By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, June 17, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photo by John Deming]
HAMPTON -- The honors are about equal, said former Boston Bruins hockey great Rick Middleton.
Middleton — known to some as "Nifty" — was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in an event last month, but his friends wanted to be sure the Hampton resident was honored back home as well.
As of last week, he's a member of another elite group — Widow Fletcher's Tavern's "Royal Society Bridge Club," a local group who meet at the restaurant regularly for drinks and conversation.
The group also does charitable work in town, having raised $250,000 for non-profit organizations.
Middleton was inducted on Thursday night.
"It's the same honor as far as I'm concerned," Middleton laughed.
Widow Fletcher's owner Parker Ryan was pleased to induct Middleton.
"He's a regular customer and friend," he said. "We wanted to make sure he doesn't go unnoticed and unappreciated here in the states."
Middleton played for the Bruins from 1973-89, holding the position as captain from 1986-88. He is third on the team's all-time playoff scoring list and fourth on its all-time scoring list.
He played in more than 1,000 games and scored 448 career goals.
Four of his closest friends accompanied him to the Hall of Fame ceremony, one of whom was local chiropractor and former hockey peer Doug Wine.
"It was a great ceremony," he said, noting that hundreds attended. And afterwards, they retreated to Middleton's parents' house where a surprise waited for him — a collection of old neighborhood friends that he grew up playing street hockey with.
It was on those streets — where Middleton played up to six hours a day — that he learned the puck-handling that earned him the nickname "Nifty."
"He is one of the best at handling the puck," Wine said. "He can do anything with the puck."
Hatfield still skates once or twice a week and plays hockey with his friends, Wine said.
As to which is greater honor — the Canadian Hall or the Royal Society Bridge Club — Wine couldn't say.
"They're both very, very select groups," he said. "[Members of the club] are high prestige in their own right."
Many would agree. The Bridge Club has many famous members, including Congressman Dick Gephardt and former Vice President Al Gore.
"[Gephardt] stops here every time he's in the state," Ryan said.
The group itself seems a group of folks who enjoy laughs and casual talk. One could overheard conversations about football, about beer, about golf.
"My first few shots … all of them combined didn't make 100 yards," one member stated to another while they awaited Middleton's arrival.
While inducting Middleton in front of a bar-full of peers, Ryan made Middleton repeat an oath noting the club as "one of the greatest fraternal groups in this our great country."
He was also made to understand the club's motto — "Ask not what you can do for your customers, ask what your customers can do for you."
Middleton was presented with a certificate and a photographs signed by all members.
He received rousing applause and thanked the current members as the clamorous celebration got under way.
"I feel like Cam Neely tonight," he laughed.