Hockey Players on the Railway

                                       HOCKEY RAIL TALES


In 1894 a team of Yale University skaters rode the rails north to tour prominent Canadian rinks during the Christmas holidays. The American players, who had previously practiced with only a rubber ball instead of a puck, were easily defeated in all hockey matches. The Yale skaters praised the game upon their return home and from this introduction the popularity of ice hockey spread rapidly to other colleges and schools. Ice hockey was first introduced to Pittsburgh audiences around 1894 by the visiting Queens University team from Kingston, Canada. That same year the Montreal and Shamrock hockey teams, both from Montreal, toured the United States and played 7 exhibition matches. In 1896 The Queens University hockey team traveled to New York and Brooklyn, playing exhibition games against Yale University, St. Nicholas Skating Club and Montclair Athletic Club. In 1897 the Cambridge Ice Polo and Hockey team of Massachusetts traveled to Canada to play hockey teams in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston and Quebec City. The Cambridge players wrongfully toured under the name of the Harvard University Team and in the 6 matches played were outscored 52 to 9.

In 1896 the Winnipeg Victorias, champions of the Manitoba and Northwest Amateur Hockey Association, challenged the Montreal Victorias for the Stanley Cup. Despite the arduous, 3 day journey over Canadian Railways, the Vics of Winnipeg won the game 2 – 0 and on February 14, 1896 were crowned Ice Hockey Champions of the World. The Stanley Cup trustees ordered the Winnipeg team to defend their title on December 30, 1896. Playing at home, the Victorias of Winnipeg led the game 4 goals to 2, but in the second half the Montreal Victorias overwhelmed the Winnipeggers and won the game 6 – 5, retrieving possession of the Stanley Cup. Winnipeg claimed their defeat was due to their weakened defense, caused by the loss of star player Fred Higginbotham who was accidentally killed September 7, 1896 when he fell from a horse. Following funeral services in Winnipeg, Higginbotham was taken to the Canadian Pacific Railway depot and boarded an eastbound train to his hometown of Bowmanville, Ontario for burial. 


The design of the Hockey Goal dramatically changed in 1897 when goalie Frank Stocking and his teammates built a steel-framed cage webbed with netting, at the Quebec & Lake St. John Railway Shops. The Quebec Hockey Club players brought their invention to an Eastern Canadian Hockey Association meeting and impressed by the innovation, the delegates adopted the new goal. Northern Ontario hockey enthusiasts experimented with a goal about the same time. They dropped a net from the top cross-bar, which caught the pucks that were shot from the front, but it was difficult to determine if a puck had hit the back boards and rebounded in. It was finally decided to spike the netting down to the ice. Prior to 1897 the hockey goal consisted of 2 poles imbeded in the ice or on a movable platform which led to many arguments over disputed scores. Frank Stocking recalled playing a game in Baltimore in 1896 when the uprights were strands of coiled wire on a tripod with a spike going into the ice. The uprights were not more than 3 feet high and were surrounded by tiny flags.

The Portage la Prairie Hockey Club pulled out all the stops to remain alive during the 1906-07 Manitoba Professional Hockey League championship play downs. Hockey teams included in the play downs were the Kenora Thistles, Brandon Wheat Cities, Portage la Prairie Cities and Winnipeg Strathconas, with the winner playing the Montreal Wanderers for the Stanley Cup. Portage had already lost the first game of the 2 game, total goal series 4-3 to the Brandon Wheat Cities. In an attempt to bolster their lineup for the March 8th game, the team sent for Billy Baird, former Pittsburgh Pros and Ottawa Senators star-defenseman. Billy immediately set out from Ottawa, but the westbound train was late in reaching Winnipeg, delaying the game 2 hours. Portage had a special train waiting in Winnipeg and Baird was rushed from one train to the other and the special tore out of town with rights over everything on the road. A reporter met Billy at the station and rushed him to the rink. The progress of the train was bulletined by wire every 10 minutes with the result that the crowd was worked up into a frenzied state by the time Billy arrived. Portage scored the first goal of the game in the 2nd half, thereby evening the score on the round. During the rough game Billy Baird and Joe "Bad Joe" Hall mixed it up considerably and both were benched for scrapping. Six minutes of extra time was required to break the tie, with Art Ross scoring and Brandon winning the round 5-4. Portage la Praire’s Cup aspirations were dashed on March 13 when the Kenora Thistles beat them 7-0. Brandon defeated the Winnipeg Stathconas with scores of 5-3 and on March 15, 7-7. Kenora Thistles defeated the Brandon Wheat Cities in the best of 3 series, 8-6 on March 16 and 4-1 on March 18.

