The Village of Port Elgin has gained widespread recognition over the past 50 years for its development of young basketball players, often being referred to as a "basketball mill." This has been accomplished with some outstanding coaching and mentoring, excellent athleticism and adequate facilities.
But perhaps a good many people do not realize that Port Elgin was also the proud home of one Dr. Robert Alonzo (Bobby) Copp, a man who combined a strong intellect and a natural physical ability, which catapulted him to the top ranks of hockeydom as well as to a long and illustrious career in the dental field.
With little opportunity to hone his skills as a hockey player as a youngster, Copp began both careers at Mount Allison University during the 1934-35 season as a raw but quick learning defenseman.
During the next four years, he improved his defensive play while increasing his offensive output. In his final year, the team played four games and registered nine points while picking up just one penalty.
Copp actually saw double duty as he played part time with the Amherst St. Pats, his second time as they made a run for the Memorial Cup.
Following graduation from Mount Allison, Copp entered University of Toronto in the dental program and played two seasons while picking up his second degree.
Then a long career began that saw him play with Toronto Marlies, the RCAF, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Halifax RCAF, Ottawa Commandos, Ottawa All-Stars, Ottawa Senators (for six years), the Maple Leafs again, the Senators again (for three seasons) and Smiths Falls.
His hockey career spanned 20 years and included the two stints with the NHL Maple Leafs in 1942-43 and again in 1950-51. In total, he played 40 games in the NHL when there were just six teams, scoring three goals and nine assists while providing inspired defensive play.
Copp was born on Nov. 15, 1918, and passed away on Dec. 12, 2006, following a diverse life that saw him offer his services to the military during the Second World War and, no doubt, to many of his teammates as helmets and face protection were not required during those years.
William (Bill) Miller
Bill Miller, a native of Campbellton who sharpened his skating and hockey skills as a member of the Mount Allison Mounties in the late 1920s, is believed to have been the first Mount Allison alumnus to make it all the way to the National Hockey League, setting the stage for several others to follow.
Born in Campbellton on Aug. 1, 1908, the 160-pound Miller had performed with his hometown Tigers from the age of 15 before joining the Mounties in 1926. During his five seasons in Sackville, he scored 26 goals in just 14 games and showed early on that he had the moxy and skills to perform at a higher level. While still playing university hockey, he would also travel home to help his Tigers in the North Shore Senior Hockey League.
Leaving Campbellton in 1932, he first lined up with the Fredericton Capitals but quickly shifted to Moncton, helping them win two Allan Cups in 1932-33 and in 1933-34. He remained with the powerhouse Moncton team until 1935 when he jumped to the American League New Haven Eagles.
Shortly after, he was recalled by the Montreal Maroons of the NHL by Tommy Gorman who then worked a trade with the Canadians. Miller, Toe Blake and Ken Gravel went for the great Lorne Chabot in February 1936.
Miller managed seven games with the Maroons and five with the Canadians, in between managing to help the Moncton Hawks of the Maritime Senior Hockey League in 1934-35.
Meanwhile, light miles from the NHL, there is a tough band of middle-aged men who continue to play the boys’ game three times a week at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Regional Civic Centre in Sackville.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 9 o'clock, men lace up the blades, pull on some ancient equipment, grab a curved stick and hit the ice for a non-stop workout.
Tom Fahey, who leads this merry band, says the ideal number is between 15 and 20, which allows the older members to take a rest break occasionally. However, if the number is less than a dozen there is no stopping and wheezing and puffing is the order of the day. Recently, the rules have been eased to permit some under-45s to take apart in order to complete the line-ups.
The cost for players taking part in all 80 games is $300 for the season. For two-thirds of the season the cost is $210 and drops to $120 for those interested in playing only one-third of the time. Those wishing to drop in only occasionally may do so by paying a nominal $8 fee.
"We have a solid core of regulars," Fahey said recently, "and we split them into two sides and have a lot of fun. Perhaps the most fellowship is enjoyed in the dressing room as good-natured ribbing takes place and we find a way to bond with each other."
In previous years, the league was able to ice fairly strong teams that often took part in major tournaments throughout the region. Players like Rod Smith, Steve Trevor, Don MacIntyre, Gerry Bartlett – mainly members of the Maritime champion Sackville Combines from the 1970s – joined others to present strong challenges to teams like the Moncton Slo-Pokes. But many of these "stars" have moved on to more sedate activities and now it is a strictly recreational group.
"It's a great way to kick-start your day," says Fahey, who has maintained a fairly rigid physical fitness regimen all his life and sees the morning games as one step for those no longer seeking the thrills of tough competition to stay firm and healthy.