The Berwick Lions juveniles were a team brought together in the spring of 1980 to compete for the regional and provincial Juvenile 'C' titles.
The players, mainly from the Berwick area, had played together at one time or another over the years, but this season, they would all play as one unit.
That 1980 season consisted of playing exhibition games as no juvenile league existed in the province at the time. The Lions won the bulk of those games, looking to peak at the provincial Juvenile 'C' playoffs.
Coach John Charest recalls that Berwick had to beat Cornwallis, the Mid-Valley juveniles who played out of Lawrencetown, and West Pubnico in order to qualify for provincials.
After eliminating the first two opponents, Berwick took on West Pubnico in a best-of-three regional final. The third and deciding game was played Mar. 22, 1980 in front of a large crowd at the Berwick Arena.
The game went to overtime and was decided in Berwick's favour by a 6-5 score when Larry Morse found the net on a perfect drop pass from Dale Spicer. Craig Prall was outstanding in the Lions' net.
Berwick's next stop was Church Point, site of the Nova Scotia Juvenile 'C' championship. Despite their success to that point, the banged-up Lions looked to be far from favorites to win.
Charest recalls, “out of 13 players, one had a bruised ankle, several had upper bodies and arms that looked like tic-tac-toe boards that were bruised from hockey sticks, two suffered from Charley horses, one had badly bruised feet and one was hurt prior to the tournament and couldn't shoot the puck.”
The Lions started well, winning their opening game 5-4 in overtime over the host Clare Zeniths. Larry Morse netted the hat trick, including the overtime winner, and Dale Spicer added a pair of goals. The Saturday evening game, however, was a “disaster.” The Cape Breton Islanders from Sydney scored nine times, with Jim Kennie managing the lone Berwick marker.
The Lions entered their final round robin game Sunday morning against Sackville Acadiens looking to bounce back, and did so with a memorable performance that unfortunately ended in a 7-5 defeat.
Berwick “fought hard,” but ended up falling just short against a Sackville team that would end up winning the tournament and the provincial title.
Larry Morse again had two goals, and with Sackville up 6-5 and time running out, rang what would have been the tying goal off the post. Sackville scored the final goal in a 7-5 victory into an empty net.
All in all, it was a game effort by the Berwick boys, as reported in the Berwick Register which was all over the provincial tournament being played just a few hours' drive away in Digby County. “Had there been an award for the team with the most heart and guts,” it said, “Berwick had no competition for that one.”
Charest recalls the Lions, led by their captain Craig Newton, as “a great bunch of kids to coach, the easiest team I've had to coach in all the years I coached. They were all friends who got along very well,” and despite maybe not having the overall talent of some other teams, “they were a team to be reckoned with.”
Larry Morse, who had five goals at provincials and made the tournament all-star team, was an offensive-minded player who “was always one of the best players in the province,” and who would go on to set a record for assists in a season in the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League.
The Berwick Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to induct, in the Team category, the 1979-1980 Berwick Lions Juveniles, truly a 'little team that could'.
1979-1980 Berwick Lions Juveniles
Coaches: John Charest, Stewart Spicer
Manager: Art Newton
Inducted June 2011