TBJHL: 1952-53

SOME 70 years on now, the arrival of Mickey Hennessy helped reverse the fortunes of the Fort William Columbus Canadiens junior hockey club.

Appointed the local Habs coach in July of 1952, Hennessy headed to the Lakehead from Montreal, where he was building a name for himself behind the bench, winning multiple titles and developing players, such as future Hockey Hall of Famer Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion and fostering the talent of a budding legend, Jean Beliveau.

The arrival of the former Olympic boxer would also see him continue to serve as a scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a prominent role he held for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, for nearly three decades.

Entering the 1952-53 campaign, the Columbus Canadiens had only won one Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League title since 1940.

During the prior season, they lost their final 11 games and finished in the cellar with a 9-19-1 mark.

The four-team loop once again featured the Canadiens along with the Port Arthur West End Bruins, Fort William Hurricanes and Port Arthur Flyers competing.

Just how popular was junior hockey locally back then?

With no Sunday sport allowed back in the day, some 4,200 spectators stuffed themselves into the old Port Arthur Arena, on the corner of Court St. & Cameron, to witness the Canadiens edge the Flyers 6-5 in a January 4, 1953 matinee showcase to show their support of having hockey played that day of the week.

Battling with the Flyers for top spot, the Canadiens ended up in first place with a record of 20-9-1 to finish nine points clear of their closest rival.

They were led offensively by the likes of Stan Baluik, Max Mekilok, Pete (Peppi) Gvora, Ed Kachur and Walt Bradley.

A pair of rugged defencemen, who later went on to play in the National Hockey League, in Pete Goegan and Lou Marcon, bolstered their back-end.

Also on the blueline was team captain John Kubinec, who would later turn to officiating where he would referee for many years in a multitude of significant contests at the junior, senior and international levels.

This included being selected to work the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France, where he donned the stripes in six of the 20 match-ups, that did not feature games that Canada played.

They also had stalwart netminder Lynn Davis between the pipes, as he led the TBJHL in goals-against average that season.

By topping the table, the Canadiens secured a berth right to the league final.

Their opponent there would be the Flyers, who downed the Hurricanes in a best-of-five semifinal that went four games.

Building on their triumph over the Herks, Port Arthur took the opener versus the Habs 5-3.

Keith Ringham scored twice for the Flyers, with Dennis Olson, George Barrow and Paul Baxter also getting in on the act.

Answering for the Canadiens were Bradley, Kachur and Larry Rojek.

After Davis posted a 2-0 shutout to level the best-of-seven affair, Game 3 saw Bradley bury one top shelf in the final frame to put them up 2-1 in the league final, with a 4-3 victory.

Mekilok connected twice for his side and Kachur had the other in the triumph, while Marvin Osmar, Pete Johnson and Gordon Calder bagged tallies for Port Arthur.

Bouncing back, the Flyers pulled out a narrow 3-2 come from behind win in Game 4, thanks to Barrow’s game-winner with under nine minutes to play.

Ron Hurdon and Keith Ringham had the other markers for the Ports, while Tom Shubaly and Gvora were the Forts’ goal-getters.

After taking the series lead for good with a 3-1 decision in Game 5, the Canadiens went on to clip the Flyers 7-1 in the final contest to claim their initial TBSHL crown since 1947.

Bradley and Goegan paced the attack there with two tallies apiece while Kubinec, Kachur and Gvora supplied singles in the triumph.

Port Arthur’s Baxter spoiled the shutout bid of Davis.

Opening up at home to commence the western Canadian Abbott Cup playdowns against the St. Boniface Canadiens, things looked promising early, as they blasted their opponents 7-0 to begin in a big way.

Bradley had a superb opener, striking four times in the romp, and added an assist, while Goegan, Kachur and Marcon also found the back of the net.

However, St. Boniface rebounded with a 5-2 road triumph despite goals from Kubinec and Mekilok.

They then rallied to take the series lead by notching three unanswered markers in the third period to win 6-3.

Connecting for the Forts, who held intermission leads of 2-1 and 3-2, were Kubinec, with a pair, and one courtesy of pick-up Hurdon from the Flyers.

Moving to Manitoba, St. Boniface continued their momentum to take the first meeting there thanks to future long-time NHLer Ab McDonald’s overtime winner, in a 5-4 victory for the hosts.

Kachur collected two goals in the loss, while Hurdon and Bradley also notched efforts for the Canadiens.

Rolling from there, St. Boniface bounced Fort William 9-4 to advance, with Gvora, Kachur, Rojek and Kubinec scoring in the season-ending defeat.

St. Boniface later went on the win the Abbott Cup western crown, but fell in the Memorial Cup final to the Barrie Flyers, four games to one.

Despite coming up short on their quest for a national title, the mystique created by Mickey Hennessy in the Lakehead had begun

He helped the Canadiens go on to win 10 TBJHL championships, over a 14-year span, thus establishing their prominence as one of the top hockey programs to ever skate on local ice. 

Fort William Columbus Canadiens 30 20 9 1 41
Port Arthur Flyers 30 16 14 0 32
Fort William Hurricanes 30 12 18 0 24
Port Arthur West End Bruins 30 11 18 1 23

Leading scorers

Gord Wilson Bruins LW 29 35 26 61
Stan Baluik Canadiens C 30 27 33 60
Don Chiupka Bruins C 27 21 33 54
John Charyna Bruins C 26 25 28 53
Norm Berglund Hurricanes F 28 21 32 53
Pete Johnston Flyers F 30 19 31 50
Dennis Olson Flyers C 30 24 23 47
Ron Hurdon Flyers C 26 23 16 39
Keith Ringham Flyers F 30 20 19 39
Max Mekilok Canadiens C 30 12 26 38
Pete Gvora Canadiens F 29 30 7 37
Ed Kachur Canadiens RW 19 21 14 35
Joe Malo Hurricanes LW 30 21 14 35
Paul Baxter Flyers F 29 18 16 34
Walt Bradley Canadiens C 29 13 19 32

Leading goaltenders

Lynn Davis Canadiens 24 N/A N/A N/A 3.50
Jim Buchanan Canadiens 6 N/A N/A N/A 4.83
Bob Caruso Hurricanes 20 N/A N/A N/A 5.15
Bert Brooks Flyers 28 N/A N/A N/A 5.26
Mike Kachur Bruins 16 N/A N/A N/A 5.62
John Dubec Rangers 10 N/A N/A N/A 6.00

Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League semifinal
Fort William Hurricanes vs. Port Arthur Flyers

Game 1: Flyers 4 Hurricanes 1 (@ Port Arthur)
Game 2: Flyers 4 Hurricanes 1 (@ Fort William)
Game 3: Hurricanes 5 Flyers 3 (@ Port Arthur)
Game 4: Flyers 6 Hurricanes 0 (@ Fort William)

Port Arthur wins best-of-five series 3-1

Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League Final
Port Arthur Flyers vs. Fort William Columbus Canadiens

Game 1: Flyers 5 Canadiens 3 (@ Fort William)
Game 2: Canadiens 2 Flyers 0 (@ Port Arthur)
Game 3: Canadiens 4 Flyers 3 (@ Fort William)
Game 4: Flyers 4 Canadiens 2 (@ Port Arthur)
Game 5: Canadiens 3 Flyers 1 (@ Fort William)
Game 6:  Canadiens 7 Flyers 1 (@ Port Arthur)

Fort William wins best-of-seven series 4-2

Western Canadian Memorial Cup playdowns

Fort William Columbus Canadiens vs. St. Boniface Canadiens

Game 1: Fort William 7 St. Boniface 0 (@ Fort William)
Game 2: St. Boniface 5 Fort William 2 (@ Fort William)
Game 3: St. Boniface 6 Fort William 3 (@ Fort William)
Game 4: St. Boniface 5 Fort William 4 (@ Winnipeg)
Game 5:  St. Boniface 9 Fort William 4 (@ Winnipeg)

St. Boniface wins best-of-seven series 4-1

NOTE: St. Boniface went on to win the Abbott Cup, Western Canadian championship, but lost in five games to the Barrie Flyers in the 1953 Memorial Cup final.

195253 Fort William Hurricane-Rangers