MIDDLETON, NS - He’s been a coach, a mentor, a fundraiser, a publicist, and a friend to just about everybody who ever had anything to do with the Middleton and District Arena.
He’s applied for grants, cheered teams, done up schedules, organized tournaments, and cooked French fries. He even taught figure skating.
In case you didn’t know by now, we’re talking about retired educator and dedicated rink rat Albert Johnson, the man you’ve seen in the canteen, in the office, in the stands, in the dressing room, and on the bench.
There’s a day planned for the Truro boy who coached baseball when he was 13 and made it up to Junior B hockey before his hometown rink burned down. That latter event ended his rising hockey career and might just be the reason he’s been so dedicated to the rink in Middleton – so kids wouldn’t miss out.
“Albert is the fabric of the Middleton rink,” said friend and arena board member Al Peppard. “He joined the rink immediately after arriving here when the rink was opened in the early ‘70s.”
The official opening was in 1971, Peppard said, and Johnson has been involved ever since.
“He jumped in and helped all he could both financially and physically,” Peppard said. “Since that time he’s been coaching pretty well every level in the rink, including the high school. During his period of coaching, his teams have won three provincial titles and the high school teams have gone to the final four on three occasions.”
Over the decades he’s become almost legendary.
“He knows everybody,” said Peppard. “People from years ago come to the rink just to see Albert. They don’t come to see the games. They come to talk to Albert.”
A Day Planned
On March 11 the rink is hosting Albert Johnson Appreciation Day that includes an afternoon of hockey, tributes and presentations to Johnson, and no doubt Johnson will have a word or two to say himself.
The event is being hosted by the Middleton and District Rink Commission, with lots of help from the arena’s various user groups.
The schedule starts at 2 p.m. with the IPs, with Atoms and Peewees at 2:30 p.m., and Bantams at 3 p.m.
At 4 p.m. the Middleton Regional High School boys and girls hockey teams will hit the ice. After that there will be presentations with the event ending with a free skate for everyone.
Peppard said anyone who wants to make a presentation to Johnson should contact Cindy Teal at 765-3340.
Peppard said Johnson has given a lot to the community through his work at the rink, through coaching, and through his dedication to groups such as Kinsmen and Rotary. He’s a member of the selection committee of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, and presently the chair of the Middleton and area Sports Heritage Wall of Fame, and past chair of numerous local activities.
Johnson himself was inducted into the wall of fame in the year 2000 as a builder after 30 years of dedicated work in minor and high school sports.
“I’m going to tell the people that Middleton is a better community because Bonnie (his wife) and Albert live here,” Peppard said. “There’s no question they’re key people in this community.”