great condition, thanks in part to a $2.3 million upgrade a couple of years ago.
Hopefully, the next 20 to 25 years will see many fine young hockey players continue to enjoy recreation, competition and development at the popular rink. Leisure skating and adult activities should also ensure that it remains an integral part of the local sports scene for years to come.
TAGLINE: Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.