Trophies hold special place in NWO’s sports history
By Diane Imrie
Well, the Stanley Cup is making its way back to Thunder Bay and Kenora thanks to the efforts of Thunder Bay’s Jamie Kompon and Mike Richards of Kenora. Well done, gentlemen!
Lord Stanley’s mug has made its way to our region quite a few times over the last little while thanks to the efforts of Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal and Jordan Staal of Thundjer Bay as well as Dryden’s Chris Pronger.
The good people of Kenora have been waiting 105 years to reclaim a piece of Stanley Cup history, with their beloved Kenora Thistles having their name etched onto the bowl of the original Stanley Cup back in 1907.
As I watched the Cup being brought into the Staples Center by my two white-gloved colleagues from the Hockey Hall of Fame, Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, I was reminded of how much power a piece of silverware can wield.
With each step taken along the red carpet, the sense of anticipation could be seen building in the eyes of the individuals waiting to have their chance to lift the magical trophy above their head.
As each team member took their turn lifting the Cup, I could not help but picture them as little kids back on their hometown rink one day dreaming of the moment they were now experiencing. Powerful stuff indeed.
When Lord Stanley of Preston purchased the original trophy for 10 Guineas (the equivalent of about $50) to present to the championship hockey club of the Dominion of Canada in 1893, I doubt he could have ever imagined what it would come to stand for almost 120 years later.
As the oldest trophy competed for in professional sports in North America, the Cup has many stories to tell.
In 1905, the Ottawa Silver Seven kicked the Cup into the Rideau Canal after a night of celebration going back to retrieve it the next day.
In 1924, the Montreal Canadiens left it on the side of the road after taking it out of the trunk to fix a flat tire. When they arrived at their victory celebration without it, they returned to the snow bank where they left it, finding it untouched.
While the Stanley Cup holds a special place in the hearts of hockey fans, there are many trophies that athletes have challenged for to earn the right to hold aloft, drink from and be photographed with. The keepers of these cups are often halls of fame and sports museums.
Over the years the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame has collected, housed and exhibited a number of interesting and significant trophies from our regions sporting past, some of which are over a century old.
One such trophy is the Cooper Charity Cup which was donated in 1909 by Alf Cooper of Cooper and Company Real Estate to be competed for in a series of soccer-football matches.
The introduction of this trophy was so anticipated that reports of its arrival were announced in the local paper noting that “the handsome Charity Cup arrived in the city Saturday and has been placed on exhibition. The trophy stands about two feet high and is a most beautiful one.”
The cup was named the Charity Cup because a percentage of the gate receipts of each game were to be given to McKellar Hospital. The winners of the cup were proclaimed the champions of New Ontario.
The first game of the series was held on July 8, 1909 with over $30 being collected for the hospital.
The cup was presented on and off throughout the years, with teams competing for it in the early 1900s, from 1922-27, and fairly consistently from 1947 onwards, until its retirement in the mid-1990s.
Teams such as the C.P.R., Fort William Great War Vets, Brent Park, Royal Canadian Legion, Polonia, Italia and Juventus were all multiple winners of this great trophy.
It is currently on display for the community to enjoy at the Sports Hall of Fame, just as it was when it first arrived in our city over a century ago.
Another historic trophy currently on display at the Hall of Fame is the Scotland Woolen Mills Company Trophy, which was awarded to the senior champions of the Thunder Bay Amateur Hockey Association dating back to 1919.
Although the original base has long been lost, the beautiful silver trophy that once sat atop the base remains.
To the players in the early days of hockey in the region, winning this trophy was in some ways equivalent to claiming the Stanley Cup as it represented supremacy amongst the highly competitive district senior hockey teams.
It also holds another similarity with the Stanley Cup.
In March of 1907 when the Montreal Wanderers successfully challenged the Kenora Thistles to win back the Stanley Cup, they went to a photography studio to have their picture taken with the trophy. When they exited the studio, they left the trophy behind and the mother of the photographer used it to hold flowers for a few months until it was reclaimed.
The person that ended up with the once discarded Scotland Woolen Mills trophy had a similar plan.
The trophy went missing for a few years and was recovered in the mid-1980s with stories of it once being used as a flower pot substantiated by the telltale trowel marks that remain forever etched in its silver sides.
Whether it is the Stanley Cup or the MVP trophy won by the young athlete who gave it their all, one thing is for sure, winning a trophy, no matter what the size, remains as a source of pride in the world of sports, and no doubt will continue to do so for many more years to come.
Until next time keep that sports history pride alive.
Diane Imrie is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Her column runs every second Thursday.