Train Trip Tribulations - During the Original Six era hockey clubs did the majority of their traveling by rail. Following a game, players would often have only 40 minutes to get out of their hockey gear, shower and dash down to the station to catch a midnight train. They would sleep on the train but to get to most cities they spent whole days together in the parlour car or coach. In the course of a trip players had lots of time to plan practical jokes to play on one another. The hockey teams often had to endure a miserable travel schedule, arriving at their destination train tired and leg weary. Five times during the 1942-43 season, the teams had to make the trek from Toronto to New York after playing the Maple Leafs. The train left before the game had ended, so teams had to travel on buses to Buffalo, there to make train connections for New York. The Maple Leaf players would settle into their sleeper car parked on a siding at Toronto Union Station. During the night they were hauled by an assortment of trains. Going to New York, their car was towed from Hamilton to the Buffalo train yards by a special locomotive. To play the Red Wings their sleeper car rode by barge from Windsor, across the river to Detroit.

In December of 1942, manager Art Ross of the Boston Bruins filed a protest with NHL president Frank Calder. Six of the Detroit Red Wings players had left the bench with 4 minutes of play remaining in the game in order to make their train connections. Ross claimed the Detroit team had 4 days to get home for their next game. In Montreal the previous Saturday night, the Bruins had only 11 minutes to catch a train in order to play in New York the next night. Not a Boston player left his bench until the last 10 seconds and then only to avoid crowd congestion. The team had to go to the train station wearing their uniforms.

The Boston Bruins were one of the first hockey teams to initiate air travel when they began traveling by airplane to their road games in 1938, but wartime travel restrictions forced abandonment of the practice in 1942. Emphasizing the advantage of occasionally traveling by air, Art Ross said that on the return trip from Montreal the team would be on the road about two and a half hours, while the Canadiens traveling by train would be about 11 hours, arriving only 15 minutes before game time. In early February of 1951 the strike of the Railway Switchmen in the United States delayed the Boston Bruins arrival in Montreal for a Saturday night game. The Bruins were 36 hours on the train between Montreal and Chicago where they had played the Black Hawks on Thursday night.

Returning home from a league game against the Quebec Castors on Friday December 9, 1927, 3 members of the Boston Tigers hockey club were taken from their train by an Immigration Officer. Players Eddie Burks, Whitey Field and coach Eddie Powers couldn’t prove that they held non-quota visas required of Canadians entering the USA. It took until Saturday noon to complete the necessary papers and then the Tigers raced by taxi to reach Boston for their evening game against the New Haven Eagles. On 2 occasions the cab left the flood-damaged roads of northern Vermont and once overturned in a potato field. The taxi pulled up to the Arena 10 minutes after the game had finished – the Eagles beat the Tigers 4 to 2.

Walter “Turk” Broda, Toronto Maple Leaf goalie, was removed from a Montreal bound train by the RCMP a few minutes past midnight on October 15, 1943. Turk’s National Selective Service call up notice had expired on the14th and he was promptly turned over to the army for induction after he failed to report in Toronto as ordered. It was reported that Broda had enlisted with the Royal Canadian Artillery in Toronto, but when removed from the train on the outskirts of Toronto he was in the company of a Canadian Army sergeant-major believed to be connected with a Montreal Army hockey team. Turk spent two and a half years in the military and didn’t return to the Maple Leafs until late in the 1945-46 season. Turk Broda led the Toronto Maple Leafs to Stanley Cup championships in 1942, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951.

