Nostalgia is hardly an exact science.
The very notion of enjoying a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past entails delving into our memory banks, taking the trip that over time becomes more and more shaped by the way that we want to remember things.
Yet it is that very same ability to draw deeply upon our emotional foundation that makes the researching and sharing of all that is Nickel City Nostalgia quite so enthralling - at least for this trusty scribe.
The goosebumps were evident as Edie Boyd recalled that very special moment her father (George McNamara) enjoyed a reunion that would take him back decades in time. It would be another hour or more still before the long-time local hockey fan, who passed away in August of 2018 at the age of 81, would experience his Wish of a Lifetime in meeting Sidney Crosby.
This shared story, however, runs so much deeper than an avid Sudbury Wolves season ticket holder and an NHL superstar.
Born and raised in Cape Breton, George McNamara was the youngest of eight children in the family. At the age of 16, he would make his way to the big city, looking to carve out a future for himself. The year was 1953.
"My father did not have his father around - he had passed away when George was very young - and my dad wanted to work and there was no work," said Boyd. "He hopped on a train and went to Halifax. Sid and Nancy offered to have him stay with them."
Sid and Nancy Ball, to be precise, a Nova Scotia couple who many, many years later would fete their role as proud great grandparents to one Sidney Crosby, namesake to his great grandfather. "My grandmother was very good friends with Sidney's great grandmother," recalled Boyd.
For four years, prior to enlisting in the armed forces, George McNamara would be housed with the family Ball, developing very close ties to the children on hand, some of whom were but a few years from sharing the same date of birth as the man who would eventually make his way to northern Ontario in his early thirties.
Still, the ties between the families persisted.
"I had met all of these people, knew all these people from my childhood," stated Boyd. "We went back to Cape Breton, pretty much every year, and would spend two to three weeks there."
Over time, annual summer traditions fade away. The lengthy trek to the east coast was not one that the McNamara clan - George, Sadie and their four children - would make much beyond the early teenage years of Edie Boyd.
Roughly one generation later came the phenomenon that is Sidney Crosby.
"The minute his name first came up in the media, my dad knew right away who he was," said Boyd. "My dad had a heartbeat on everything hockey. He was a die-hard Maple Leafs' fan."
Understanding the connection that bridged her father to the pride of Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia), Boyd would reach out, hoping to perhaps obtain just a small token, an artifact that George could add to his collection of hockey memorabilia, one which captured memories of his youth.
For a decade or more, Boyd tried. "It was totally by fluke that we got involved with Wish of a Lifetime," she said. The program, which parallels the Children's Wish Foundation, but was founded with a target audience of seniors in palliative care, just happened to be involved as the charity of choice of a golf tournament that Boyd attended with her husband, Dean, in the summer of 2018.
The Wish of a Lifetime presentation, made during the post-golfing dinner, immediately sprung Boyd into action, her father having been already diagnosed with cancer, with prospects looking grim. "I ran up, after the presentation, and had a really hard time composing myself," she said. "I typed the whole story the next day, travelling to Niagara Falls."
The challenge, beyond the fear of George's shortened time-line, lie in a request to meet, in person, the hockey superstar who arguably receives more such requests than any other player currently still active. "I received a call from the Wish of a Lifetime head office, in Colorado, asking me to send something that would validate the interconnection between the two families," said Boyd.
"I remembered that my grandmother went to Troy's mother’s wedding."
Troy Crosby, father to one Sidney, whose mother Linda was one of the daughters of Sid and Nancy Ball. A link was quickly coming into focus. "Thankfully, there was a picture, from the wedding, with all of the names on the back," said Boyd.
It would take a couple of calls to the east coast before word soon spread of the enquiries through the family of "Georgie McNamara", the house guest and friend of many, more than a half century earlier. "Then the ball got rolling quickly," said Boyd. "This was around late July."
On August 8th, George McNamara, his daughter (Edie Boyd) and her husband (Dean) would board a plane for Halifax. Wanting to make the most of this trip, Edie had reached out to a cousin in Cape Breton, informing them that she would be travelling to the homestead, immediately following their rendez-vous with Crosby, surprising her father with a final family reunion.
As is so often the case on the ice, It turns out that Sidney Crosby and his entourage was one step ahead.
The local trio was to arrive at the Cole Harbour arena at 11:00 a.m., with a face to face for George and Sidney planned once the on-ice hockey session was complete. "Dad knew that something was going on, but we had very few details," said Boyd.
"So Sidney's mom (Trina) comes out to meet us and suddenly a big black limo-bus pulls in, and we're thinking it's Sidney Crosby - but all of these old people start exiting the bus. From a distance, my dad recognizes Gerry and Ralph."
That would be Gerry and Ralph, sons of Sid and Nancy Ball, great uncles to Sidney Crosby.
"They had no idea George would be there, they thought they were just coming down to watch Sidney practice and share some time with him," said Boyd. "They all start screaming and crying, and my husband and I and Sidney's parents are just in awe."
"This is unbelievable."
"We're outside for about 20 minutes and his (Sidney's) mom realizes that we are starting to draw a crowd," Boyd added. Ah yes - there is, of course, that small matter still to attend to, when George McNamara actually meets Sidney Crosby.
"We all get shuffled into the arena, but my dad didn't watch any of the practice. He was too busy catching up with his old friends. Meanwhile, my husband couldn't take his eyes off the practice. He was glued to the glass."
Not only had Crosby arranged for the surprise meeting of the two groups, but he then treated all on hand to join him and his family for a pre-arranged lunch, with laughs and tears as much a part of the menu as the meal itself.
As Edie Boyd shared her story, how can one not get goosebumps?