Byerley was brilliant with Twins

Jack Byerley, left, of the Thunder Bay Twins finishes a check against Dan Bosher of the Waterloo Black Hawks in a regular season-ending 7-3 road win back on March 18, 1973. Byerley led the USHL in scoring that campaign and was named a first team all-star as well as league MVP. Photo: Waterloo (Iowa) Courier

ANY fan of the Thunder Bay Twins senior hockey side from the 1970s will certainly remember: No. 14, Jack Byerley.

Sporting his ever-familiar spectacles on the ice, Byerley joined the Twins in the 1971-72 campaign from his hometown Geraldton Gold Miners squad and for the next decade there was undoubtedly no better player to suit up for Thunder Bay in that span.

From the onset, Byerley was clutch for the local club as they went on to dominate in the United States Hockey League.

Playing at over a point-per-game pace for the Twins in his first year, he went on to tally twice in both the USHL semifinal and final with convincing 9-3 and 9-2 victories over the Waterloo Black Hawks and Green Bay Bobcats respectively to claim their first league title.

The following season proved to be a career-best for the skilled forward while donning the green and gold jersey of Thunder Bay.

Teaming up with fellow Geraldton product Chuck Kelner and veteran Barry Hogan, the trio were sensational as a line, piling up 275 points between them, as the Twins went on to boast the best record in the eight team USHL, with a solid 34-7-1 mark.

Byerley’s on-ice efforts saw him led the league in goals (42), assists (63) and points (105) while Kelner and Hogan chipped in with 95 and 75 points respectively, featuring 39 and 36 markers along the way.

Finishing 26 points clear of the second-place Marquette Iron Rangers in the North Division standings, the Lakehead squad dominated the divisional all-star selections with Byerley, Kelner and Brian Depeiro snagging the three forward spots, while teammates Jack Owchar and John Ferguson were tabbed on defence and Joe Bamford garnered the accolades in net.

Byerley, Kelner and Ferguson went on to earn overall USHL All-Star honours with Byerley also collecting the Most Valuable Player award.

After crushing Marquette to win the North playoff crown, they took on a tougher Chicago Warriors side, who were the title holders in the USHL South.

However, in the end, Thunder Bay, coached by Lee Fogolin Sr., proved to be too much and prevailed 6-2 in a fifth and deciding game, held at the Fort William Gardens, to win their second-straight league championship.

Things looked good for the Twins to make a run for the Allan Cup as well, beginning by downing the St. John’s Capitals, three games to one, in Newfoundland to earn the right to host the Orillia Terriers for eastern Canadian laurels.

After dropping the opener to Orillia, following a late arrival back to the Lakehead from the east coast, Byerley scored once in each period and had the decider in overtime to even the best-of-five affair.

From there the Twins took Game 3 to go up 2-1, however, in the end, the Terriers bit back in sending the series to the distance.

There, despite being outshot 41-27, they shocked Thunder Bay 7-0 in the final match-up at the Gardens, marking the first time all season the Twins had been shutout, a run of 61 outings.

Moving on, Orillia defeated the St. Boniface Mohawks to win the Allan Cup.

Regrouping from the disappointment, Byerley went on to register a combined 150 points over the next two seasons as the Twins finished off a run four USHL crowns in succession.

The spring of 1975 also proved pivotal for him and the city as he helped lead Thunder Bay to the Allan Cup, ending a 36-year drought of Canadian senior hockey supremacy for the Lakehead, as he had goals in each of the final three games, all victories, to help the Twins take the best-of-seven set, 4-2, over the Barrie Flyers.

Continuing to play for the Twins for six more seasons, including meetings with clubs from southern Ontario, Manitoba and even in the first-year of the Hockey Thunder Bay League, Byerley was always there to chip in offensively.

A proven winner, his decade-long run saw no Thunder Bay player provide more points than his 465, in 264 games played.

Him tacking on a plethora of postseason numbers as well, while boasting an abundance of championships with his Twins’ teammates, proved Jack Byerley was pivotal throughout, making him one of those many local hockey standouts that you’ll never forget.