Jimmy Orlando, Detroit Red Wings star-defenseman, was taken into custody by FBI agents at a Detroit railway station where he was about to board a train to Toronto, scene of the Red Wings - Maple Leafs playoff series starting on March 30, 1943. Jimmy pleaded guilty of failure to notify his draft board of a change of occupation and of falsifying an affidavit to his draft board. Each count carried a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine. Orlando said he was confused over technicalities and had no intention of doing wrong. In September of 1942 Jimmy was classified as being a milling machine operator at the Lincoln Tool & Die Company, but 3 weeks later he was shifted to an office job and failed to notify his board of the change. Following his arraignment Orlando immediately took a plane to Toronto and arrived before his Detroit teammates. Jimmy told reporters that he had intended to join the Canadian Army when the playoffs were finished. Orlando and the Red Wings went on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the semi finals 4 games to 2 and then captured the Stanley Cup when they beat the Boston Bruins 4 games to 0. Jimmy missed the next 2 seasons of hockey fighting in WW2, then returned home and played 5 more years in the Quebec Senior Hockey League.

The Montreal Canadiens were playing in New York one night and the team was to take the train to Chicago after the game. Murph Chamberlain asked Toe Blake what station the team was leaving from and just kidding Blake said "The Pennsylvania". Murph had been making the same trip so often that Toe thought he knew the team left from Grand Central. But Chamberlain and 3 other players went to the Pennsylvania station. Murph didn't have enough money to pay for the railway ticket and had to borrow money from Bobby Fillion. "I thought he was going to slug me when he saw me in Chicago", said Toe Blake. "He talks about it even to this day".

Harry "Mum" Mummery of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blueshirts of 1917, was a locomotive engineer in the off season with the Canadian Pacific Railway. According to Tim Daly, long-time Toronto trainer, it was not uncommon to see Mummery rush in with a raw steak, plop it on a freshly washed shovel and then cook it in the dressing room pot-bellied stove. Harry kept this practice going well after his playing days when the 250 pound Mummery would cook his steak on a shovel in the steam engines fire-box.

Clarence "Taffy" Abel was the first USA born player to perform in the NHL, playing 333 games with the New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks over 8 seasons. Taffy was playing with the Minneapolis Millers of the CAHL in 1926, when, one evening he was summoned down to the train station by manager Conn Smythe. Smythe was in town scouting players for the New York Rangers inaugural season. Conn began negotiating with Abel onboard the train, but Taffy wasn’t interested in turning professional and was holding out. Suddenly the train bumped forward and Conn jumped up and locked his stateroom door. Smythe told Abel the contract was good, he would love New York and if he didn’t sign immediately he would be stuck on the train until the next stop, which was 250 miles away. Taffy quickly signed his name on the paper, said he would see Conn at training camp and jumped off the moving train.

$500 cup of coffee - The 1921-22 season marked the first time the NHL, PCHA and WCHL all competed for the Stanley Cup. The Regina Capitals defeated the Edmonton Eskimos to win the WCHL final and moved on to play the Vancouver Millionaires and the right to meet the Toronto St. Patricks in the Stanley Cup final. It was a two-game, total goal series and Regina won the first game 2 to 1 on Wednesday March 8, 1922, on Vancouver ice. The following morning both teams boarded train #4 of the Canadian Pacific Railway for the trip to Regina, which would deliver them to Union Station saturday morning, 12 hours before game time. Regina player's Ambrose Moran and Emory "Spunk" Sparrow were on the depot platform 30 minutes before the train was due to leave Vancouver. To the day of his death, Moran insisted that they left the platform only to get a cup of coffee. In any event they missed the train and had to wait for the evening train, the Imperial Limited. Moran and Sparrow arrived in Regina at 7:10 p.m., reaching the arena just half an hour before the opening faceoff. "You'll remember that cup of coffee all your lives," Wesley Champ, the Regina manager told the two laggards, "because it's the most expensive coffee you ever guzzled - it's going to cost each of you $500." With Moran and Sparrow in less than top form Vancouver won the game 4 to 1. The Toronto St. Patricks defeated the Vancouver Millionaires 3 games to 2 to win the Stanley Cup. 

