First Name: 1993 Acadia Axemen Hockey Team
Sport: Hockey
Inductee Type: Team
Year Inducted: 2023
Home Town: Wolfville
County: Kings

On March 21, 1993, the Acadia Axemen captured their first CIAU (now CIS) hockey championship with a stunning 12-1 victory over the University of Toronto Blues. Based on size it might have appeared to be an upset as the Ontario school boasted an enrollment of 36,500 and the Acadia campus a mere 3,400. In actual fact, the number one ranked Axemen could easily have won by a much greater margin.

The historic win came in what many Canadians consider the shrine of hockey, Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. A record 7,842 fans showed up for the showdown, including enough Axemen supporters to make the storied rink sound like Acadia Arena.

The outcome was never in doubt as Acadia dominated from the opening face-off and led 2-0 before two minutes had elapsed. As was their practice all season long, the Axemen came out hitting in an attempt to soften up the Blues and by the end of the first stanza the Torontonians were as soft as triple ply Cottonelle.

Fittingly, All-Canadian centre George Dupont began the onslaught, cashing in on a two man break with Paul Sutcliffe at the 1:13 mark. Forty-three seconds later, Dartmouth’s Sean Rowe scored and the rout was on. The Axemen led 4-0 after the first twenty minutes and 9-0 at the end of second period.

Despite the lop-sided score, there was no lack of drama in this national final. High scoring right winger Duane Dennis, injured in the AUAA final vs UNB, left his Halifax hospital bed and flew to Toronto to contribute to the Axemen victory. The stylish speedster unleashed two point blank shots at the Blues’ net, one of which temporarily disabled the U of T goalie, and his very presence on the ice inspired his teammates.

Joining Dupont in the scoring parade were Rowe with a hat trick, Scott Farrell with a pair, Darren Burns, Kevin Knopp, Colin Gregor, Paul Sutcliffe, Malcolm Cameron, and Norm Batherson. Meanwhile Acadia’s defensive corps was airtight. Defenseman Jeff MacLeod was a one-man wrecking crew, dishing out the kind of bone-crunching, teeth-rattling body checks that made instant Acadia fans out of Toronto chiropractors and orthodontists, not to mention sports psychologists.

The Axemen outshot the Blues 50-24 and Denis Sproxton was perfect in nets until replaced by Arnie Caplan midway through the final stanza. Caplan added several fine saves in closing out the game for the garnet and blue.

It was the first national title in the 44-year history of Acadia hockey and the first time a Nova Scotia university had ever won Canada’s top intercollegiate prize.

Acadia’s regular season was equally dominant as Coach and master recruiter Tom Coolen led his charges to a 22-2-2 record. Dupont won the scoring title with 57 points and Derek Kletzel was named the league’s top rookie. Dupont, Denis Sproxton, Kevin Knopp and Batherson were named to the All Star team.

Following a first game playoff loss to the University of Cape Breton, the Axemen swept to consecutive series victories over the Capers and Dalhousie until finally only UNB stood in their way.

Acadia won the first contest in the best-of-three series and excitement was at a fever pitch for game two in Wolfville. Despite the worst snow storm of the season, Nova Scotia’s premier and 2,099 other rabid fans wedged themselves into Acadia Arena to watch the Axemen punch their ticket to Toronto. The hometown team didn’t disappoint, dominating the McAdam Division champion Red Devils 6-0. Highlights of the game included a hellacious open ice body check on UNB’s Dan Sherstenka by Craig Fraser, Acadia’s version of the Tazmanian Devil. It was a resounding hit that produced audible gasps from the stands.

As the triumphant Axemen paraded the Halifax Herald Trophy around the ice it was apparent to all that this was a team of destiny.

The first national test came against the University of Alberta Golden Bears at Varsity Arena in Toronto. The previous year, the short-staffed Atlantic champs had been eliminated by the Albertans as three key Acadia players were suspended. Driven by thoughts of retribution, the avenging Axemen’s top guns were literally loaded for Bears. The final period was proof that the hockey gods are just. Typifying CIAU coach-of-the-year Coolen’s textbook transition strategy, Sean O’Reilly stole the puck and fed a streaking McFarlane down the right wing. One of the suspended three, McFarlane put a year’s worth of frustrations into a lethal slap shot that bulged the twine behind the Bears’ cage. McFarlane then drew a penalty and Acadia’s second suspended player, Sean Rowe, took over, committing grand larceny on a young Alberta defenseman to score a short-handed beauty. The final act of sweet revenge came a minute later as the third member of the exclusive three scored on a breakaway with a dipsy-doodle finish to send the Bears into early hibernation. Paul Sutcliffe was named player-of-the-game. The 9-4 win over the defending champs was seen by many experts as the true championship game but the Blues still had to be beaten.

Toronto coach Paul Titanic’s Blues knew they were on a collision course with the Axemen iceberg but there was no avoiding the inevitable. In truth, they were sunk before they hit the ice. Dupont led the charge, earning player of the game and MVP honours. He joined teammates Denis Sproxton, Jeff MacLeod, Kevin Knopp and Sean Rowe on the tournament all-star team.

As if further proof was needed of the greatness of this Acadia team, on October 29 of 1993 the CIAU champs (22-2-2) met the NCAA champion University of Maine Black Bears (42-1-2) in an exhibition tilt. The final score was 4-4 after OT.

Team Members: Norm Batherson, Darren Burns, Malcolm Cameron, Arnie Caplan, Ken Cullihall, Duane Dennis, Milan Dragicevic, George Dupont, Scott Farrell, Craig Fraser, Scott Gallant, Colin Gregor, Derek Kletzel, Kevin Knopp, Jeff MacLeod, Morgan Mann, Mark McFarlane, Sean O’Reilly, Mark Pound, Brent Presswood, Sean Rowe, Rob Ryan, Denis Sproxton, Paul Sutcliffe, Tom Coolen (Head Coach), Mike Alcoe and Mark Hanneman (Assistant Coaches), Michael Smith (Manager), Jan Hooper (Therapist), and Dave Beach, Chris “Rocky” Randall, and Pete Sheehan (Equipment Managers).

*Article by Jim Prime*

*Photos courtesy of Acadia University*


First Nova Scotian university team to ever win the CIAU University Cup National Hockey Championship
Defeated University of Toronto 12-1 for CIAU Championship
Players received 10 awards of MVP or All-Star at either the conference or national level
CIAU Coach of the Year – Tom Coolen
CIAU All-Canadian – George DupontFirst Nova Scotian university team to ever win the CIAU University Cup National Hockey Championship
Defeated University of Toronto 12-1 for CIAU Championship
Players received 10 awards of MVP or All-Star at either the conference or national level
CIAU Coach of the Year – Tom Coolen
CIAU All-Canadian – George Dupont