Decades of devotion to Nelson Leafs
For Diana Dunsmore, 79, and Jean Broster, 83, winter just wouldn’t be the same without shaking their custom made pom-poms in support of their beloved Nelson Junior Leafs.
Well recognized around the arena, the senior ladies have missed very few Leafs games in their reign as fantastic fanatics.
Their saga began at the end of the 1960s when the Nelson Leafs inaugural year had them skating in the “old rink” for a legion of ladies less a few grey hairs.
“We used to sit in section 13 right above the players and there was a whole row of us then,” says Broster. “We didn’t have anything much better to do so we always came to the hockey games. If you are born and brought up in a small town and you live with hockey, then you are naturally geared to it.”
As their tight knit crew is aging, they see fellow fans falling ill and passing away. But as hockey play continues so does their passion for the game.
“It’s just part of life. I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t spend our winters coming here,” says Broster.
Still seated behind the players’ bench, Dunsmore and Broster’s fast fandom grew much deeper over the years.
They’ve become attached to the young men carving up the ice who also fill a position of citizen in their home city.
“It’s just nice to see the young fellows who are all very good citizens. They show up at the cenotaph [on Remembrance Day]. They show up for a lot of the civic things around town. Some of the young fellows go to the schools. We think we should support them because they are such good kids,” says Broster.
These good kids are often grandchildren of friends or neighbours. The ladies can remember players’ parents marrying. A connection to these players makes them more interesting than the average NHL-er. While they rarely miss a Leafs game, the big league is downplayed.
“If the game is on at home, I might watch it — if the Canucks are playing,” says Broster almost dismissively.
While the duo doesn’t go home and keep a tally on games attended (the number has to be pretty big), they do keep careful track of the players, which ones are coming and going and which ones are playing well. And they do have their favourites.
This year Carson Willans, Colton Schell and (the now injured) Matthew Naka have shown they can dig in, giving the ladies some exciting reason to cheer.
“There are a few on the team this year who aren’t as tall as the other guys and when they hunker down and skate, we like to see that sort of thing,” says Broster.
“They’re all smaller players and we like to see them get in there,” adds Dunsmore.
While Dunsmore sits next to her husband at Leafs games, Broster’s husband wears a bright orange security vest and is well known around the rink.
The ladies’ game night rituals are equally well known — if not more.
“We always buy the program and we always play the 50/50,” says Broster.
They always bring a cushion for their seat and always have candy.
“Diana brings good candy,” says her partner in crime – er, hockey.
The tradition continues outside the rink as well with the ladies going out for dinner, as a group, after matinee games. With their mates, they make a pit stop at Dunsmore’s home for a coffee or a glass of wine.
“That’s a nice social part of it too,” says Broster.
With the Leafs in the stretch drive of a great 2012-2013 season, Broster and Dunsmore are enjoying the play that’s put them atop the KIJHL standings.
“They’re doing really good this year,” says Broster. Adding Dunsmore, “It’s been fun.”
The Leafs — and their number-one fans — are back at the Nelson and District Community Complex tonight for a game against the Columbia Valley Rockies. The puck drops at 7 p.m.