circa 2000


Driving to Halifax is not my favourite way to spend a day. Even the thought of dropping into one of the 645 Tim Horton’s between Truro and Halifax is not reason enough to leave my dog Murphy to chase squirrels from our bird feeders on his own.

If I am to be tempted to drive over Nutby Mountain then I have to have more than one good reason for a visit to our provincial capital. A good start is to offer me free tickets to a Moosehead Junior Hockey game. Recently my sister gave me her Blue Line season seats and the experience was a bit of a flash back to the good old days of watching hockey.

Before I go any further with this personal rant I must admit that my family has advised me that when commenting on the state of professional hockey in Canada one must tread very carefully so as not to lose a friend or two in the process.

Go into in any sports bar or hockey rink and it would appear that many believe that there is nothing wrong with today’s game. For my part I can’t help feeling that something positive is missing from the NHL and the blame should be directed to the players with the bad attitudes.

The World Junior Hockey Championships in January was a magic week for hockey fans. I took in the Sweden / Finland game and was amazed at the quality of the hockey on the ice and the sportsmanship in the hearts of the young competitors. This same  game can be seen in the Quebec Junior League most nights throughout Eastern Canada. The game is fast and the competition is keen. Sadly this is not the case in the big leagues. In my opinion professional hockey has been taken over by the goons. You know who I am talking about, the Ti Domi guys each earning upwards of three million dollars plus to drop their gloves and pretend to be Mike Tyson.

My friends tell me that it is just good family entertainment, I beg to differ. I used to enjoy watching Hockey Night in Canada but I have problems accepting the popular belief that every team needs a tough guy to intimidate the other side. Don Cherry may be entertaining to some with his unusual wardrobe and his macho spiels but he has encouraged a style of hockey that more resembles a Sylvester Stallone film than the game that the Rocket played. It wasn’t this way when I was a kid.

1952 was a good year for pond hockey. The ice was thick and smooth and my debut as a net minder was truly forgettable. Those were the days of the Halifax Wolverines, the Amherst Ramblers and the Sydney Millionaires. Going to a hockey game was a night for the whole family, hot chicken soup to warm up the cold seats at the Halifax Forum. I remember it well, I was just a kid and I thought I was going to be the next Jacque Plant. The only thing the net minder for the Canadians and I had in common was that puck was usually on a collision course for our heads and not our gloves. We both got hit in the head far too often. I was simply the worst midget goal tender that ever put on the pads. I was cut more times than a blind butcher. I couldn’t skate, my glove hand was pathetically slow and the prime purpose of my hockey stick was to keep my balance. But those were the good old days, great times in front of the black and white TV listening to Foster Hewitt or Danny Gallivan provide the play by play for hockey fans right across the country. Dickie Duff, Gordie and Number 27, they were the stars on ice.

As a youngster I was so excited when I made the Doyle’s ESSO team that I went to bed for the first week with my sweater on. As a team we didn’t win our first game of the year until March and I think it was flu that slowed down our opposition not the quality of our game. Fear back in those days was the hard shot from the blue line. One of my fellow players back then was Bernie Brushett, affectionately referred to as Buckshot Brushett by his team mates. Bernie had the hardest shot on our team; in fact Bernie was the only player who could actually reach the net in the air from the blueline. Believe me Bernie’s slap shot caused real fear in the eyes of midget players who came up against him. Yes players back then played with passion and yes there were penalties and skirmishes on the ice but not like the moronic antics of today’s game. As young fans we had our heroes and we could be proud of them because they role models not the millionaire hoodlums of today’s game.

Quietly Retired in Waugh’s River

Edward Sampson