Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators Alumni: Interview with Award-Winning Author Don Reddick

A shorter version of this article first appeared in the March 2011 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

Don Reddick
Last month, the CBC celebrated their annual Hockey Day in Canada with a thirteen-hour broadcast, which was hosted by the city of Whitehorse. Part of the weeklong festivities was a re-match 106 years in the making; the Ottawa Senators finally arrived in the Yukon for two games against the Dawson City Nuggets. Award-winning author Don Reddick was part of the 1997 re-enactment of the original 1905 Dawson City Stanley Cup challenge, which he chronicled beautifully in his book, The Trail Less Traveled, and he shared some of his thoughts on the games and the Hockey Day in Canada events with The Voice of Sport.

“I come to this from more of a historical angle, I always looked at these games, particularly the Dawson game, in historical context,” explained Reddick. “After the 1905 games, Joe Boyle, the leader of the Dawson team, challenged the Ottawas to come up to Dawson for a rematch. He promised to make a cup out of solid gold for the event. The players were quoted in Ottawa papers talking about the better team they would put up. So the invitation, after the great, legendary trip and loss, was extended in 1905 and it was 106 years before an Ottawa team responded and traveled up. So this was history to me, real hockey history.”

The original 1905 series resulted in a resounding Ottawa victory; the Ottawa Silver Seven outscored the Nuggets 32-4 in the two-game series. In the 1997 re-enactment, the Senators Alumni team defeated the modern-day Nuggets by a score of 18-0. While the Senators kept their winning streak alive with two more victories this year, the Nuggets had plenty to celebrate on their home ice.

“Kevin Anderson was the first Dawson player to score against Ottawa in 106 years and the place went berserk,” Reddick said. “The whole Anderson story is great. In ‘97, he whiffed on Dawson’s best scoring chance and it haunted him for years. On the way up, he told Gerry Armstrong, the Ottawa goalie, that he was going to score on him this time. In the second period, Kevin had another great chance - and whiffed again! We were going to get on him and then he scored. Brad May (NHL alumni members took part in the Whitehorse game but not the Dawson game the next night) set him up and Kevin snapped the pass into the upper right.”

“Richard Nagano, Dawson’s goalie, was unbelievable. He played a great game and was the number one star for me; but the Ottawas were just too much. It’s fun watching a series of games between amateurs and pros. The Ottawa guys never panic; they never throw the puck away. They see the ice better, its fun to watch.”

Hosting Hockey Day in Canada was an opportunity for the Yukon to shine brightly on the national stage and Reddick explained that there was an air of excitement in the region. Although the main Hockey Day in Canada events took place in Whitehorse and the visit to Dawson City was a short one, the residents and the Senators Alumni embraced the opportunity to witness and take part in the historic re-match.

“Hockey Day couldn’t have picked a better venue for their festival. Because of its relative isolation, its sense of being removed from the rest of Canada, it became even more important. The people were just thrilled with the opportunity to be part of this wonderful event.”

“The Dawson City game was at six and the whole town closed down for the event. Grocery stores closed, everything closed early so people could attend. They gave out Yukon Quest dog race cowbells at the game, so it was loud! After the game, they had a wonderful reception at Diamond Tooth Gerties, where Earl McRae, the Ottawa columnist, gave a complete review of his experiences on the ‘97 re-enactment. Then several of the Senators alumni, Fred and Johnny Barrett, Jean Payette and Noel Price were all dragged up on stage by Diamond Tooth Gertie herself, and made part of the act. I remember most of the alumni being entranced by Dawson, all of them wishing they had more time to spend there and saying how they all planned to return with their wives and families to experience it more thoroughly.”

“It started snowing rather heavily during the evening and into the next day and it was mesmerizing,” Reddick said. “This small, small town, just a few streets really, but unique and friendly and so interesting... all the guys loved the place and wanted to stay longer.”

Reddick’s first book about the Dawson City Nuggets was a work of historical fiction - Dawson City Seven, and he recently announced that the popular book would be re-issued. His connection to the town and the Dawson Nuggets’ story has built friendships that will last a lifetime for the author.

“I love Dawson,” said Reddick. “The whole experience for me of writing Dawson City Seven, participating in the ‘97 re-enactment and then writing The Trail Less Traveled, has made Dawson a pretty special place for me. I walked over to see old friends, saw Dick Van Nostrand at the Downtown Hotel - where the Ottawas stayed - saw old friends who were not playing in the games, Roy Johnson and Dave Millar. Just walking down the streets, seeing the place again and that fast-traveling knowledge that I’d wake up in a couple days and actually wonder if I’d really been there again - it all happens so fast - all good stuff! I love just sitting in the Downtown Hotel and watching the lifestyle; the young guys up for adventure and the old guys, the characters who never left.”

Reddick’s book, The Trail Less Traveled, was front and center throughout the week, as many of the Ottawa players picked up a copy and began to understand the passion for the history of the 1905 journey and the love of the game that inspired the Dawson hockey players to embark on the 1997 re-enactment. If you have read ‘The Trail’, this story is a classic!

“Rick Smith finished reading it on the plane ride from Vancouver to Whitehorse and Rick had a lot to say about it - he had played in the ‘97 game and was interviewed in the book. A great moment occurred in Diamond Tooth Gerties; I was standing with Rick when I spotted Cowboy Smith, the famous dog musher who plays a role in the book standing nearby. Rick had just read about him, took one look, and then strolled right up to him. He had told me that Wayne Cashman of the old Boston Bruins was one of the great hockey characters he had known and when he walked up to Cowboy, a legend and tough character himself, he said, ‘You’re just like Wayne Cashman. You’ve got to meet Wayne Cashman.’ to which Cowboy stared, and replied, ‘Who is Wayne Cashman, and why would I want to do that?’ Great stuff!”

For more information on award-winning author Don Reddick and his marvellous books, visit his website: Don Reddick.com

*Next week at The Voice of Sport - Dawson City Nuggets player Troy Suzuki shares his thoughts on the historic re-match between the Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators.

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