AMHERST, N.S. – It was 50 years ago the Amherst Ramblers put their first team on the ice.
That team gathered together last week to be part of the Ramblers 50-year celebration.
“Some of the players I hadn’t seen for four or five years, so it was great to get them all together,” said Walter Maltby, the coach and manager of that first team.
He says the reunion brought back a lot of memories.
“When you live to be 85 you kind of hope you’re around for a 50-year celebration,” said Maltby. “I’m very happy to be here to be part of the celebration.”
That first-year roster was made up mostly of local players.
“It was pretty well all Amherst players except we had a couple from Sackville, one from Port Elgin and a couple from Oxford,” said Maltby. “They were a bunch of guys who wanted to play hockey and have some fun doing it.”
The team was run on a shoestring budget.
“There was no money. They all bought their own gear and their own sticks,” said Maltby. “Financially it was pretty hard at that time but we got the team started.”
The Ramblers won the league title that first season and one of the players, Bill Riley, went on to play in the NHL with the Washington Capitals.
“I coached different categories over a number of years, but one thing that really stands out in my mind is, every coach hopes one of his players makes the NHL, and my wife, my son, and myself went to Montreal to see Bill Riley play with Washington against the Montreal Canadiens. It was a thrill to see one of your players in the NHL,” said Maltby.
Walter’s wife Beverly, a Springhiller, says hockey always played a big role in Walter’s life.
“He was away a lot working in hockey and I looked after our family. It was fun because I enjoyed the game too.”
She says he was very devoted to the players.
“He was away a lot and when he was away in Truro, a snowstorm would come in, and he would call and say, ‘Bev would you call my boss and tell him I won’t be able to make it to work in the morning because I’m stuck in Truro,’” said Beverly. “He was with the railroad, and in those days if you didn’t work you didn’t get paid.”
Walter says he is very fortunate to have a supportive wife.
“We’ve been married 61 years and my wife is very supportive of me in anything I’ve been involved with as a volunteer.”
He said he is proud of the players on that team from 50 years ago.
“All the young men on that team were good workers and had full time jobs, and after 50 years to see most of your team is still around is great.”
Maltby is still involved with the Ramblers as a member of the executive. What does he think of the modern-day version of the Ramblers?
“The team is well coached and lots of talent there,” said Maltby. “I think we have a good hockey team and are going to provide some good entertainment for the fans.”