The well-liked Mackenzie was aboard in 1997-98, the team’s inaugural season and he remained a strong presence during the Bearcats success during their first 20 seasons.
That is about to change.
“There’s an old saying, ‘if you want to get a job done go find a busy person.’ That was my reason for seeking out Gerry Hale as my replacement,” Mackenzie said. “No one in the Bearcat organization has done more than Gerry over the past 20 years with the research he’s done on visiting teams before writing the best program in the MHL by far, in addition he writes two articles a week for the Truro Daily News.”
Mackenzie flashed back to 1997.
“When we entered the MHL as an expansion team and I became president, I sought out volunteers to perform certain functions. Gerry became media relations coordinator, Harold Barkhouse statistician, Debbie Brown game events coordinator and Wayne McCormick our 50-50 coordinator.
“All three have remained in those positions for 20 years, I find that quite amazing. Freida Gabani and Larry Anthony have also performed various volunteer functions throughout the two decades.”
Mackenzie applauded Don McMillian, marketing coordinator, and Sam Worthington, who volunteers in selling a wide variety of Bearcat souvenirs.
“Last, but certainly not least has been the tremendous support from owner Stu Rath,” said Mackenzie. “I have said many times Stu is the reason we have junior A hockey and his support made my job a breeze.”
In discussing highlights, Mackenzie singled out the move to the new Rath Eastlink Community Centre and hosting and winning the Fred Page Cup with many volunteers coming forward to make it a tremendous success. He touched on last season, record crowds and a fourth MHL playoff championship.
“It was nice to see Andrew MacDonald graduate to the NHL and sign a multi-million dollar contract,” Mackenzie said. “It was great to see local players Zach Sill and David Brine enjoy professional hockey careers. The many successful seasons our club has had stands out and I’ve enjoyed a great working relationship with
coach/general manager Shawn Evans. However, it is time for changing of the guard.”
Hale was quick to credit the outgoing president.
“Keith was the one who put the organization together. Most of the people brought on board during those early years were brought in by Keith. As Keith agrees, we were fortunate to have great people step in and do outstanding jobs.”
Under Hale, not much is expected to change.
“We’re looking at there possibly being more meetings,” he said. “Basically, we’ll be carrying on the same way.”
Evans feels the Bearcats organization has been lucky to have had Mackenzie involved.
“Keith was around many sports, his playing background, his coaching background and his many experiences in sports, he certainly has been valuable. It was 16 years ago I was hired. I remember Keith told me, ‘this can be a stepping stone for you to go further as a coach or you can be a coach here for 20 years.’ Keith’s wife Dianne served for 11 years as educational coordinator. She worked with a lot of our players who were in high school.”
“Keith and I are cousins, we’re almost like brothers. It’s been great having Keith involved with the team all these years. He’s been a big help in many important areas. It’s certainly going to be different not having Keith working with us.”
An outstanding first-baseman and playing coach in softball during the 1960s and 1970s, Mackenzie’s Salmon River teams produced several championships including a Nova Scotia intermediate A title. Later, during a 32-year teaching career, he coached the CEC girls’ basketball team to six provincial high school championships and the CEC Cougars
Boys’ team to five provincial titles.
Mackenzie was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1991 as a builder, he was also inducted into the Colchester County Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m planning to spend more time in Florida, from November until May,” Mackenzie told me. “I’m just plain retired, I’ve also retired from the school board.”
Planning to live an hour north of Orlando, Florida, he’s looking forward to playing at least three rounds of golf a week. Curtis Cameron is a regular golf partner.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.