Crosby, Marchand, & MacKinnon Make Halifax, NS Hockey’s Latest Hotbed

With three players finishing among the NHL’s top seven in scoring this season, Greater Halifax, Nova Scotia can boast what no other country, let alone a single city, can match.

All three Maritime players had incredibly successful campaigns: Brad Marchand and Sidney Crosby each notched 100 points, and Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t far behind with 99.

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The remainder of the NHL’s top 10 in scoring looks like a round table from the United Nations: Russia is represented by Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov; Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau hail from the USA; Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos are from Ontario; Leon Draisaitl comes from Germany; And Aleksander Barkov is from Finland.

Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan Mackinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin/THW)

If you want to get technical, Finland should have to share Barkov, who holds dual citizenship with Russia. This would give Russia two scorers in the top 10 this season. Even so, the massive nation still can’t match mighty Halifax.

A Brief History of Nova Scotia Hockey

Not many NHL greats have come from Nova Scotia, whose population of just under one million pales in comparison to places like Ontario, with well over 14 million.

Among the few big names from Nova Scotia’s past are Al MacInnis (1999 Norris Trophy winner and Hockey Hall of Famer) and Bobby Smith (1979 Calder Trophy winner and 1000+ point scorer in the NHL). 

Both players’ names are etched into Lord Stanley’s mug. Smith won his Cup in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens, and MacInnis got his in 1989 with the Calgary Flames, when he also took home the coveted Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin/THW)

Beyond that, there hadn’t been all that much for Halifax hockey fans to get excited about until recently. So, what changed exactly?

The QMJHL Arrives in Atlantic Canada

It all began with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s 1994 expansion into Atlantic Canada. That year, the Halifax Mooseheads (owned by the aforementioned Bobby Smith) came into existence and became the first major junior hockey team based in the Maritimes.

From the moment the Mooseheads arrived, young hockey players from across the region finally had something to aspire to; the even greater dream of one day playing in the NHL had never seemed closer.

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Though it took two decades to accomplish, in 2013 the Mooseheads won their first Memorial Cup Championship—led to glory by hometown hero Nathan MacKinnon. Interesting note: Next month Halifax plays host to the classic tournament.

But the Mooseheads were just the beginning of major junior hockey in the Maritimes. Since their emergence, a number of other cities in the region have also been blessed with QMJHL teams including the Moncton Wildcats, the Saint John Sea Dogs, the Charlottetown Islanders, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to cheer on and aspire to play for.

The Payoff

As for this season’s Halifax bounty, it couldn’t be sweeter:

Career pest and reputed “rat” Brad Marchand scored 36 goals and joined the 100-point club for the first time in his decade-long tenure with the Boston Bruins. His production has continued into the postseason as well with two goals and four assists through four games versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Sidney Crosby enjoyed his sixth 100-point season, just one of about a million noteworthy accomplishments in his storied career. Unfortunately for Crosby’s Pens, they were bounced from the playoffs earlier this week by a very impressive New York Islanders team.

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Finally, Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon picked up right where he left off from last year’s breakout season, cracking the 40-goal barrier for the first time (41) and setting a new career high in points (99). He’s also been on fire in Colorado’s first round series against the Calgary Flames, most notably with an overtime goal to win game 2 and a two-goal, one-assist performance in a lopsided Game 3 victory.

Yes sir, it sure was a good year for players from the Halifax Regional Municipality! With prospects in the pipeline, like 2017 first round draft pick Shane Bowers, and plenty more time for MacKinnon and the gang to find even greater success, the future of Halifax hockey looks every bit as bright as its present.