Former Former Axemen Trainer Chris Randall inducted into NS Sports Hall of Fame, again.
By John DeCoste
As anyone who has ever played on one knows well, a sports team is made up of many parts, including the ones that aren’t always as noticeable.
For more than 30 years, Chris “Rocky” Randall of Kentville has been an important part of a number of local sports teams, filling a valuable role, usually as trainer or equipment manager. Many of the teams Randall has been a part of have enjoyed their share of regional and even national success.
Randall has two national championship rings earned as trainer and equipment manager of the Acadia hockey Axemen, in 1993 and 1996, and, he says, “probably should have won at least two more” over the years.
He also served as batboy for the national senior baseball champion 1985 Kentville Wildcats, who were inducted Nov. 2 into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in the team category. It was Randall‘s second Sports Hall of Fame induction. He was already a member of the Acadia Sports Hall of Fame, along with the rest of the 1993 hockey Axemen. Someday soon, the 1996 Axemen championship team may be inducted as well.
Randall, 47, began his long career when he was about 10 years old, when the late Murray Van Blarcom asked him to be ball boy for the Kentville Senior Wildcats baseball team.
The following year, 1978, Wildcats’ player Sandy Van Blarcom – who Randall still views as “my mentor” – invited him to be the team’s batboy.
“I’ve been batboy, equipment manager, third base coach, scorekeeper, announcer. I’ve done it all,” Randall said over his 30-year involvement with the team. He retired at the end of the 2013 season.
Not just baseball
In the mid-1980s, Randall was an equipment manager with the Acadia football Axemen, coached by Sonny Wolfe.
Among the Axemen players during that time were Brian Walling and Paul Masotti, both of whom went on to play in the CFL.
He also helped out then-coach Burton Russell with the KCA boys’ hockey team.
In 1988, he was recommended to Don Wells, at the time the athletic director at Acadia and formerly the Axemen hockey coach, and became an assistant trainer and equipment manager with the hockey Axemen.
During the 20 years he spent with the hockey team, many of them as co-trainer and equipment manager with Dave Beach, the Axemen made it to nationals numerous times, winning national titles in 1993 and 1996.
He also struck up friendships with then-Axemen head coach Tom Coolen and assistants Mark Hanneman and Mike Alcoe that continue to this day.
He served as trainer for Canada’s national team during a visit to Wolfville, and was involved in several visits to Wolfville by teams of NHL Old-Timers.
He spent the 2007-2008 season as trainer for the Axemen basketball team, coached by Les Berry, that ended up losing in the CIS final. Since then, he has “helped out Burnsie (hockey Axemen head coach Darren Burns) doing game stats.”
Highlights of his career, he said, include the 1985 senior baseball championship.
“Winning the nationals was a real highlight, and especially doing it on our home field with thousands of people in the stands.”
The Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony “is probably going to be pretty special as well,” he said.
He also mentioned “getting to work with (coach) Tom Renney” with the national team; “shooting pucks with Glenn Anderson” during the same visit; and “meeting my hockey idol, Guy Lafleur” during a Montreal Canadiens Old-Timers’ visit to Wolfville.
During the 1996 CIS nationals, “I got to meet Doug Gilmour, who was a family friend of our captain, Greg Clancy.” He is proud of his two national championship rings, adding, “I’d have a third one, but not all the 1985 Wildcats got rings.”
His “neatest memory” is probably of the 1993 CIS nationals – his first of two trips to storied Maple Leaf Gardens.
“I’ll never forget the final when Acadia beat the University of Toronto 12-1,” allowing them to win the Wolfville school’s first national hockey title.
This fall, Randall has taken up a new challenge as equipment manager for the new Valley Junior A Wildcats, which he hopes might someday lead him to a job as a trainer or equipment manager in the QMJHL.
In taking the Wildcats’ position, Randall points out he has “come full-circle. I started my hockey career with (the Midget Wildcats) 30 years ago, Johnny Rafuse and I.”
Randall has truly enjoyed his career in sport, and insists, “I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I’ve had some great times, met some great friends, and been part of some great moments.”
This year, he points out, “has been a big year for me,” during which he also was recognized recently on his 25th anniversary working for Sobeys in New Minas.
“And hopefully there’ll be lots more memories still to come.”