Nick Evanshen: A true gentleman within Sudbury sports scene
by Randy Pascal
Over the years, a good number of Sudburians have shared their stories, recalling the bygone era of their youth, their involvement with the rich tapistry
of sport history in the Nickel City.
Few, however, have the ability to paint the portrait as Nick Evanshen can, detailing a time when his first treks to Saturday morning hockey were
made to the Palace Rink in the downtown core, an edifice that predates the construction of the Sudbury Community Arena.
Set to celebrate his 88th birthday this coming November, Evanshen can tell a tale of a time that now exists primarily in the books on the shelves of local
A relative of CFL great Terry Evanshen, Nick was the only child from his father's second marriage, his dad losing his first wife to pneumonia at an early
age. With ten to twelve years between he and his step siblings, Evanshen was introduced to sport via something of a family connection.
"When I was seven or eight years old, my dad built a boarding house on Drinkwater and mom ran the boarding house," he explained. "One of the boarders
bought me my first pair of skates."
His visits to the Palace Rink, which sat adjacent to the curling club at the time, became more and more frequent. "I was a rink rat," Evanshen said.
"As a rink rat, we would get in for nothing, because we would clean the ice between periods."
"That's where I remember learning how to skate, and skating was my forte." Garnering attention as he progressed through the midget and juvenile ranks,
Evanshen's skating ability would be only partially offset by a long-standing dispute he maintained with a well-known Sudburian of the era.
"I never saw eye to eye with Maxie (Silverman)," Evanshen said. "He should never have been a manager of a hockey club. He was a fur peddler, and
that's what he should have stayed as."
Suiting up with the Copper Cliff Redmen in his final year of junior hockey, Evanshen would crack the roster of the Buffalo Bisons of the
AHL the following fall, playing for the legendary Eddie Shore.
With a $ 200 signing bonus and $ 1500 yearly salary, Evanshen was off and running. "Us kids from the north would have gone down there and played for a
jacket," he said with a smile.
"We would do anything to play hockey." After one year in Buffalo, Evanshen was scooped up by the expansion St Louis Flyers before heading to the
west coast the very next year, splitting a season between the Oakland Oaks and Los Angeles Monarchs of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.
Yet support at home was hard to find. "My dad told me, being the reasonable man that he was, that I should quit playing that foolish game and get myself
a steady job." By this time, Evanshen's wife, Jackie, still by his side to this day, was beginning to come into the picture.
"Back in those days, it was tough to make hockey a career," Evanshen stated. "You weren't making enough money to sustain you for a whole year. When you
finished hockey in March or April, you came home and looked for a part-time job."
Involved with local oldtimers hockey by the early 1950's and operating a sporting goods store just steps away from Sudbury Arena from 1951 to 1967,
Nick Evanshen was as involved as anyone in the area when it came to the world of local sports.
That knowledge would come in handy, as Evanshen stepped in, from time to time, covering off for long-time CHNO sports announcer Joe Spence. "When
Joe would take a vacation, he would ask me to fill in for the morning sportscast."
"Joe was without a doubt, in my mind, even better than Foster Hewitt in announcing games," Evanshen proclaimed. If his career as an athlete
revolved mostly around hockey, his long-time officiating career was marked moreso by his involvement in football, a sport that he would spend more than
half a decade serving.
"Hockey was far less burdensome on me than football," said Evanshen. "In football, we ran up and down the mud pads at Queen's Athletic Field and all
different schools, across poorly lined fields, potholes, through rain and even snowstorms."
A true gentleman in every sense of the word, Evanshen understood his role within the game. "You have to learn to referee each game as it progresses,"
he said. "If the game was 0-0 at half time, and there's a little bit of holding to the right and the play is going to the left, you turn a blind eye to
"We wanted to let the players play the game, not the referees," Evanshen maintained. Through it all, the stories, eminating from his involvement with
sports, continued: enjoying a round of golf, in Sudbury, with "Rocket" Richard before the Montreal sniper visited the house for photos with his
children; sharing a night-club table, during his time in Los Angeles, with Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante.
Yes, few in the area can bring back to life the era that Nick Evanshen has lived. And now it can be shared with generations still to come, at some point
in time when even the revered old Sudbury Arena will be a thing of the past.