Top News

SPORTS SCENE: Masstown's Norm Atkinson a dedicated caretaker

Caretaker Norm Atkinson is shown with Montreal Phil, an amazing 14-year-old pacer with 15 wins this year.
Caretaker Norm Atkinson is shown with Montreal Phil, an amazing 14-year-old pacer with 15 wins this year. - Lyle Carter

There are some key people who work behind the scene in sports.

This stands true for harness racing as this week we caught up with caretaker Norm Atkinson.

It was back during May of this year Trot Magazine carried an interesting story on Atkinson. In reading the article, it was quite a thing to see a local horseman written up in such an outstanding harness racing publication. Trot Magazine is printed in Mississauga, Ont., and read internationally.

Atkinson smiled when I told him how much I enjoyed the write-up. Arriving quite early at the Darren Crowe Stable recently, a beautiful horse farm in Lower Onslow, Atkinson had been on the job for several hours. Mucking stalls, feeding and watering horses, baths, rubbing legs and jogging – there’s a lot involved with being a caretaker and a groom.

“I’ve been with Darren now for about 10 years,” Atkinson, 59, of Masstown, said. “I arrive at the barn at 5 a.m. seven days a week. We have 17 horses stabled here; I’ve been friends with the horses for a long time. Really, I wouldn’t want it any other way, working around the horses is very therapeutic, it’s a great atmosphere.”

Atkinson enjoys working for Crowe.

“Working with Darren has been an enjoyment. Besides working with the horses here at the farm, I’m in the paddock race days and I travel around the Maritimes wherever Darren is driving. As a driver, Darren has been one of the top drivers at Truro for most of his career – he’ll win the driving championship again this year.

“Looking at the top drivers all over the Maritimes, Darren would be in the top five. He’s had a great career and he’s a great guy to work for.”

Harness racing highlights came into the conversation.

“A highlight with the Darren Crowe Stable was looking after a horse by the name of Rancousy – owned by Donnie Smith. Rancousy was a good one and he went on to take a mark of 1.50 racing at the Meadow Lands in the United States.”

Atkinson also talked about a 14-year-old sensation Montreal Phil.

“He’s a special horse, he’s won 15 races to date this year, he has four seconds. Montreal Phil loves to race, he’s very sound and in great condition. He’s kind and gentle to work around, it’s too bad this is the last year he’s eligible to race.”

Crowe, closing in on 50 wins this year at Truro Raceway and the track’s leading driver, had kind words for Atkinson.

“Norm is a good guy, he does a lot of work for the stable. He is really good on race days working with the horses in the paddock. Norm is very dedicated; he takes his work serious.”

Atkinson, born in Toronto, lived in the big city until moving with his family to North River at age 15. Proud of a hockey highlight very few kids get to enjoy, Norm and his brother Ken, teenage teammates in high school hockey, got to play in Maple Leaf Gardens – once the home of Toronto Maple Leafs.

Before harness racing, Norm delivered milk for 14 years for Brookfield Creamery and Scotsburn Dairy. He was later employed for 22 years at the Home Hardware distribution centre in Debert.

* * * *

You might say Steve Locke flew into the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame on the wings of an Eagle.

The presenter for the outstanding multi-sport athlete was Mike Henderson, managing editor of the monthly Brookfield Men’s Club Eagle newsletter. Henderson did a brilliant job covering Locke’s many achievements in fastball, basketball and golf.

Bill Gatchell was the inductor for inductee Terry Baker, who’s great Canadian Football League career included winning Grey Cups with both Saskatchewan and Montreal. Gatchell, 87, was again outstanding, and needled Baker for making the Gatchell Hall of Fame, by marrying daughter Krista. Gatchell was so colourful, the almost 200 people in attendance wanted him

to keep going.

The Truro Sport Heritage Society night also saw All-Canadian hockey player Sue Kaye and national fastball star Becky Bell Routledge inducted, along with the 1968 Maritime midget football champion Truro Trojans.

Again, great inductees and each presenter rose to the occasion admirably. Truly, a great sports night at the Marigold Cultural Centre, hats off to the TSHS.

Lyle Carter’s sports column appears weekly in the Truro News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.

Recent Stories