When Ray “Golden Boy” Timgren signed his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 20 year old right winger had to close his college books to concentrate on the finer points of hockey. “When I was with the Marlboro juniors, I used to stand behind the blues at the Gardens and watch Leaf games. Playing with them was something I had dreamt about since I first started hockey at 11, but I always figured it was way beyond me.” Ray was in his initial year of a three-year Pass Arts course at the University of Toronto in 1948 when pro hockey beckoned. Of the early-to-bed school, he was so quiet that when the Leafs made overnight jumps, you’d never know he was aboard the special Pullman. While, for instance, Turk Broda and Jim Thomson were arguing loudly over a disputed cribbage point in the smoker, Timgren was in his bunk. The only time you would see him was when he couldn’t sleep and wandered into the smoker with peppermint-striped pajamas that were the loudest thing about him.

The long hours on the train provided hockey players with many opportunities to perform practical jokes on their unwitting teammates. One trip by Toronto had its quota of laughs despite the fact that it was one of those long hauls, touching Detroit, Chicago and Boston. The Maple Leafs were on the last leg of the 3,000 mile jaunt, coming in by day coach from Buffalo and most of the players were stretched out in their seats, trying to get as comfortable as possible. Walter "Babe" Pratt, who was then a Leaf star, had his huge frame, as usual, draped across two seats. He was sound asleep with his shoes off when the train pulled into Hamilton and an avalanche of passengers poured into the car. The conductor shook Babe into wakefulness and asked if he wouldn’t mind using just one seat at a time so that other passengers could be accommodated. “Not at all,” said the obliging Pratt. “In fact, you can have both seats. I’ll go back and shoot the breeze with my friends, the Bruins.” The Boston players were in the coach behind, heading for Toronto and a Christmas at home for most of them. Pratt didn’t bother to put on his shoes and was gone for some time. When he returned he was walking down the aisle in his bare feet. “Where’s your socks, Babe?” the laughing Leaf players wanted to know. Babe grinned. “Those blankety-blank Bruins took ‘em off me and threw them out the window. My feet are so cold I’ll probably get the CHILL-blains.”

One of the principal pranksters on the Toronto team was Hap Day. When he was blossoming forth as one of hockey’s top coaches, Hap was still getting the better of King Clancy in the practical joke department. One night when the Leafs were heading for Detroit, Hap heard that Clancy, who had turned to refereeing, was occupying a lower berth in a nearby Pullman. This, Hap reasoned, was a perfect setting for fun – at King’s expense. Always up with the sun, Day awoke a little earlier the next morning and sauntered into the car where Clancy was sleeping soundly. Shaking him briskly, Day, disguising his voice, snapped, “Customs.” Clancy hardly stirred, didn’t bother to open his eyes and muttered, “Yes sir.” Day snapped, “Open your bag and take everything out.” Grumbling under his breath, Clancy fumbled for his bag, finally got it open and took out all his clothes. “Have you ever had any trouble getting into the United States before?” asked Day. “Not until now,” King muttered. “Look, I’m King Clancy, the hockey referee. I’ve been going back and forth across this border since I was a pup.” Day, who was trying to stifle his laughter on the other side of the curtain, snarled “Nevertheless, I’d better have a look at your passport.” Muttering a few good Irish oaths under his breath, King groped for his wallet, got his passport out and opened the curtain to hand it to the aggravating Customs officer. Instead he looked up into Hap’s baby blue eyes. King let out a roar, “Day, why you great big --!” Hap didn’t hear the rest, by this time he was beating a hasty retreat back to his own car.

Eddie “Clear the Track” Shack didn’t work for the railways, but used to ride the switchers between Falconbridge and Sudbury Yard in Northern Ontario, in the 1950’s. Along the route was a shack that the railroaders used to call the Algo Shack, named for Algoma Central Railway, on which someone had written in chalk the words “Brother of Eddie Shack”.

