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Town of dreams

HearneHearne sidewalk

More than anything else, Allan Fotheringham's boyhood dream was to play hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His hero was Syl Apps, a Depression-era Hall of Fame centre for the Leafs during the 1930s and 1940s. Not only was Apps a superb hockey player but his gentlemanly disposition was renowned in his day, and light years removed from the antics of today's so-called hockey heroes. Legend also has it that Apps never drank, smoked, swore, and was loyal to his team and to Leafs' owner Conn Smythe.

Like most any kid of that era, Fotheringham's goal was to be like his hero. Unfortunately, this wide-eyed dreamer of a kid lived in a faraway place called Hearne, Saskatchewan, a hamlet about 80 kilometres southeast of Moose Jaw. The always tiny village is now one of scores of ghost towns that dot the Saskatchewan plain.

Fotheringham was born in 1932 in Rouleau, about 34 kilometres northeast of Hearne. His family, which would include two older sisters and a younger brother, soon moved to Hearne. During the Depression years the village was home to only about 30 or so folks.

"The town was so small we couldn't afford a village idiot so we took turns," said Fotheringham. In spite of his modest surroundings and circumstances, the Fotheringham boy was hell bent on learning how to skate like the speedy Apps in the village curling rink.

"I was going to play left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs," said Fotheringham. "One day I was speeding along just like Apps. In trying to stop in this curling rink, I shoved my hands up to stop against the wall and there was a rusty nail there that went right through the palm of my left hand.

"I think that ended my hockey career. The Toronto Maple Leafs don't know what they're missing."That assessment is not quite right, for Fotheringham today is very well known by the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as millions of Canadian newspaper and magazine readers. He is especially remembered for his 27-year stint with Maclean's where reading his back page column was mandatory first reading for countless followers.

At age 71, Dr. Foth - as he is now known affectionately today - is still writing wickedly biting columns for newspapers across the country.

No, the good doctor of Canadian journalism never did live up to Syl Apps's athletic prowess nor the hockey icon's passion of clean living, but in 1999 he was named to the Canadian News Hall of Fame - along with his old nemesis, embattled newspaper baron Conrad Black.