Art Dorrington is being remembered as a humble, hard-working man, with a love for all things sports.
Dorrington passed away Friday, Dec. 29, in Atlantic City, N.J., at the age of 87. He leaves a historic legacy, and fond memories for his loved ones.
“He was someone every one of us in the Black community looked up to,” said Nolan Borden, Dorrington’s nephew.
“When he got the chance to come home, everyone was excited to see him. I don’t want to say he was a role model, because it’s too cliché, but he was very looked up to.”
Dorrington was born and raised in Truro, spending his childhood in the West Prince Street part of town.
Skating was the main winter pastime for the neighbourhood, and it was there, Borden believes, his uncle found his love of hockey.
“We would just skate for miles as kids,” he said.
“Everyone at that time down on West Prince Street either played hockey or would skate. We would step out our back door, and there was the golf course all frozen over. We could skate from my place on West Prince all the way to Onslow and would even play hockey on the road because it wasn’t paved at the time.”
After leading the 1946 Truro Bearcats to the Nova Scotia midget championship in his late teens, Dorrington left Truro to pursue his hockey career. He made history by becoming the first Black player to sign a professional hockey contract with the NHL’s New York Rangers in 1950.
Although he was never called up to play for the Rangers, Dorrington continued his career in the minor leagues, playing for the Atlantic City Seagulls and the Philadelphia Ramblers for almost a decade.
“Uncle Art was a very humble person,” said Borden.
“He never really bragged about his accomplishments, he just did his job. He just went out there and played hockey. You could ask him about it and he would tell you, but that would be it. That’s just the type of person he was.”
Dorrington played hockey until 1958, when a break in his right femur ended his career.
Although he made Atlantic City his permanent residence, the Truro native always enjoyed getting the chance to come back home.
“He would just visit family and friends when he came home, he liked it that way,” said Borden.
“He had two very good friends, almost like brothers, he would visit every time he came home. Even after they had passed, he would still visit their families when he had the chance.”
After his hockey career ended, Dorrington continued to foster his love for sports, acting as the softball commissioner in Atlantic City for 32 years and standing in as an umpire for 34 years. He created the Art Dorrington Foundation in 1998 to help underprivileged kids play hockey and stay in school.
In 2009, Dorrington and his teammates from the 1945-46 Truro Bearcats midget hockey team were entered into the Colchester County Sports Hall of Fame, recognizing the team for their outstanding performance and for winning the 1945-46 Maritime midget hockey championship.
He was also inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City Sports Hall of Fame. In 2012, the Boardwalk Hall ice rink in Atlantic City was named in his honour, as The Art Dorrington Ice Rink.
Outside of hockey, Dorrington was fond of all sports and enjoyed playing golf in both Atlantic City and back home in Truro.
There was one sport he treasured almost as much as hockey though.
“Baseball was his second passion,” chuckled Borden.
“He could sit around and talk baseball for days. I mean, he could chat about any sport, but baseball, he loved his baseball. I think baseball to him was second only to his love for hockey.”