Which way to Freddy Beach?
CBC Fredericton's newest team member ponders the city's misleading nickname
"Welcome to Freddy Beach, you'll love it here," they said.
That's basically what I've heard for the last month or so, since I announced I was moving from Corner Brook, N.L., to Fredericton to join the Information Morning team.
I was happy to hear the kind greetings of enthusiasm as I unpacked my vehicle last week.
But then I had a thought: Freddy Beach? I don't remember hearing about any beaches in Fredericton. At least nothing that would warrant a beloved nickname.
So I decided to proceed with caution and not take the bait, just in case this was a cruel joke to play on the new guy in town.
I asked around.
And I was relieved to find out that it wasn't someone playing a prank on me, and that, in fact, this place is unofficially known as Freddy Beach.
I went to the mall and found a hat emblazoned with Freddy Beach on the front.
Then I asked random people in the shopping centre for their take.
"I have no idea because we don't have any nice natural beaches, so it's honestly the biggest mystery of all," said Fredericton local Alex Jewett.
Cherished nickname a puzzle
She wasn't the only person who couldn't explain the nickname, so I became determined to trace its origins.
I learned quickly that although people can't say how Freddy Beach started, they love it and it's quite sacred around these parts.
Whether intentional or not, it's become part of a local marketing gimmick.
Festivals and other spectacles have branded themselves with the Freddy Beach name, including UNB, which used it as an orientation theme last fall.
And of course there has been a Freddy Beach clothing label as well.
That's where some of the theories come from — that the name comes from the clothing line of the 1980s.
But I managed to trace the source back a few years earlier, to 1981-82, when the American Hockey League rolled into town with the Fredericton Express.
Danny Grant was part of the coaching staff that year, and he told me that's where the name started.
"I never heard it before the Express arrived, and I think it was nicknamed for Fredericton by the guys coming in from all over, all over Canada and the United States, and they just did, as young guys do, have a nickname for something."
Grant couldn't immediately remember why the players settled on Freddy Beach but said it was all in good fun.
As he thought back, however, he smiled and connected the name's inspiration to "the fact that we do have winter here, as we're witnessing now," much unlike the beaches of Florida.
"I'm sure it had something to do with the weather and that type of thing," Grant said.
He said the nickname carried over from the Express, which left town later that decade, to the Fredericton Canadiens, who hit the local ice next.
Eventually, Freddy Beach was a community name.
Grant agreed that Fredericton's love affair with the nickname is misleading, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
The fact it was a hockey team that came up with it makes Freddy Beach even more special to him.
"When I hear somebody talk about Freddy Beach, automatically my mind flips back to the Express," Grant said.
As for me, I'm not much of a beach person anyway. So, I'm not too heartbroken over the lack of sand.