By Jackie Jardine
Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Frank Mahovlich, Henri Richard, Gordie Howe…
Most sports fans dream of someday, maybe, seeing one of these sports giants. But meeting all of them, plus more? Well, that’s a dream that’s just about too big for anyone, really.
Not so for sports writer Hugh Townsend. He met these greats, and many more, in his 60-plus years as a journalist – most of those years spent as a sports writer.
Townsend just published his first book, I’ve Lived My Dream, and he truly believes that title to be reflective of his life.
The New Glasgow-born Townsend says in his book, “I didn’t dream of one day playing in the National Hockey League, despite a tremendous love for sports from as far back as I can remember … I began envisioning myself someday being in Maple Leaf Gardens, not out on the ice, but way up in the rafters in the press box, covering the Maple Leafs…”
Since the age of 12, Townsend knew exactly what he wanted as a career. “All I wanted to be was sports editor for The Chronicle Herald,” he says. It took a few years and several twists and turns, but he got there.
And what a journey he’s had. Townsend was happy to recount some of his adventures while chatting about his book at a local coffee shop with Barry Trenholm of the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in New Glasgow. The book opens with a touching recollection of his induction into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 that he refers to as “one of the most memorable evenings of my journalism career.”
There is the ‘Nightmare in Cincinnati’ story when he was booked in to stay at a cockroach-infested fleabag motel the only time he was assigned to cover the World Series. Needless to say, he found alternate accommodations on the outskirts of Cincinnati. There is also a story about what he considers to be the “biggest boo-boo” he ever made in print: a tribute column about a boxer who had passed away, only to get a call from said boxer the next day.
Townsend writes about hockey, softball, football, rugby, curling… Grey Cup assignments, Stanley Cup championships, Townsend was there. And he wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
Through it all, Townsend’s passion and purpose remain the same: Shine a spotlight on local sports and local athletes. That’s what he continues to do in his Highland View column which can be enjoyed weekly in The Advocate. County sports hall of fame’s Trenholm says Townsend’s column continues to be a hot commodity at the New Glasgow operation where, every week, his column is clipped from the sports pages of The Advocate and added to the growing collection of the writer’s work at the hall of fame.
“I don’t know what percentage of people get to do a job all of their life that they don’t consider to be a job. But Hughie’s done it,” Trenholm praises.
The book is dedicated to Townsend’s late wife Jane, who passed away two years ago. Tears still shine in his eyes when he mentions her name. She was his best friend, his companion and his biggest supporter for almost half a century. When she lost her long battle with cancer, Townsend says he knew it was time to put pen to paper, so to speak, and write memories of his long career, and dedicate the efforts to Jane. “It’s all in Jane’s memory,” he says, tapping the book.
All proceeds from I’ve Lived My Dream will go to Woodlawn United Church in his wife’s memory, a cause near and dear to Townsend’s heart. It is the church where his wife grew up, where they pledged their wedding vows, where they worshipped together and where they said their final good-byes.
The book is available at The Advocate office on George Street, Pictou, at the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in New Glasgow and at Woodlawn United Church in Dartmouth.