Eddie “The Edmonton Express” Shore is widely regarded as the greatest defenseman of all time. More often than not the salary of the Boston Bruins star exceeded the maximum permitted by the NHL Eddie justified his annual holdout threat by claiming he played 60 minutes a game and that the Bruins only employed three defenseman while other hockey teams had four. During one season in the 1930’s Boston management and Eddie Shore reached an impasse in contract negotiations. Eddie said he would rather retire from hockey and remain on his farm in Duagh, Alberta, than accept the contract offer. After repeated failures to come to an agreement the Bruins front office appealed to President Frank Calder. With help from a long distance operator, Calder managed to track Shore down at his farm and suggested Eddie hop on a train without delay and make his way to Montreal so they could resolve the salary dispute. Several days later, with skates in hand, Shore stepped off the train at Windsor Station and Calder was there to meet him. “Why I never intended to holdout,” said Eddie, “but the plows and cattle had to be put up for the winter before I could devote thoughts to hockey.” Eddie signed his contract in the station waiting room and then boarded a train to Quebec City to join up with the Boston Bruins training camp. 


Rookie initiation ceremonies usually occurred on the long train trips between Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York and Toronto. A council of 3 or 4 veteran players would get together and discuss who deserved to be the subject of a practical joke. Rookies would be seized and forced to suffer numerous indignities. They would have their clothes sheared, bodies shaved and painted with whatever food and liquid was available. A favorite among the veterans was the antiseptic mercurochrome, which would stain the skin a dark red colour. On one occasion a rookie tried hiding in the ladies rest room of the sleeper car. The veterans tried smoking him out by starting a fire at the rest room door, resulting in several thousand dollars damage to the car. Fortunately the president of the railway was on the teams board of directors. Rookies and newspaper reporters would sleep in the upper berths, veteran players slept in the lower berths and roomettes. Younger players were assigned higher sweater numbers and therefore the upper berths. Later in their hockey careers they moved to single digits and then acquired the lower berths.

Tim “Superman” Horton was a callboy for the Canadian National Railway in 1944. Because Cochrane was a railroad center, the crews all lived in town. Each morning Tim would have to rise before dawn and bicycle through the railway yards on his way to waking up the morning crews. Tim’s father, Aaron Oakley Horton, was hired as a mechanic with the Algoma Central Railway in the late 1930’s. In 1945 Oak moved the family to Sudbury when he landed a job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was here that Tim first befriended Eddie Shack, George Armstrong and Red McCarthy. In 1946 Tim, George and Red were teammates on the Sudbury High School junior hockey team & the Copper Cliff Redmen.


Jack “Jolly Jack” Adams was born in Fort Williams, Ont. on June 14, 1895. The son of a railway engineer, he earned his first money peddling newspapers in saloons and with the proceeds bought his first pair of skates. Jack started playing hockey when he was 12 years old and was the stick boy for another hockey railroader - Jack Walker. Adams was only 31 when his career came to an end in Ottawa. Anxious to stay in hockey in some capacity, he made his pitch for the managerial position in Detroit to NHL president Frank Calder. By the start of the 1927-28 season, Jolly Jack was at the helm in Detroit. Sometimes when writer Vince Lunny was traveling with the Montreal Canadiens, the Detroit railcar would be hooked onto the same train, especially during the playoffs. Adams drawing room door would always be open. “Despite his abstinence from tobacco and strong drinks, he had the air of a gracious host. He liked visitors and he liked to talk.” One of Jack’s favorite stories concerns a wild bout staged by himself and Sprague Cleghorn in front of the Governor-General’s box in Ottawa. It was the season of 1918-19 and Adams was with the Toronto Arenas, Cleghorn was with the Senators. “It was a real slugfest,” Adams recalled one day with a grin as he sat in his drawing room on the train. “I never did hear what the Governor-General thought about it, but I thought I saw a distinguished man clapping his white-gloved hands

