Douglas Charles McNeil
Born: November 7, 1927 (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Died: January 18, 2015 (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Member: Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame (1988)
Dugger McNeil was a hard-checking defenceman who spent nearly 20 years as a senior amateur player and coach in the Maritimes.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound bruiser spent four seasons with the Halifax St. Mary’s junior team before signing with the Montreal Canadiens organization. He spent another four seasons with the Montreal Royals, scoring 18 goals with 63 assists in 190 games.
While a steady performer and a fine prospect, McNeil could not break into a Canadiens lineup whose defensive corps was built around Butch Bouchard, Tom Johnson and Doug Harvey, all future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In 1952, Canadiens general manager Frank Selke agreed to allow McNeil to leave his Canadiens contract to sign with the fledgling Halifax Atlantics as a playing coach. He led the team to consecutive Alexander Trophy championships in 1953 and ’54.
McNeil was hired as a playing coach by the Moncton Hawks for the 1954-55 season, emerging as the Atlantic champions in Allan Cup senior play. The Hawks eliminated the Charlottetown Islanders from the playoffs but not before a notorious brawl involving players and fans at Moncton Stadium on March 5, 1955. A 15-year-old girl went to hospital and several spectators were treated for injuries, including a man who nearly lost a finger after being knocked to the floor and accidentally stepped on by a skate-wearing player). Six Charlottetown players faced 13 criminal charges. In the end, visiting players paid court fines ranging from $6 to $50. After eliminating the Islanders, the Hawks went on to defeat the New Glasgow (N.S.) Rangers and the Ottawa RCAF Flyers before being eliminated from Allan Cup contention by the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen in the Eastern Canadian finals.
McNeil returned to Halifax in 1956 as coach and an occasional fill-in player with the senior Halifax Wolverines. The club won the Nova Scotia championship in 1957-58.
After retiring as a player following seven playoff games for the Halifax Tartans at the end of the 1962-63 season, McNeil served as a junior hockey coach. He also opened an eponymous men’s wear store, the beginnings of a modest business empire to which he would later add a restaurant and other retail interests.
In 1963, McNeil was elected to the provincial House of Assembly for Halifax West as a Progressive Conservative. He then won re-election in Halifax St. Margarets in 1967.
In 1981, he was defeated in a bid to return to the Legislature in the constituency of Halifax Chebucto. Provincial NDP Leader Alexa McDonough got 3,886 votes to McNeil’s 3,394, while a Liberal candidate took 2,407.
McNeil was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. As well, he was a member of two teams also honoured by the hall, the 1953-54 Atlantics (inducted in 1980) and the 1947-48 St. Mary’s Juniors (inducted in 2002).
One of his daughters, Marnie McNeil (later Bowness), won the Canadian championship in ice dancing with Rob McCall in 1981. The pair also competed at two world championships.