25 YEARS PROUD
After hard work by a dedicated executive, made up of David Wilkie, Adrian Timmons, John MacDonald, Joe Kennedy, Lawson Miller, Wayne King, Wayne Keeley, Paul Belliveau, Peggy Weagle, Bill McInnis, Ed Zwicker, and Barry Rofhie, and the vital financial support of George Mosher of Mosher Motors Ford, the South Shore Mosher Motor Mustangs took to the ice under the guidance of Head Coach Al Leslie. General Manager Wayne Keeley, Equipment Manager Gilbert Langille and Trainer Dave Gilmour rounded out the teams off-ice leadership.
The Mustangs had a solid first season in 1985-86. The team continued to develop as the players, none having ever played ‘AAA’ hockey at any level, adjusted to the rigors of the tough Nova Scotian League. Mike Conklin, a walk on player, became the first team captain and exemplified the dedication of the first team. The Mustangs became the first expansion team to survive the first round of the playoffs in their first year of operations. Goaltender Darin Baker became the teams first MVP as his outstanding goaltending bolstered the new team. Baker would continue his hockey career in the OHL and WHL before turning pro. Sean Wilkie and Mark Timmons provided additional support for the new team and secured Major Junior Tryouts with the Ottawa ‘67’s.
During the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons the team struggled to put wins in the column but continued to provide an opportunity for young players to compete at the highest level available in the province. Players such as Glen Murray, Scott Timmons, Tyler Naugler, Jody Miller, Todd Shupe and Peter Simmons all used their Mustang experience to further their hockey careers in both Junior ‘A’ and Major Junior Leagues. Bartley Sawatsky becomes the first Mustang player to win the student Athlete Scholarship in 1988. Glen Murray also won the league scoring race during this season, the first and only Mustang ever to do so, before graduating to the Major Junior level with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. Murray later commented about the positive experience he gained from the Mustangs and added, “Coach Al Leslie taught me how to play with intensity.”
The end of the decade, 1989-90 saw the Mustangs ice their most competitive team in their brief history as they posted a 15-12-1 = 31 point season, good for 5th place. It would be ten years before any Mustang team would post as many wins or finish as high in league standings.
By the end of the 1980’s fans had seen the birth of the team, endured the trials and tribulations of a new franchise, survived two seasons where the team only recorded one win, and four coaches in a five year period (Leslie, Timmons, Mahaney, and Budgell) but the foundation had been laid for future executives, players and teams to elevate their goals and confidence as the team entered the new decade.
The decade of the 1990’s can easily be divided into two halves. During the first five years, times were difficult and by the last half of the decade a number of signs were visible that showed signs of hope.
Between the years of 1990-95, the Mustangs struggled. From 1992-96 the team never escaped last place and accumulated a total of only 6 wins. In two separate seasons the Mustangs only had 1 win. This was coupled with the loss of its major sponsor and compounded with the loss of ice time in the Bridgewater Memorial Arena. During the 1994-95 season, the team practiced an entire winter in Digby. These difficult times did not diminish the effort made by both players like Gary Hennigar (Top Defenseman Award), Steven McGill, Craig MacPherson, Tim Rice, Luke Comstock and executive members who were forced to struggle through tough times. In 1993-94 the team gave up a total of 230 goals and scored only 58 goals in a 28 game season. Through it all the franchise survived and with the efforts of people like Al Leslie, Adrian Timmons, Aubrey Rhodeniser, Bill Langridge, and George MacPherson. The team was poised to improve through the last half of the decade.
Between the years 1995-2000, the team won a total of 40 games, escaped the basement three times, finished as high as 4th place (1997-98), developed an envious fan base and secured a major corporate sponsor in Canadian Tire. Executive members like Fred Giles, Don Rice, Harland Wyand, and Gerry and Barry Wright worked tirelessly to improve the team.
Blair Parker coached the team from 1996-1999. In his first season, 1996-97, the team was competitive in nearly all of its games and by the end of the season was able to win the consolation championship in the newly formed league playoff format, a premonition of things to come. In 1997-98, the team started the year 4-0-1, set a team record for points at 34, finished in 4th place, advanced to the Final game at the Hull Kiwanis Tournament and placed three mustangs on the League All-Star team. In 1998-99, a 5th place finish was secured 14-18-3. Each of these seasons saw the Mustangs bow out in the First round of playoffs but not without fiercely contending for the right to go on.
Most importantly, the decade with all of its trials and tribulations saw the South Shore Mustangs continue to offer young men an opportunity to further their hockey ambitions. Players like Jarred Thomas, (QMJHL), Dwight Wolfe (QMJHL-UHL), David Walker (QMJHL-ECHL), Tom Wyand (CIS), Matt Simpson (CIS), Cory Ernst, Pete LeCain, Joel Morash, Tyler Ravlo (NCAA), Byron Rodeniser (MJAHL), were all full time playersfor the Mustangs, as well, Chris Cahoon (QMJHL) and Jody Shelley (NHL) were also part-time Mustangs during this decade. Many Mustangs were placed on League All-Star teams and won individual awards during these years as well as representing Nova Scotia on Under 17, Under 18, and Canada Games Teams.
A New Millennium
The new millennium has seen the South Shore Mustangs become one of the top organizations in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League. The team has achieved two 3rd and one 4th place finishes. Each of the first three years of the new millennium the Mustangs have been over .500 and when you consider that the team only achieved one (1989-90) previous plus .500 season in the first 15 years of franchise history, the accomplishment is outstanding. The team has also advance through the first round of playoffs each year. Team accomplishments have also included records for: Most goals in a season at 204 (2001-02), Most wins in a season at 19 (2001-02), Fewest losses in a season (2002-03), and longest winning streak to start a season with 6 (2001-02).
Added to the on-ice success, the team has also secured a solid sponsor in Canadian Tire, now entering its 13th year of sponsorship. In 2003-04 the team briefly changed its name to Team Canadian Tire. In 2008-09 the team changed its name and logo to incorporate its major sponsor Canadian Tire and became the Canadian Tire Mustangs. The team benefited from an experienced executive under President H. David Walker, and a number of tireless volunteers like Blair Varner and Randy Conrad.
Fan support has been solid throughout this time and on three occasions the Mustangs have played in front of 1000 plus, sell-out crowds in the new Yarmouth Mariners Sports Complex. Support has also remained solid in both Barrington and Bridgewater, making the Mustangs the envy of all other teams.
Team success led to individual success with the team placing a large number of players at higher levels of hockey. Ten former players have gone on to Upper Canada College to play significant parts in their Prep School hockey program and to date five of them have gone on to play NCAA hockey in the United States. Steve McKell, Upper Canada College coach stated: “the South Shore boys always brought the kind of heart and personality needed to create a close successful hockey team”. Twelve other players have secured positions in the MJAHL and three others have played Junior ‘A’ in Ontario. Jory Uhlman is playing at Hoosac Prep in upstate New York, and Andrew Hatfield went on to play at Berwick Academy. The league also honoured both Josh LeBlanc (2000-01) and Andrew Miller (2002-03) with league MVP awards. Andrew Miller set a league record attaining 55 assists to break Fabian Joseph’s league record that stood for more than 15 years.
If one of the goals of the team’s first executive was to provide hockey opportunities for young players on the South Shore, then the franchise has been a resounding success during its first 25 years!
As the team enters its Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Season in 2009-2010, it strives to offer competitive opportunities for young players as well as promote the game of hockey on the South Shore. The Canadian Tire Mustangs wish to thank its fans and supporters and looks forward to the next twenty-five years!