Alex “Fats” Delvecchio almost chose the railway over hockey as a career. Alex was nicknamed Fatso when he was a youngster skating on the windswept rinks of Fort William, Ont., where he was born on December 4, 1932. When Alex was growing up, his father Frank Delvecchio, an engineer on the Canadian Pacific Railway, didn’t want him to play hockey at all. “Think about something you can do to eat three times a day, put a roof over your head and buy some clothes. You could be a railroad engineer, maybe.” Little Alex listened with respect but his heart was set on hockey. He might have grown up to ride a cab on a modern diesel locomotive, but one day when he was 16 the Red Wings enlisted him to play for the Fort Williams Hurricanes, a Detroit sponsored junior club. Poppa Delvecchio protested vehemently when the Wings asked Alex to sign a C form. “He’ll sign nothing. No A form, B form, C form,” exclaimed the engineer. “If Alex is smart he’ll think of how he can get a regular pay envelope in a good job.” Poppa mellowed as his son began to show flashes of brilliance.  As Alex moved up in the Detroit organization and forms had to be signed Poppa wisely said “I want Alex to do what he can do best and that seems to be hockey.” 

The Regina Pats of the Regina Junior Hockey League went undefeated during the 1929-30 Memorial Cup play downs held at the Winnipeg Shea Amphitheatre, beating the Calgary Canadians, Elmwood Millionaires and West Toronto Nationals. The Pats won the six game series by a margin of 20-3 in goals, led by future NHL’er Gordon Pettinger’s 5 goals and goalie Ken “King” Campbell, who recorded 4 shutouts. The Regina team left Winnipeg on the morning of April 1, 1930, via the Canadian Pacific Railway, arriving home at 5:35 p.m. The player’s train coach was covered with the inscription "The Pats are Champions" and "Regina Wins Another Hockey Title". The team stepped off the train at the CPR Regina Union Depot carrying the Abbott Cup, emblematic of Western Canada supremacy. The Memorial Cup was still in Toronto and would not be on hand for a few days.  “A reception second to none ever accorded a championship team in this city or any other has been planned for the fighting band of warriors who brought the Memorial Cup to Regina for the third time in six years. A big street parade will start at the Union Depot and the victorious players, along with Coach Ritchie, will be conveyed on a float from there to the Capitol Theatre, where they will be officially welcomed by Mayor McAra.” - The Regina Daily Post, March 31, 1930. Before his team left Winnipeg at 6:00 p.m. on March 30, Jimmy Lynch, president of the West Torontos had nothing but praise for Al Ritchie and his cohorts. Jimmy was a former Reginan himself and stated just before the train pulled out that “you can’t hold down that city at all.”

The Neville Sleeper Car was built in 1921 at the CPR’s Angus Shops in Montreal and was assigned to the Montreal Canadiens for their road trips from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The Canadiens would board the train after a game and travel all night from one NHL city to the next. The train trip to Chicago was especially tiresome. The players would head for the train station after a game, departing at midnight and arriving in Chicago 16 hours later, sometimes requiring a police escort when the train was late. To pass the time, players would relax, play cards and dine in their private dining car. All the CPR employees, from the porters, conductors and station agents, ensured that the Neville, with its beautiful woodwork and detailed glass, would arrive safely and on time. On September 16, 2007, Henri Richard rode the Museum Express train to Exporail - The Canadian Railway Museum, in St. Constant, Quebec. Henri and fellow Montreal players Dollard St. Laurent, Phil Goyette and Rejean Houle made their way to the Neville, welcoming visitors and sharing their stories on how the Montreal Canadiens rode the rails during their glory years. Shown aboard the Neville Sleeper Car  in 1947 are Murph Chamberlain, Jimmy Peters, Rocket Richard and Ken Mosdell.

Norman “Pinky” Lewis was born in Hamilton, Ont. in 1898. When he was seven years old he was the mascot for Hamilton football and hockey teams. He played hockey, football and baseball himself until he broke a leg while playing for the Hamilton Tech football team and then decided to become a trainer. Pinky completed his apprenticeship as a printer and became a journeyman, but his first love was sport. He went to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway because it gave him an opportunity to travel with the hockey and football teams, acting as a trainer for them, in addition to performing the porter duties. One Christmas in the early 1920’s, Pinky was sent West on the main line, as far as Winnipeg. That night in Winnipeg, the sleeping car superintendent asked him to take a load to Edmonton. Pinky was dead-heading home from Edmonton with an empty car when he remembered that Newsy Lalonde and Leo Reise were playing hockey for the Saskatoon Sheiks. It was cold and so a few miles out of Saskatoon he turned the heat valve on his car and made icicles form on the windows. The operating department fell for the gag and cut out the car at Saskatoon for repairs at the Sutherland Shops. Newsy and Reise were elated when Pinky walked into their dressing room a couple of hours later. Within 10 minutes, they were talking on the long-distance phone to the Vice President of the CPR in Winnipeg. They told him that if Pinky was kept in Saskatoon, the Saskatoon hockey team would stop traveling on the CNR and would become regular customers of the CPR. They went on to say that Pinky would be the team’s trainer as well as the porter on their trips. The Vice President was delighted to steal some business out of Saskatoon which was strictly a CNR main line and only a branch line on the CPR. After the Western Canada Hockey League broke up Pinky retained his connection with hockey. He was trainer for Sprague Cleghorn with the 1928-29 Newark Bulldogs and had numerous other jobs. In 1949 the Stratford Kroehlers of the Ontario Hockey Association needed a coach and without any quibbling gave the job to Pinky Lewis. He worked with the Hamilton Tiger Cats football team as a trainer from 1953-61 and as Head Trainer at McMaster University from 1961-72. In 1970 Pinky traveled as a Canadian team trainer to Yugoslavia for the World Amateur Basketball Championships. In 1970 he was chosen as Hamilton's Citizen of the Year.


                    Rough Ride on the Rattlers

On February 12, 1899, a Grand Trunk Railway train containing an Ottawa hockey club and a large number of their supporters came into a violent smash-up with a portion of a freight train abandoned on the main line near Montreal. The early morning collision sent nearly all the passengers into the aisles, but miraculously no one sustained serious injury. The special train consisting of an engine and 4 coaches had been out of Bonaventure depot for about an hour when the engineer noticed a number of boxcars on the track. He immediately reversed the engine, but in an instant the locomotive struck the caboose, completely demolishing it. Wedged in beside the loco were the mangled boxcars, which were loaded with paint and whiskey and they quickly caught fire. When it became apparent that the passenger cars were in danger, members of the hockey team uncoupled the first car from the tender and pushed the train to a place of safety. Another train was sent from nearby Coteau and after waiting over 2 hours the passengers continued their trip. Most likely it was the Ottawa Seniors hockey involved in the collision however 4 teams from Ottawa had travelled to Montreal to compete in games at The Arena on February 11th. The Ashbury House School defeated Montreal Abingdon School 2 goals to 0 and the Ottawa Bakers took on the Montreal flour-mixers. Next up, the Ottawa Intermediates beat the Quebec Cresents 5 to 4 in overtime and in the evening game Ottawa Seniors were rattled by the Montreal Victorias 16 to 0.

On December 23, 1902, Jack Marshall, the center man of the Stanley Cup champion Montreal AAA hockey team, was injured in a street car accident. He was struck by the car and badly cut. Jack was taken to the hospital where he had his wounds dressed and later he was sent home. It was undecided at the time whether his injuries would keep him from playing in the first game of the season. For the 1912-13 season Marshall signed on as player-coach for Bruce Ridpath's Toronto Blueshirts. Ridpath's playing career was ended as a result of an incident involving a streetcar. On November 3, 1911, Bruce disembarked from a Young St. streetcar in Toronto and was struck by an automobile, suffering severe head injuries.

On January 14, 1909, Grand Trunk Railway train No. 44 derailed as it was passing Gourock, Ont. The rear end of the train jumped the track and overturned into the bank, injuring about 25 passengers and trainmen. It was supposed that a broken flange was responsible for the accident. Among the passengers were members of the Brantford Indians hockey team, which had played the Guelph Royals the previous night in an Ontario Professional Hockey League game and the Hamilton Thistle Curling team, going home from the Fergus bonspiel. Jack Marks suffered a broken forearm and broken ribs and Walter Miller had a hand injury. After an examination the following day Dr. Pearson said he did not think the injuries were serious although it was too early to say definitely. If they were not, both players may be in the game again the next season. The newspaper header's read, "Mere Railway Collision Not Enough to Damage Professional Players". Marks, Miller and Tommy Smith received damages from the GTR for their injuries, $800, $500 and $50 respectively. Walter Mercer replaced Marks at right wing and Jack Ward of the Montreal Shamrocks played at center position formerly held by Miller. No worse for wear, on January 16th, Brantford hosted the Galt Professionals and steamed over them 16 to 6. Jack Marks later went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1911-12 and 1912-13 with NHA Quebec Bulldogs. Walter Miller went on to play in the NHA with the Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators. His right leg was injured in 1918 during the First World War and he was unable to skate again.   

