PICTOU – Sitting behind the penalty box watching the Pictou Mariners on a Saturday night was Ken Reid’s “NHL” growing up.
Born in Pictou, Reid said he basically lived in the Hector Arena as a kid, spending time there to play hockey and watch his hockey idols every Saturday night. From eight to 11 years old, he witnessed history as the Mariners won four straight Pictou County and Nova Scotia junior C titles from 1983-86. He recalls it as if it was yesterday.
For the 7:30 puck drop on Saturday nights he would get to the rink at 7 p.m. with his brother Peter and his friends Mark Harroun and David Clarke. They would take their usual seats behind the penalty box and always patted the players on the shoulders as they were coming out.
“In Pictou growing up we didn’t get to go see the NHL,” said Reid. “These guys were our NHL and it happened every Saturday night. The Mariners were the best and I had their lineup on my wall as a kid. I still have a scrapbook at home with their lineup in it. For us that was the big time, that was the big league for a lot of kids growing up in Pictou.”
Reid said he always remembers going into the rink and knowing that if you cheered for the Mariners you went to the right and if you cheered for the away team you went to the left. He said his mom always told them to stay at the front of the rink because down by the Zamboni wasn’t for them.
“Down by the far corner by the Zamboni was where – as I can remember as a kid – all the rowdiness took place,” he said. “My mom and dad would always say ‘you boys stay up at the front of the arena,’ so we always sat by the penalty box.”
With approximately 1,000 fans packing the Hector every weekend he said he loved the atmosphere every weekend and became their biggest fan, although his favourite player was Dana ‘Teapot’ Johnston. At the time there was a junior B team in New Glasgow, but as Reid said, the only team the boys in Pictou cared about was the Mariners.
“For us in Pictou the only thing that mattered to us was the Mariners,” he said. “They were the best team in Nova Scotia and we knew that. They were the best team in the county and we just knew it was really, really entertaining hockey. I remember when we played Thorburn in the final that Thorburn had to put their home games at the New Glasgow Stadium cause there were too many people to sit in the Thorburn Rink. It was amazing.”
It was a Mariners game at the New Glasgow Stadium that stands out to him the most. With two seconds remaining in the final game of the best-of-seven series against Thorburn, Bruce Hebert scored to send the game to overtime with Teapot eventually scoring the game-winning goal. Reid remembers many important goals scored by Johnston, which he asked his dad about one day.
“I remember asking my dad ‘how come he only scores when the team needs him?’” he said. “My dad said ‘that’s ’cause Teapot is a money player son.’ I remember asking what a money player was and dad said ‘when you need him, he’ll show up.’ He was our favourite player by far. I think he still is my favourite hockey player. The guy just has the hands and has a nose for the net. It seemed whenever the Mariners needed a big goal he’d score it.”
Although another goal that stands out to him wasn’t a game-tying or game-winning goal, Mike Richards scoring on one particular night in Pictou is funny to think about now.
“Another (goal I remember) was Mike Richards scoring on slap shot from about centre ice against Trenton,” he said. “He was mad at the goalie and I remember Vince Joyce yelling at him from the bench not to go after the goalie and just to score on him, so he did from centre ice on a slap shot.”
Memories from the Mariners’ days in Pictou weren’t just on the ice. At the end of the year every kid in Pictou wanted a Mariners hockey stick. One year he and his brother didn’t get a stick. Reid said it was like the world was ending.
“Peter and I were diehard fans growing up and one year we didn’t get a stick, so we were moping around the house all night long,” he said. “The next day at dinner mom said ‘I think I’ve got something that will make you feel better boys.’ She got us two sticks that were autographed by Teapot, our hockey hero. We thought that was the greatest thing that could ever happen.”
Unfortunately for Peter his Teapot signed stick was broken in an “old-timers” hockey game by their dad the next year. Reid said his brother was “inconsolable.”
It’s remembering things like driving to a Mariners game in Thorburn with Teapot in the back seat of the Harrouns car between him and Mark or a goal by Teapot in Sydney when the goalie got in a ball for fear of getting hit by a his slap shot (which he fanned on, but scored anyway).
“Still, to this day I can talk about the Mariners for extremely long periods of time and my buddies laugh at me that I got this weird memory and soft spot for all these guys,” he said. “My buddy Craig Clarke has the Teapot Cup every Boxing Day and I finally got to play in it a few years ago and Teapot was on my team and Mike Richards. When we were growing up we thought nobody had a harder slap shot than Mike Richards, so I got to play with those guys, which was pretty cool.
“Craig gets to play on his town team in Stellarton with Teapot and I always say ‘why did you get to live my dream?’”
Reid said he wishes he could be at the induction today and that they definitely deserve it.
“I don’t know many other teams that won four Nova Scotia titles in a row,” he said. “They were all guys from our town and as a town we were really proud of them. As a kid I was really proud of them. I think it’s great and I don’t want to say it’s long overdue because having it happen now it makes it kind of special because you can reflect on it.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris