Port Arthur Seniors 1st local side to sip from Allan Cup

The Port Arthur Seniors, 1925 Allan Cup champions featured, from left-to-right: Wilf L'Heureux; E.C.'Ted' Whalen; Alex Gray; Albert Pudas; Bill Brydge; Lorne Chabot; Gordon Wilson; Bennie Ward; Danny Cox; Bobbie Connors. Background: Coach Ed Carpenter. They also won the Scotland Woolen Wills & Pattison Trophy's, emblematic of Thunder Bay and Manitoba senior hockey title holders. Photo: Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

WITH the Lakehead boasting a record 10 Allan Cup Canadian senior hockey titles, the team that began it all were the 1924-25 Port Arthur Seniors side.

In the early years of competition, clubs from across the country were allowed to challenge for the trophy with a squad from Fort William (1916) as well as the Port Arthur 141st Battalion (1917) and the Port Arthur Columbus Club (1918) all falling short in their goal, as they each dropped two-game sets against the Winnipeg 61st Battalion, Winnipeg Victorias and Kitchener Greenshirts respectively.

Moving to a playdown format the following campaign, teams within the Dominion had themselves a much-harder task in their quests for national glory.

In 1922, the Fort William senior Maple Leafs contingent took care of a group from Brandon, Man., by taking a two-game, total-goal set 9-7, to mark the first time in 11 years a team from Manitoba had not advanced to an Allan Cup final.

They won 8-5 at home at the Prince of Wales rink that was stuffed to the rafters with spectators and fell 2-1 on the road, but it was enough to send them to a showdown for western supremacy, versus the Regina Victorias.

Playing on soft, sloppy ice, due to warm temperatures in the Saskatchewan, the Forts fell 3-1 in the opener with George Traer notching the lone marker in defeat.

Skating on a much-better surface in the next meeting, but needing to win by three goals in the finale to advance to the final, Bob Armstrong’s two tallies were not enough as they were handed a 4-2 season-ending defeat.

Fast-forward to the 1924-25 season. There it was Port Arthur’s turn to vie for the trophy donated by Montreal’s Sir H. Montague Allan some 15 years earlier.

After a 12-8 record in match-ups with clubs from northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, the Ports, who finished with the second-best mark among those sides, kicked off the playdowns against the top-ranked team, Selkirk, Man.

Opening at home, they carried the play and won 3-2, featuring the winning goal by Wilf L’Heureux in the final moments, while holding a 32-17 edge in shots on goal.

They also took the second game by a similar score then went on to dismantle a Foxwarren-Birtle, Man., squad 11-3, which saw officials rule the other affair need not be played.

Alex Gray, Gordon Wilson and captain Bill Brydge all scored twice in the romp while Albert Pudas dished out three assists.

Up next saw Port Arthur throttle Fort Frances 10-3, at home, to set-up a date with the Regina in the western semifinals that was to be played in Winnipeg.

After the Vics won the opener 2-1, the Lakehead title holders were all business in the finale as they took them to the woodshed and laid a 10-3 dusting on them.

Pacing Port Arthur in the one-sided triumph was a Pudas hat trick and two each courtesy of Brydge and Danny Cox.

Moving on to the west final, the Coleman Tigers from Alberta would provide the opposition.

There, the Tigers took a bite out of the local side and came away with a 4-2 decision.

Trailing the total-goal affair, Port Arthur once again proved their mettle, and stormed out to a 4-0 lead half-way through the proceedings in Game 2 thanks to markers courtesy of Pudas, Gray, Brydge and L’Heureux.

They suddenly were a period away from moving on to the Allan Cup Final.

Coleman did get one back, however Wilson capped off the come from behind series victory with a third-period tally to claim the western crown by a 7-5 count.

Meeting the highly-touted Toronto Varsity, in Winnipeg, to determine a national champion, Port Arthur rode the brilliant shutout goaltending of Lorne Chabot in collecting a 4-0 decision to get off to a tremendous start.

Down a goal late in Game 2, Brydge levelled the proceedings at 16:25 of the final frame, before Wilson slammed in the game-winner, with 15 seconds remaining, to wrap-up the first Allan Cup crown for the Lakehead.

Welcomed home by a throng of thousands, the local side were celebrated widely for their Canadian senior championship.

A feat that went on to be repeated, many times over the decades, on the northern shores of Lake Superior.