TRURO, N.S. – Hockey fans we talked to described it as truly an outstanding moment at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre last Saturday night.
Before the Truro Bearcats faced off against Valley Wildcats, 18 players from the 1997-98 Bearcats were paid tribute to by the local junior A hockey club. This was amazingly the nucleus of the team which 20 years ago actually brought junior hockey back to Truro after a 15 year absence.
“It was amazing seeing these former teammates again, Josh Boulton, 37, who resides in Brookfield, said. “For players to come from across Canada and Anders Akerberg from Sweden, to say hello, it shows the kind of bond we had with that first Bearcats team.
“The Bearcats organization was fantastic in organizing the opening ceremonies and providing us with the skybox. When we were walking out there Jared Crawford said, ‘wouldn’t it be great to be
playing again at this level in this building.’ I quickly agreed.”
Boulton had 18 goals and 19 assists in regular season play 20 seasons back. In the playoffs he was outstanding, firing seven goals and adding eight assists.
One of Truro’s all-time great goaltenders, Chris Wilcox, flew in from Ottawa for the reunion. In 41 regular-season games Wilcox had a 3.85 goals against average. In the playoffs he was even more brilliant, taking his team to the division final before a seventh game tripl- overtime loss to Dartmouth.
“This reunion was special,” Wilcox, 40, involved with an elevator company, said. “It shows how much we thought of each other and what a great year it was. Commitment comes to mind when I think back to 1997-98 by the great ownership, how committed the coaching staff and every player was. I think we were 27 and 19 for a first year team, I think we exceeded expectations.
“This weekend saw the sense of community rekindled, we recalled the considerate organization … we had breakfast two mornings with Larry Anthony and Farida. They are still billeting players, their sense of generosity is just fantastic, they are very outstanding people. I’ll always think highly of Truro.”
The Bearcats first season saw Robbie Sutherland, an outstanding 16-year-old prospect, bang home 26 goals and add 31 assists in regular-season play. He recorded nine points in the playoffs. Sutherland went on to play major junior hockey, including one season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and three with Halifax Mooseheads. Now residing in Halifax, Sutherland, 36, is in sales and covers the Maritimes for Olympus, a surgical supply company.
“I remember being younger than most of the players. I kept busy away from the rink taking Grade 11 at CEC. I had great billets – the Muir family; the people of Truro were good and the Bearcats ran a real first-class operation.”
Doug Clarke enjoyed a big season in 97-98 with 28 goals and 37 assists. He was also outstanding in the playoffs with 16 points. An accountant with Chorus Aviation, the parent company for Jazz Aviation, Doug and his wife, the former Kathy Little of North River, have three children and live in Halifax.
“The reunion ranks really high,” Clarke, 39, said. “You appreciate these types of things when you’ve been away from the game awhile. This was a special group to begin with, we were always real tight. Seeing the guys again, brought back so many great memories.”
It was also good to talk with Akerberg, a successful businessman in Sweden; Andy Brown, a 17-year RCMP officer with the K-9 Unit in Alberta, as well as Francois Paiement, Mike Murphy and other visiting players.
My synopsis: these guys could still play.
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The Wilson’s Home Heating Cyclones will host female hockey development activities Sunday at Victoria Park.
A fun game of Cyclone Tracker will take place from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. involving atom, peewee and midget girls.
Following the Cyclone Tracker, further activities will be held at the West Colchester United Arena in Debert. The atom and midget girls are on the ice at 3 p.m. Meanwhile, the peewee and midget girls will be involved with yoga. More on-ice activities follow at 4.30 p.m. with a pizza party taking place at 6 p.m.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.