Thomas Bernard-Docker is one of those Pictou County natives who make their way home for a visit every summer.
His 17-year-old son Jake, however, is spending this week in Truro, where he is playing defence for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge.
“It’s been a pretty exciting experience for him,” Bernard-Docker said in a phone interview from Canmore, Alta.
Bernard-Docker grew up in Merigomish and spent the summers on Pictou Island, where his family has a summer place. His parents – Patricia and Ray Docker – were both schoolteachers in Pictou County. Patricia died in 1987 when Thomas was still in high school; his father would re-marry (and is still married to) Corinne Cameron.
“They go over to Pictou Island as long as the ferry’s running,” Bernard-Docker said of his dad and step-mom.
He graduated from East Pictou Rural High school and moved on to Acadia University, eventually making his way west. Now a real estate appraiser in Canmore, Bernard-Docker remained in the southern Alberta town this week with 16-year-old son Seth and daughter Island, who is 14. And yes, she was named after the island where her father summered during his youth – and still does, to this day.
“We have the cottage on Pictou Island that we come back to every year and we try to get down for six weeks,” he says. ”I grew up there and I know the place.”
Jake’s mom Rolanda did make the trip east to watch her son play in the international event.
“It's super-exciting, to see him wearing that Canada jersey for the first time,” she said.
“He’s worked hard to be where he is and we’re all very proud of him.”
Her son currently plays for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior A Hockey League and has committed to the hockey program at University of North Dakota in 2019; the Fighting Hawks are a traditional power in U.S. college hockey that has sent a lot of players to the NHL (coincidentally, a recent alum of UND is Drake Caggiula, the Edmonton Oiler whose mom Terri grew up in Pictou, where Caggiula’s grandparents Gwen and Art MacDonald still reside).
Jake Bernard-Docker couldn’t immediately be reached by phone on Tuesday; the players have limited access to their cellphones, his mom explained, and had a huge game Tuesday night against Team USA after dropping their opening game of the World Junior A Challenge, a 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic.
His grandmother Corinne said that when Jake and his family are on Pictou Island, her grandson is still in hockey training mode.
“Jacob can be seen running and biking the entire length of the island several times a day,” she wrote in an email.
“Another one of his daily activities is running many laps up and down the 56 stairs to the beach on his grandparents’ property.”