Canada Day in West Guilford always includes time to recognize community members through its Citizen of the Year tradition.
This year to mark Canada’s 150th birthday organizers surprised the audience by honouring two local men for their contribution to West Guilford Dysart et al and the NHL.
Ron Stackhouse and Bernie Nicholls were presented with the plaque on July 1 with proud family members and friends watching from the audience.
Scotty LaRue introduced Stackhouse with a comprehensive summary of the defenceman’s career which started in West Guilford of course.
“In the 50s a lot of people in West Guilford built and maintained an ice rink that was nicknamed Tag Alder Gardens” LaRue said.
“All the local people used the ice whether it was hockey or figure skating… Some of the people became pretty efficient.”
Stackhouse would come home from school leave his books at home and go to the rink where he and other kids would practice their game until it was time for dinner.
“Ron’s mother … used to come out on the back step and say ‘Ronniiiieeeee!’ three or four times” LaRue said to laughter from the crowd.
Stackhouse played junior hockey in Haliburton before being scouted by the Peterborough Petes. He went from there to the American Hockey League and onto the NHL where he played for the Oakland Seals Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. His career stretched from 1969 to 1982 when he returned to Haliburton and became a teacher at the high school.
“Some of my kids were taught by Ron” LaRue said. “He was very highly respected.”
Carol Stamp introduced Nicholls to the crowd – though like Stackhouse he hardly needed an introduction.
“At the age of two [his father] George bought his eldest son a pair of skates and made a backyard rink and the rest is history” Stamp said.
He too practiced at Tag Alder Gardens and it wasn’t long until his obvious skill caught the eye of teams outside of the Highlands. Nicholls had just started on the high school football team when he moved to Woodstock to play Junior B hockey. From there he was called up to the L.A. Kings in 1981. He played for various teams including the Chicago Blackhawks New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils until 1999.
Nicholls played centre and was a top-scoring player in his career scoring 150 points in one season and 1209 points over his career according to NHL.com.
Stamp praised Nicholls’s generosity and kind spirit.
“Each time Bernie played in Toronto he would go out of his way to make sure that the kids who came to see him play had tickets to the game and would take them to practice and they’d usually come home with a souvenir” she said.
She told the audience he had set a good example for people back home spending his time working on charitable projects and positive pursuits like golf hunting and fishing.
This year the organizers also chose to honour all of the past Citizens of the Year. While some have since died their family members and friends were there to remember them and accept certificates handed out by Reeve Murray Fearrey and Councillor Walt McKechnie.