yellow dr martens boots History of Hockey Part 3 of a series
In Corner Brook between 1924 and 1934 the sport of hockey became a popular winter pastime. Apart from competitive ice boat racing, the winter sports of the previous two decades were largely recreational and informally organized. Ice skating on the frozen bay was common, but from 1901 up to 1923 the Bay of Islands weekly newspaper, The Western Star, only mentions hockey in connection with games played by teams from St. John’s.
It was not until the construction of the pulp and paper mill in the mid 1920s and the accompanying population surge that hockey became well known in Corner Brook. Mill employees from Canada and more easterly regions of Newfoundland brought their love of the game and by 1925 there was an organized Senior Hockey League in the town.
The popularity of hockey grew over the next 10 years. Along with local Senior competition, annual Junior (High School) and inter town contests were added. Coverage in The Western Star increased accordingly and, more importantly, in 1935 nearly all of the players on the Corner Brook Herder Cup winning team were local boys. In just a decade the sport had been adopted by the people of the mill town, as it had in other Newfoundland centres, as a traditional part of winter life. Though the 20 years following the 1934 season would prove to be a tumultuous period for the people of Corner Brook, and for local hockey, by the early 1950s the sport had regained its former allure.
The 1935 season was rather disappointing on the local hockey scene. St. Henry’s captured the Junior championship, and there were both boys and girls inter class matches at the Public School. In one exhibition contest, a Public School girls team lost to an aggregation of ex pupils 6 4. Apparently, the girls got knocked around quite a bit. The Western Star reports that “when it was finished some of the girls were in a bad state.”
On the whole, however, attendance was low, even for Senior games. Moreover, the three Senior teams: the Mill Victorias, the Head Office Crescents and the Papermakers had difficulty in allocating players. Often one team would “draft” the best players making the competition unequal. Ultimately, the Papermakers took both the Stadler and Tie Cups but interest was not there. The lingering economic depression and the mismatched talent on the teams made the sport less of an attraction, and perhaps, as one sports commentator remarked, “the background of mob psychology of which the inter town (intra town) games had the advantage was lacking.”
The Papermakers were Corner Brook hockey champions in 1935. Members of the team (front) from left, were Bud Fisher, Farmer Fitzpatrick, Frank Byrne, Art Curnew (captain), Jim Hartley, Jack Marks and Harold Power; (back) Ernie Levitz, Charlie Cross, Leo Joanis, Joe Downey and Ralph Oxford. In front is stickboy Ian Fisher.
Matches between Corner Brook and its rival communities were as popular as ever. In early January 1935 an all star team defeated St. Bon’s 2 games to 1 in Corner Brook and turned around to be “completely outclassed” by Bay Roberts in 2 games in February.
These series were relatively inconsequential considering that the Herder Memorial Trophy playoffs came later in the season. This was the first time that an All Newfoundland championship was awarded and in subsequent years the Herder would become the coveted symbol of hockey supremacy on the island. Corner Brook defeated Grand Falls for the Western Newfoundland championship and by March 27 they had been named All Newfoundland champions after downing the St. John’s Guards in the capital.
All inter town games were attended by scores of spectators and Game 2 of the final series was broadcasted over the radio so people throughout the island could listen at home.
The following is a list of players who performed for Corner Brook in provincial senior hockey competition since play for the Herder Memorial Trophy began in 1935.
