Port Arthur came close in 1927

The Port Arthur West End juniors won the 1927 Abbott Cup as western Canadian junior champions before falling to the Owen Sound Greys in the Memorial Cup final that same year. Photo courtesy Stephen Samec

OVER the decades, many tremendous teams did the Lakehead proud with their on-ice accomplishments.

One such club was the 1926-27 version of the Port Arthur West End juniors.

In that year locally, Port Arthur won their first Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League title, coming out on top while competing against three other teams.

Neck-and-neck all season with the Fort William juniors, a two-game total-goal series to determine a winner solved little as the squads ended up at four apiece.

A third and deciding contest was needed to end the deadlock and in that meeting it was West End that prevailed by a 4-2 score.
Up next came a series with the Kenora Thistles, which settled the district championship.

Game 1 saw the locals outlast Kenora 6-5 in the opener, but then come through with a 5-1 victory at home in the finale, thus taking the total-goal affair 11-6.

That brought about a date with the Regina Pats for the Abbott Cup and western Canadian junior hockey supremacy.

Port Arthur was to have hosted the event, however ice deemed unfavourable for staging a championship series was ruled upon and officials stated the match-up was to be held in neutral-site Winnipeg.

Boarding the train instead to the Manitoba capital, in front of a sparse crowd in the debut, Norman (Red) Cross collected the only marker for his side in a game that saw Regina strike late and win 2-1.

In the deciding affair, the Pats took a 1-0 lead into the opening break to put them up three goals to one overall.

It was all Port Arthur after that though, beginning with Cross leveling the proceedings with the lone effort of the middle stanza.
In the final frame, Cliff Barton made it 2-1 West End three and a half minutes into the session.

Building on that, captain Ed (Jazzy) Manahan tacked on two more markers to secure a 4-1 win and that, backed by the stalwart netminding of 16-year-old goaltender Andrew Spooner, gave them the Abbott Cup by a 5-3 count.

Returning home briefly, the club was back on the rails rather quickly and headed to southern Ontario, looking to duplicate the feat of the 1922 Fort William Great War Vets as Memorial Cup winners.

Just a few days after earning western junior laurels, Port Arthur began a first-ever All-Ontario Memorial Cup final in Toronto on March 25, 1927 with West End taking on the Owen Sound Greys.

Port Arthur battled hard against the formidable Greys’ squad, coming back on three occasions to tie the score in the opener, including a pair of third period tallies to knot the affair at 3-3 deep into the contest.

Scoring for the “The Westies”, as they were dubbed, saw Barton, Jack MacKay and Cross all find the back of the net.
However, Owen Sound scored deep in regulation to pull out a 4-3 victory.

Three nights later in front of another sold-out congregation of 8,000 fans, the match-up saw the Greys take the lead, but saw Norm Friday even it up.

Down again in the third, Cross connected yet again for West End to help them draw level and force overtime.

In the 10-minute extra session though, Owen Sound’s Harold Dougall scored twice, as part of a four-goal performance, and an eventual 5-3 triumph to give them their second and final Memorial Cup crown.

Barton had final goal for his side in OT.

Of note the referee of both games was Lou Marsh, who every year since 1936 has seen the award named in his honour going to Canada’s top athlete.

Despite coming up just short in their quest for national glory, the Port Arthur West End juniors were widely praised across the Dominion for their tenacious work ethic and never say quit commitment to the game.

Members of the team included:

Port Arthur Fire Chief McLeod (honourary president); Joe Freeman (coach); Andrew Spooner; Norman Cross; Norm Cross; Earl Samec; Ed Manahan; Jack MacKay; Cliff Barton; H. Seppala; Rogers Jenkins; Brooks Dafoe; Ray McLeod; J. Leake (trainer) and M. Whalley (vice-president).