During a visit to Nova Scotia last week Denis Potvin looked very good, perhaps even good enough to take a few shifts in an NHL game.
Potvin, now 56, the former star defenceman with New York Islanders, was in the Annapolis Valley to speak at a fundraising banquet for the Acadia Axemen hockey club. Also booked for microphone duty was Islander's rookie blue-liner and former Truro Bearcats standout Andrew MacDonald.
Sports Scene had the opportunity to talk with both Potvin and MacDonald at the Port Williams home of Dr. Adam Clark the night before their speaking engagements. The Kentville cardiologist, an avid hockey follower and the owner of a unique collection of hockey memorabilia, hosted an outstanding reception for banquet sponsors, head table speakers and guests.
Potvin was both a star and a key contributor when the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups between 1979 and 1983. He won the James Norris Trophy as the National Hockey League's top defenceman in ‘76, ‘78 and ‘79. Besides playing in nine NHL all-star games, Potvin had numerous 20-goal seasons during his 15-year career. Remarkably, in 1975-76, the Ottawa native scored 31 goals and added 67 assists for 98 points. Then, in 1978-79, he topped that with 31 goals and 70 assists for 101 points. Outstanding at moving the puck, Potvin starred on defence for Team Canada in 1972 when they enjoyed the dramatic win over Russia in the famous Summit Series.
Potvin noticeably had a way with the kids during the evening. Appearing very considerate, he made the young people feel very much part of the occasion.
MacDonald, the Judique, Cape Breton native, was more than happy to talk about the two hockey seasons he played in Truro. After we had discussed his breaking into the New York Islanders' lineup in 2009-10, I asked, "when the name, Truro Bearcats, comes up, what is the first thing that comes to mind?"
The well-conditioned defenceman smiled and appeared to start to laugh as he answered. "Shawn Evans. Yes, I think of Shawn. He was that kind of coach and GM. Just a terrific hockey man and I liked playing for Stu Rath. Stu is an owner who wants to win. Every player enjoyed playing for Stu and the Bearcats organization."
MacDonald told me that he has a number of friends in Truro who he keeps in touch with. We reflected back to the championship season of 2004-05, MacDonald's second season playing for the Bearcats. He anchored a defence that season which included Rodi Short, Ryan Neaves, Matt Beaver and Jamie Barbour. The goaltenders were Matt Iorianni and Cory Chipman. Offensively, Truro boasted the likes of Glen Frazee, who captained the team, T.J. Smith, Kenzie MacLean, David MacBurnie, Brett Boschman, Danny and Tim Hollet and Shane Nolan.
"I appreciate what Truro did for me," MacDonald said. "The Bearcat organization brought me along. I often think of those days. Looking to the future, I want to be ready for the Islanders' training camp in the fall."
It was nice to meet Dennis Vial, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario who now resides in Port Williams with his family. The big left-winger was a force when playing in the NHL with both New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings before joining Ottawa Senators for three seasons. Several members of the Acadia Axemen were also in attendance as were a dozen or more polite young people.
Robert Matheson, of Brookfield, Dr. Clark's wife Rebecca's uncle, attended the recent reception with his son G.R. Matheson of Dartmouth.
"I always enjoy getting down," Matheson said. "Last year, Jean Beliveau was here and the year before it was Gordie Howe. Not bad company at all."
Matheson, who attended the fundraising banquet the following night in Wolfville, told me that Denis Potvin gave a very interesting talk.
"Denis was really outstanding as a speaker, I enjoyed his comments on playing defence, knowing where your forwards are and getting the puck to them," said Matheson, a former defenceman himself.
Attending the gathering on an invite from my brother-in-law, Kentville's Dr. ‘Ageless' Don Seaman, it certainly was an enjoyable night.
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It was great to talk with Randy Paris last week. Home visiting from Sudbury, Ont. Paris said: "I went to Sudbury in 1959 when I was 19."
A fine athlete, Paris had starred in local hockey with Truro Juvenile Bearcats and Hilden Owls and was a fleet-footed centre-fielder in baseball with Truro Sheiks. Arriving in Sudbury, he played baseball for Copper Cliff Red Wings and in senior hockey he teamed up with Truroians Ray Mentis and Gordie Maxwell.
"I'm home visiting my sisters Gwen Paris and Carol Parker," the former 32-year employee of Inco International Nichol, told me. "It's always nice to get back home to Truro."