Burton Langille wishes he was young enough to play hockey once again.
But instead, the 90-year-old watches as much of it as he can on television.
Langille was one of the first people in Tatamagouche to play hockey – old timers hockey at that – at the North Shore Recreation Centre back in 76. He was 50 and his brother, Winston, who also played, was 38.
“We played a lot of games in Oxford, Pictou, River John, Tatamagouche, Malagash…everyone had a team then,” said Burton. “I also played a lot of baseball…in Malagash, Wentworth and New Annan, and I used to pitch for Tatamagouche. I was 13 when I started playing hockey and baseball. There was nothing else to do.”
Digging out his pictures, Burton can still name every single one of them. And he does, with Winston watching.
“I was always a Toronto fan. I remember we used to send Beehive (corn syrup) labels away to get photos of the Maple Leafs players. I still have them.”
It was only a few days before when the Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs, losing to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 in the first round. But Burton and Winston still had huge smiles on their faces.
“I’m a diehard Maple Leafs fan. I have been ever since 1936. I didn’t think they’d make the playoffs – they’re just a bunch of young guys, but they did pretty good.”
With a blue Toronto Maple Leafs blanket hanging on the wall behind his chair, Burton sits and watches as Winston goes into a bedroom and comes back with a hockey stick. Then Burton goes to get his old pants, complete with cork for padding.
“We used to use catalogues as shin pads,” laughed Winston.
Prior to the recreation centre, the Langille brothers played hockey on the few outdoor rinks available. At one time, hockey used to also be played on the frozen bay, however not very often anymore.
“We’d get a few players together, but now there’s not enough ice in the winter to freeze over,” said Winston.
Along with the old hockey gear, Burton still has a letter a teammate from a team in 1950 sent him two years ago. It talked about reading an article in the former Oxford Journal of a game Burton played in. The article said Burton was the only player remaining from the team, however the letter’s author, Charles Smith, was a teammate.
When he received the letter, Burton said it brought back memories.
“I didn’t know anyone else was alive,” he said. “I wrote him back, but he’s gone now.”
With the NHL playoffs still underway, the brothers say they will tune in anytime there’s a game on, no matter who is playing.
There’s a huge difference between the sport now compared to back then – the physical game.
“There are no rules now,” said Winston. “You didn’t smash your opponent against the boards. You would just hold them there. It was clean hockey. Now it’s just like a roller derby.”
“And you couldn’t stand in the goal crease either,” added Burton.
While their beloved Leafs are trading their hockey sticks for the golf clubs, the Langilles have no ill will toward Washington, and both hope the Capitals take home the Stanley Cup, saying they are the hardest team to play against these days.
“We don’t reminisce much,” smiled Burton. “All the time now that I think about it. I wish I was young again to play.”