When Chip Mercier was 20, he made a deal with himself during a summer break from school.
Jordan Horrobin – The Daily Press
If he got a mining job and made the Timmins North Stars – the amateur Intermediate ‘A’ team he grew up idolizing – he would remain in Timmins. But if either of those things fell through, he’d return to his heating technician course at St. Clair College in Windsor – and perhaps stay down south for good.
Well, Mercier got the mining job and made the North Stars, which led to an unforgettable three seasons with the team he’d dreamed of playing for.
“That’s how I got (back) up here,” he said. “And it was a good group of guys, we had lots of fun, the hockey was great and that’s how it happened.”
Mercier is part of a North Stars cohort that has organized an alumni reunion coming up on Saturday, Aug. 17 at the McIntyre Curling Club (steps away from the attached arena, where the team used to play its games).
An alumni-only portion of the event starts with a social at 2 p.m., followed by a dinner at 5 p.m. Then at 7 p.m., the reunion is open to the public with an open house event in which North Stars fans and hockey enthusiasts can hear stories from players about the team’s 11 seasons in the Northland Intermediate Hockey League (NIHL).
Admission for the open house is a voluntary donation to the Timmins Rock Junior ‘A’ team, which will host a silent auction with items such as Rock season tickets, historical portraits of The Mac, NHL memorabilia and more. The Rock will have just opened training camp that weekend, so it’s possible a couple current players may appear at the open house.
The Rock are actually part of the reason the reunion is happening. Last season, players wore throwback North Stars uniforms during a game in mid-January, after which a group of North Stars alumni banded together to try to organize a reunion.
With that said, the North Stars can take partial credit for the existence of the Rock today, as the predecessors that sparked massive local interest in amateur hockey.
“I think going forward we’d like to leverage the good things that happened with us,” said Steve Kidd, an eight-year NIHL veteran who spent half that time with the North Stars. “So that we can stir more interest in the Rock to keep competitive hockey in the community.”
Among the good things that happened for the North Stars, a team for players aged 20-and-up, were eight NIHL titles in 11 years of existence from the mid-70s through mid-80s.
During one postseason run, they played 27 games in 31 days across three provinces. At that time, two of their players had suspected broken backs and the team had seven trainers on hand “just getting us taped and put together,” Kidd said.
Those are the types of stories the alumni are eager to recall with each other and share with community members. There are 34 alumni confirmed to be at the reunion, but the organizers hope that number continues to grow.
Playing for the North Stars changed Mercier’s life. As opportunities to relive his glory days continue to lessen, the chance to have a reunion becomes even more special.
And for Mercier, as with many other former players/team staff/reporters who will attend, the special bonds formed with North Stars members will last a lifetime.
“That’s why I’ll never regret coming back,” Mercier said. “Because in the three years I was (with the North Stars), you couldn’t beat it.”