Sunday nights were hockey night for Woodrow Bessey.
Growing up in Main Point on the Northern Peninsula in the early 1960s, the 67-year-old Bessey listened to the games on the radio.
There was no ref cam, instant replay or Bob Cole barking out “Oh, Baby!” after an impressive play.
So, when he listened, he had to use his imagination to see the likes of Toronto Maple Leafs stand out forward Eddie Shack barreling down the ice.
“Clear the track cause here comes Shack” he’d hear the great Foster Hewitt bellow, but he couldn’t put a face to the name.
That was until a man from Bowater who was working in Main Brook gave him his first hockey card.
That sent him collecting. Perhaps more importantly, it allowed him to see the faces of the players he heard about through the radio.
Decades later, the one card given to him prompted a lifetime of collecting.
That lifetime saw Bessey amass a collection of more than 17,000 cards through various means.
“I got them every which way,” he said referring how he built the sizeable compilation of sporting memorabilia.
When Tim Hortons put out a new set of NHL cards, Bessey made sure to get as many as he could.
Last week, Bessey became the man from Bowater as he donated his impressive collection to the students of C.C. Loughlin.
On May 9, Bessey surprised students with a small bag filled with cards. Inside these makeshift card packs, each one of the more than 400 students received 42 different cards.
Since January Bessey meticulously sorted each of the bags. He made sure there were no duplicates and that each pack had an assortment of cards.
Not everything was hockey. There were some baseball cards as well.
With a fresh pack in front of them, the students thumbed through the cards, smiled as they saw which card came next and then they did as any group of kids faced with the prospect of discovery what was in their hands.
They traded cards with their friends in hopes of building what they believed to be the best collection they could.
The students who sought Maple Leaf cards offered what they could to make the deal happen. Others wanted the Edmonton Oilers because that was their favourite team.
One kid pulled a Mark Messier card from the pack and marvelled. The Moose was his grandfather’s favourite.
It must have been reminiscent of how Bessey treated cards when he was a kid. Then, he’d sit for hours and make sure his collection was just right.
He had offers for the cards. He received visitors that wanted to give him money or trade. Maybe they saw went to see the room in Bessey’s Corner Brook home that housed the collection or just called him to gauge his interest, but either way, Bessey decided he wasn’t going to part with his collection that way.
He never had it priced but figured the best thing to do would be to donate them. His wife teaches at C.C. Loughlin, making it the logical fit.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Bessey.
Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at email@example.com