Living the Dream
WOLFVILLE – Dave Beach has never played a game of hockey for Acadia, but his contributions to the success of the Axemen hockey program over the past 20-plus years have not gone without notice.
On Nov. 15, the long-time Axemen equipment manager joined former Acadia players Paul Doherty, Brian Casey and Malcolm Cameron as 2015 inductees to the Acadia Hockey Honour Roll.
Beach, 54, grew up in Kentville. Because one of his legs was shorter than the other, leaving him with a limp, he “was never able to play hockey. I did play some Little League baseball, but I wasn’t very good.”
Talented in other ways
What Beach is good at were the tasks involved with being an equipment manager. He started out with the Kentville Wildcats senior baseball team in 1985, the year they won a national championship, and remained with the team through 2006.
In the fall of 1992, he was chosen to fill a vacancy as an equipment manager for the hockey Axemen.
“I spoke to Coach (Tom) Coolen, and he said there might be a job there for me. Just before the season, I was offered the job, and I was there for the next 23 seasons,” Beach said.
“Mike Smith, a senior student, Chris (Rocky) Randall and I were the equipment managers. When Mike graduated, it was Chris and me for many years. I started out number-three, then number-two, and after Chris left, number-one.”
When Beach started with the hockey Axemen in 1992, current Axemen head coach Darren Burns was in his third year as an Axemen player. The man he affectionately calls ‘Beachy’ is “one of the best human beings I’ve ever met,” he said.
“He is an extremely dedicated and caring individual who will do anything he can to help you. His efforts with our hockey team could not be replaced.”
In a repeat of his experience with the senior Wildcats, in Beach’s first year with the hockey Axemen the team won nationals.
“My favourite memory from that year wasn’t from the nationals, but the (conference) playoffs. We played Cape Breton in the first round,” Beach recalls.
“Every time we had played them, we beat them badly, but the first playoff game was in Sydney and they won.”
Perhaps it was the big, white limousine that pulled onto the ice that threw the Axemen.
“I thought it might be Rita MacNeil or someone like that,
but it turned out to be an Elvis impersonator,” Beach said.
Then, on the way home, “our bus driver put the bus in the ditch.”
The Axemen regrouped and won two straight in Wolfville.
Beach recalls Duane Dennis, who had had his leg cut badly by a skate, leaving his hospital bed and travelling to Toronto in time to be in uniform for the national final. “He couldn’t do much, but at least he was able to be part of it.”
The Axemen won nationals again in 1996, this time beating Waterloo 3-2 in the final.
“There was nowhere to stand near the bench, so I ended up standing behind the glass at the end where the dressing rooms were. There was only one goal scored at that end the whole game, and that was (Christian) Skoryna’s game-winner,” Beach said.
“Both the national titles were among my most memorable moments, out of a lot of memorable moments…I could go on for a long time.”
‘Anything that needed doing’
Beach’s duties as equipment manager included “anything that needed doing, or they asked you to do – sharpening skates, putting out practice and game jerseys, getting them ready for home games and packing the trunks for road games.”
On road trips, “every cent had to be accounted for,” including meal money. Beach went on all the road trips, including nationals.
“I never missed a practice, a home game or an away game for my first 15 years.”
He scaled things down after his father died in 2005.
“He got sick and then passed away, and I had to be there for my mom.”
His mother passed away in 2007.
“I was left the house, and I needed an income,” he said. He started working at Acadia, at the Student Union desk. “I did that for five years, and I’ve worked for the Athletic Department since 2012.”
Once David Bambrick joined the Axemen as a second equipment manager, Beach scaled back his involvement.
By the end of the 2014-2015 season, “I had had enough, and decided to give it up in favour of someone younger who had more energy,” he said.
“I’m not fully retired, and I’ll probably always do little things for them. I may not be as young or as fast as I used to be, but I can still get the job done.”
“I was pleased to be recognized,” and added to the hockey honour role, he said. “I had been lobbying for it for years. I guess one of the other choices fell through, so my number came up.”
Asked if he has a favorite Axemen player, Beach replied, “I liked them all. I tried to do something for everyone, even the ones who didn’t play much. I can’t think of a player I didn’t get along with. I still keep in touch with a lot of them.”
Beach enjoyed his time with the Axemen.
“I helped Acadia achieve some lasting goals, made lots of lasting friendships, and have enough memories to last a lifetime. I feel I’m rich in so many ways.”