It was about local sports history as Keith Mackenzie, Bob Crowell, Barry Clark and I got together recently.
The Truro Forum was our first topic. It was also known as the Flemming Arena and the Colchester Forum. Opening Dec. 15, 1922, it was considered modern and up to date. Nevertheless, we all recalled the dangerous steel girders that extended just above the rink boards. A number of players were injured due to those girders.
The highly competitive Truro District Hockey League was recalled.
“When I look back to playing in the district league, I think about looking up and seeing Fats (Ron) MacDonald and Doug Pender on defence playing against us,” Crowell said. “To a young guy, they were two big guys.”
The Truro Forum was destroyed by fire Jan. 31, 1963, bringing a halt to the TDHL season.
“That was my first year in the district league,” Clark recalled. “I played with the Brookfield Elks – I remember the first game I played, it was against the Bible Hill Dairymen. I took a faceoff against big Doug Pender, he brought his stick up in between my legs and nearly lifted me off the ice. ‘Welcome to the district hockey league Clarkie,’ Pender said to me; he had a big smile on his face.”
The Colchester Legion Stadium opened in 1965, and Clark recalled the TDHL starting back up.
“I played for Bible Hill on a line with Jackie Dale and Gerald (Chub) Bartlett,” Clark said. “It was the best season I ever had in hockey.”
Both Clark and Crowell played with the Brookfield Elks in Nova Scotia and Maritime Intermediate A hockey. A playoff game experience in Fredericton playing against the Capitals was shared by Crowell.
“We had a rough, rugged team, we had Hughie Matheson, Donnie MacIsaac and Buddy Gardiner on defence. There was a big crowd in Fredericton and when we came out of the dressing room there was a police escort to lead us onto the ice. Some of the fans hated Hughie and Donnie, they were throwing beer cans at us, full beer cans.”
The strong Truro junior B and Junior A teams from back in the 60s and 70s were complimented. Senior hockey took us back to Truro Shubenacadie Colonels playing out of the stadium. They faced those powerhouse Dartmouth Moosehead Mounties teams. Following the Colonels fourth season, Truro TSN Bearcats came on the scene in 1992-93.
As many championships followed, Mackenzie was one of the key men with the Bearcats executive.
One highlight for me was the year the team played in Tilburg, Holland in an international tournament. We played on the large ice surface. The culture was so different, it was just a great experience. We finished second which was nice.”
Mackenzie noted that Steve Gordon, a member of that team, has a son, Matt Gordon, playing this season with the Bearcats junior A team.
The TSN Bearcats winning the Allan Cup in 97-98 had our focus.
Approximately 3,000 fans watched intently at the stadium as Truro defeated London Admirals 6-1 in the historic championship clincher.
That same season saw team owner Stu Rath enter a second team, Truro Bearcats in the Maritime Hockey League, a high calibre junior A circuit.
Mackenzie, president of the team for its first 20 years up to the 2017-18 season, agreed winning the league championship on four occasions was an outstanding feat.
A few minutes was given to major league baseball. Mackenzie, a loyal follower of the Washington Nationals from back when they were the Montreal Expos, was the only one of us with a team still in the running in this year’s playoffs.
Moving to fastball, Mackenzie, Crowell and Clark were teammates with some strong Salmon River and Truro teams.
“It made for lasting friendships,” Clark said. “We still get together for coffee. I remember a great rivalry between Irving “Chubb” Bartlett’s Mooseheads and our team.”
A story surfaced of Denny Clyke, a star player and a porter with CNR, jumping off a slow-moving train as it neared Stanfield’s Ball Park. It was arriving from Montreal and Clyke quickly changed into a Salmon River ball uniform … the rest is history.
Besides teammates, names of opposing players – Brian Bartlett, Alfred Muise, Pinky MacKinnon, Merle Putnam, Carson MacLeod, Wayne Sibley and numerous others were heralded.
It was all good.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears weekly in the Truro News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902-673-3857.