The list was compiled by Neil White for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
1935 All Stars: (Herder Champions, defeated the St. John’s Guards in a two game, total goal series)
Ron Taaffe (General Manager), Gerry Edens (Manager), Will Fitzpatrick, Tony LeDrew, Hal Cross, Fred Power, Frank Byrne, Jack Downey, Hal Power
1936 All Stars: (Defeated in Herder finals by St. Bon’s)
Alec Collins (Manager), Ed House, S. Fitzpatrick, G. Marks, J. Marks, D. Collins, T. LeDrew, H. Power, F. Power, (Bud) Fisher, H. LeDrew, K. Scott, M. Sweet, V. Power
1937 All Stars: (Defeated in Western finals by Buchans)
Dr. Stick (Manager), W. Fitzpatrick, S. Fitzpatrick, Tony LeDrew, G. Marks, V. Power, D. Collins, H. Collins, F. Power, K. Scott
In mid December 1935 the Corner Brook Hockey Association was formed. regulated town hockey. However, in this case it was an organization specifically concerned with one sport. Teams were rearranged once again. The 1936 Senior League consisted of four teams: St. Henry’s (Seniors), the Church Lad’s Brigade, the Crescents and the Victorias. helped to supply the Corner Brook All Stars with new uniforms to be used in inter town contests.
The winter of 1936 was mild. The first series did not take place in Corner Brook until late January. Unfortunately for the people of the mill town the 1936 Herder team lost to Bell Island in the first exhibition matches. Girls inter class school hockey was renewed for another year and in boys competition the Public School avenged their loss to St. Henry’s the year before and were awarded with the new R. L. Weldon Trophy as champions.
In the Herder playoffs Corner Brook lost its title to St. Bon’s. Finally, the Victorias won the Stadler Cup in the local Senior League. The Western Star fails to mention a Tie Cup champion.
In 1937, St. Henry’s, the Crescents, and the Church Lads Brigade returned for Senior play and the Victorias were replaced by the Guards to round out the league. St. Henry’s emerged victorious in the regular season and the Crescents won the Tie Cup playoff round. returned the favour in the rival paper town.
In the All Newfoundland playoffs, Corner Brook failed to make it to the championship series. They were defeated by Buchans in the semi finals. There were also hopes that a team from Sydney, Nova Scotia, would visit Corner Brook for a couple of matches in 1937. It had been 10 years since the last “international” team had played there and The Western Star listed lineups for two possible teams but no game ever took place.
Junior hockey was “easily the season’s outstanding sporting feature.” In a hard fought and well attended series the Public School won for the second year in a row. In local hockey, the see saw inter school and inter denominational rivalry took precedent over Senior league matches. However, in 1937 hockey was more popular in general than it had been the two previous seasons. Even the change of ownership at the mill did not significantly affect the sport. The annual rink closing match between the Nuts and Bolts Engineering team and the Volts and Amps Electrical Department, two mill teams, took place as usual.
The 1938 season began with an inter town exhibition series in which the boys from Corner Brook bested Bay Roberts. The same Senior league teams from 1937 competed for the championship and the long running Crescents organization captured both the Stadler and Tie Cups. There was also an Old Timers league consisting of two teams: the Pirates and Giants. These teams played a game or two to the great enjoyment of all of those in attendance. They were in fairly good shape as well.
“In a game that was the answer to an opium smoker’s dream, twelve thoroughly seasoned and bewiskered hockeyists streaked over the ice of the arena on Thursday evening past, putting up a game that would make the world series competitors feel like an assortment of punks.”
Corner Brook advanced past Buchans in the first round of the Herder playoffs and The Western Star reported that spectator attendance and excitement was “reminiscent of old time hockey enthusiasm”. Once again however, the home team were defeated in the semi finals; this time by Grand Falls. Oddly enough, there is no mention of Junior hockey for 1938. This situation is especially surprising when one considers the quality of the play and the fans it had attracted the year before.
The following season local hockey hit an all time low. Murphy and Finn report that the sports club had difficulties in finding “suitable officials” to oversee the operation, and normal play was suspended.
Only two local games were covered in The Western Star; one was a women’s match up and the other a game between two hastily assembled teams from Humber Road and Townsite.
There was no Senior league and the Juniors were absent for a second year. In inter town contests, Bell Island defeated Corner Brook 2 out of 3 games in an exhibition series, and for the second time in three years the Buchans team knocked Corner Brook out of the All Newfoundland playoffs in the semi finals.