The Digby Pines was recently the meeting place for the township to gather and be regaled with stories by one of hockey’s greats – Murray Wilson.
The June 30 evening was part of the fundraising efforts of the Digby Hospital Foundation, and Wilson graciously offered his time to the foundation.
The event consisted of a keynote speech by Wilson, followed by a Q&A alongside the rebroadcast of the 1979 New Year’s Eve game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army. Murray was a three-time Stanley Cup winner in his ‘72-73, ‘75-76 and ‘76-77 seasons. He was a first-round draft pick in 1971 and made the Montreal Canadiens at age 20 for their ‘72-73 season.
The rebroadcast of the New Year’s Eve game was a special one, as the film came straight from the CBC vaults. Back in 2009, the Canadiens decided to put out a DVD series of the team’s best games, which included the New Year’s Eve game. Wilson was able to surprise the group at the Pines with the original broadcast, as it was seen in 1979 without the added commentary that is present on the DVD series. This was a real treat as it allowed Wilson to interject throughout the game with his own insights and recollections. One such recollection was his penalty 30 seconds after getting on the ice, after the team had avoided any penalties up to that point.
Wilson talked in great detail about famed coach Scotty Bowman. He recalled a conversation with Sidney Crosby who asked him about Bowman. Wilson told Crosby that Bowman had this way of taking 21 guys back to basics and focused their training on simplicity and perfection. He told Crosby that Bowman wouldn’t let them move on until everyone on the team had perfected those skills. That was one of the things that made Bowman such a great coach.
Wilson also talked about his early life in hockey, starting out in Cold Lake, Alberta, when he was 10 years old. In 1963, at 13 years old, he had double knee surgery and was told by his doctors he would never play hockey again. Without telling his doctor or mother, two weeks after the surgery, Wilson and his dad went out of town to the outdoor rink to see if he could still skate. He indeed could and by the following year he was playing.
Wilson also included a story of his surprising meeting in an elevator with a head coach from Wisconsin. The coach told Wilson he had a hunch that Wilson would be picked in the first round for the NHL. Based on this, Wilson decided to forgo school and pursue his dreams of the NHL. He was in fact picked in the first round for the 1971 season; however, his advice to future generation: finish school.
The night ended with some raffles and photo opportunities and an extremely humble Wilson thanking the east coast for always welcoming him with open arms.
(Written by SARA LAUREN, freelancer for the Tri-County Vanguard.)