COLUMN: Perry Bergson — Jan. 14, 2013

Perry Bergson
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On Tuesday I return for a couple of days to what I consider Canada’s best big city.

And if you’ve ever been there, you just might agree.

I first went to Halifax in early 1987. At the time, I was attending Holland College in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and one of my classmates had a place for us to stay in nearby Dartmouth, which is on the east side of the harbour.

It gave me a chance to poke around Halifax with my friends. Since I was 21 at the time -- regardless of the fact that I was a non-drinker -- I was keenly interested in the local nightclubs. There were many moves busted on the dance floor, which were likely far more unsightly than my sympathetic, revisionist memory will allow me to recall.

One of the big attractions for me was that Halifax used to host the annual university basketball championship and my Brandon University Bobcats were a national powerhouse.

When I made that first trip in 1987, they had earned a spot in the national title against the UBC Thunderbirds.

With a roster filled with players from Eastern Canada, a couple of Americans and some homegrown kids, the Bobcats won the school’s first national title with me in the crowd.

I knew several of the guys on the team from my time as sportswriter for the university paper so it was a thrilling experience. (I was even asked to join them for their post-game celebration, an invitation that I gratefully accepted.)

I had premade a massive banner out of a bedsheet and the guys had all signed it a day earlier. Another guy I knew from Brandon helped me run around the concourse with it, earning us airtime on TSN.

I was pretty sure I had made it when that happened.

The next time I journeyed to Halifax was three years later, again for nationals.

The Bobcats didn’t play that well and were ousted from contention quickly.

My third trip was with a close buddy, and again the Bobcats were eliminated quickly. But the trip gave me one of the great memories of my life.

We went to see the Halifax Citadels of the American Hockey League. They were the farm team for the old Quebec Nordiques.

We had experienced some late nights and my buddy actually nodded off to sleep towards the end of the first period.

He didn’t hear the buzzer or the announcer telling the crowd about the very young players -- wearing matching uniforms to the AHL teams -- who would be taking to the ice.

It would take a much stronger man to resist what came next. I let the kids get started and then very gently nudged him.

I watched his eyes open, flicker for a moment, and then get very, very wide.

I’m fairly certain that he realized what had happened only because I had been reduced to jelly sitting beside him; when I get laughing, it can be a physical workout likely to involve a great many tears.

He didn’t get any more sleep that game, just in case.

The last time I was there was really special.

In 1992, Halifax was among our destinations when my wife and I went on our honeymoon.

We had spent some time at Cavendish Beach in Prince Edward Island prior to taking the ferry at Wood Islands across to Caribou, N.S., and then made the 170-km trip to Halifax.

We were both covered in fine silt because a strong wind had been blowing the sand into our faces. Our hair and scalps felt gritty.

The showers we took after we checked into our hotel were about as good as they can be during a trip. It was a relief to be clean again.

The next day we moved for a couple of days into the apartment of a guy who my friends there knew.

He was a bachelor, and seemed to delight in it. My wife still shudders thinking about the “casual” approach he took to cleaning.

We spent hours on that trip walking around their gorgeous downtown, popping into some of the small shops and eating at their legendary -- and now long closed -- Mexican restaurant, Rosa’s Cantina.

I’m not sure if it was my obvious enthusiasm for the city rubbing off on her but my wife also adored Halifax.

I was 26 that year, with everything lying ahead of me. I’m glad that I had no idea how quickly the time would pass.

I’m sure that my friends in their sixties and eighties would tell me not to blink because those decades will pass just as quickly.

It’s a business trip this time so my wife won’t be joining me. I’ll be busy with work for most of the visit anyway.

But I do hope that I get a little time to retrace some old steps.

And if I do, I’ll be curious to see if the city can live up to my memories. Sometimes what seems sensational when you’re younger loses a bit of its lustre with the passing of time.

Everything changes. But regardless of what this visit brings, the memories stay shiny and warm.

Organizations: Holland College, Brandon University Bobcats, American Hockey League Quebec Nordiques

Geographic location: Halifax, Eastern Canada, Charlottetown Dartmouth Prince Edward Island Wood Islands

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