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It’s down to the last ‘Penalty Shot’ for Casket columnist Richard MacKenzie

While working at the Casket, I spent many of my weekends in Halifax and would sometimes combine the two; such as taking photos of the Antigonish and area representation at the annual Saltscape Expo. Here, during one of those occasions, a representative turns the camera on me, at the expo’s one-time home – Halifax Exhibition Centre.
While working at the Casket, I spent many of my weekends in Halifax and would sometimes combine the two; such as taking photos of the Antigonish and area representation at the annual Saltscape Expo. Here, during one of those occasions, a representative turns the camera on me, at the expo’s one-time home – Halifax Exhibition Centre. - File photo

Penalty Shot column

ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again” – Billy Joel, Say Goodbye to Hollywood (a favourite)

How do you capture nine-plus years working as a community newspaper reporter in a town like Antigonish, in a column roughly 550 to 650 words? The honest answer … you can’t.

Still, I’m going to give it a shot.

I have decided to give up my role here with The Casket to move back to Truro and pursue other opportunities, while being closer to family. Oct. 25 being my last day.

Obviously not an easy decision, but one where the timing just felt right. Looking back, it seems like I’ve made a lot of my major life decisions – such as significant moves – around this time of year, which just happens to coincide with my birthday (Oct. 30). Not by design mind you (maybe subconsciously), but just the way it has worked out; including leaving Truro 19 years ago (Oct. 31, 2000) for Sudbury, Ontario.

The years in between; I lived in two more Ontario communities before starting my trek west; spending considerable time in both B.C. and Alberta.

Salmon Arm, B.C. represented my longest tenure in one community and at one newspaper – the Observer – prior to the Casket, and that certainly isn’t a coincidence; both the towns and newspapers rank one-two on my list as favourites … Antigonish and The Casket coming out, comfortably, on top.

I recall writing my introductory piece for The Casket those many years ago and sending it to our editor at that time, Brian Lazzuri, before actually moving to Antigonish a week later.

I reflected back on my most vivid memories of the community and those were as a rival hockey player, playing against the junior Bulldogs in one of their heydays – Atlantic title teams of the mid-1980s – and later the St. F.X. X-Men, as a St. Mary’s Huskies’ forward.

Long-time Casket sports reporter and dear former colleague Gail MacDougall remembered me as a player who was easy to cheer against – a nice compliment from a great reporter and outstanding coach. That Gail remembered me at all isn’t surprising; listening to her recount old Antigonish sport stories on a late-Friday afternoon, with Corey LeBlanc and I asking question after question, will remain a favourite Casket memory. 

So it’s somewhat ironic this former Huskie would spend so much time working around St. F.X., including covering the exploits of the X-Men and X-Women, and maybe even more so that a former Bearcat would coach the junior Bulldogs for three years. We didn’t do as much winning as we would have liked during those seasons, but it’s my most authentic Antigonish experience and a time I truly treasure.

I actually did speculate in my intro article about donning the black and gold and iconic Bulldogs logo, so maybe not so ironic afterall. I even had the opportunity to wear the whole uniform while suiting up for the Old Dogs in a few recreation tournaments. Like junior Bulldogs management, especially Miles Tompkins, I owe those guys for adding to a great list of hockey and Antigonish memories.

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I also owe a great deal to all the community people I’ve worked with as a Casket reporter; whether right in town, Arisaig, Bayfield, Guysborough, Paqtnkek First Nation, Port Hawkesbury and every other community in the Quad Counties you can think of. Coming from a guy fortunate enough to live in a lot of special places; this really is a very special place.

If I can look back on one recent story I covered which reflects that (there are many), how about the fact the group hug of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital needed to be pushed back from the hospital a couple of times, to accommodate all the people participating on a beautiful, early-fall Sunday afternoon. Incredible.   

Of course the people I owe the most are my colleagues, past and present, here with the Casket as well as at Bounty Print. It has been a journey and one I can’t imagine a better group of people to be on with. 

So there is my attempt to encapsulate nine-plus years into a small column. It’s like that Seinfeld episode where …

My three years behind the bench of the Antigonish Junior Bulldogs is a major highlight of my time in Antigonish.
My three years behind the bench of the Antigonish Junior Bulldogs is a major highlight of my time in Antigonish.

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