On May 4, 1911, a dispatch from the Renfrew Journal reported that Donald Smith, the well known Cornwall lacrosse and Renfrew Creamery Kings hockey player, and Walter Smyth, bailiff, had an exciting experience at Harrisons Corners. Donald Smith accompanied the bailiff on official business to Bonville and when they reached Harrisons Corners the breeching broke and the horse they were driving became unmanageable and kicked furiously. The dashboard was broken and Walter Smyth received a severe kick on the right arm which broke it between the wrist and elbow and tore open the side of his hand. Donald Smith was thrown out of the rig and was badly shaken up. The horse then ran towards the Ottawa and New York railway track and collided with a passing freight train and this stopped him. The animal was injured about the shoulder. Donald Smith commented, “Hockey and lacrosse are not half as exiting as being behind a kicking horse.”

On December 19, 1925, one person died and nine others were injured when a Pennsylvania Express train derailed between Pittsburgh and New York. The locomotive and all 8 coaches left the rails. Careening down the tracks, most of the train had passed the locomotive, which was now abreast of the private sleeper car holding 13 members of the New York Americans hockey team. The Amerks were on their way to New York’s Madison Square Gardens for a game against the Montreal Maroons. “There was a crash, then a scrapping sound, as if we were ploughing through a forest" said Tom Gorman, manager of the club. “This was followed by another crash. The lights went out, the train was off the tracks and we were thudding along the ties. The car swayed this way and that then heaved over onto its side. We might have been worse scared than we were if we had known it was just a few feet from a 100 foot embankment.” Despite suffering wrenches and contusions when they were thrown from their berths, the hockey players climbed out of the car through broken windows and played a prominent part in the rescue work. The players smashed windows to reach the panic stricken and injured passengers. The engineer and firemen, both scalded and suffering eye injuries, were wandering hand in hand on the edge of a horseshoe curve ravine when Tom Gorman and trainer Jimmie Smith found them and led the men to safety. Amerks players hurt in the wreck were Shorty Green with an injured knee, Ken Randall dislocated his shoulder, Charlie Langlois had bruises and cuts on his legs, Billy Burch suffered a blow to his stomach.

On March 2, 1927, the Boston Tigers hockey club was detained at the Richford, Vermont border point after a large quantity of liquor was found in their special rail car. The Tigers were  returning home following their game against the Quebec Beavers. The Collector of Customs of the Vermont district ruled that the hockey players had no knowledge of the 65 bottles of whiskey hidden behind a partition of the Pullman car. However the players were compelled to pay fines of $5 a bottle on the 20 discovered in their suitcases. The special car occupied by the team remained on a siding for the greater part of the day after customs inspectors had ordered it cut off from the CPR passenger train to which it was attached. The porter of the car was held for questioning and later released after paying a fine of $325. He maintained that he knew nothing about the liquor, but was willing to pay the fine to close the case. The customs inspectors found the liquor, which was wrapped in Pullman company pillow cases, when they removed a partition in a closet used by the porter to store linen.

In March of 1943 the Ottawa Commandos hockey club was forced to idle away 10 hours on the 70 mile train trip from Cornwall. The Commandos set out for home the morning after a game against Cornwall Army during their QSHL playoff series, but snow drifts held the team up 9 miles out of Cornwall. A train plow arrived from Massena, N.Y. in the afternoon and cleared the way to Ottawa. The general store at Harrisons Corners, situated about 100 yards from where the train was blocked did a rousing business. The Commandos arrived in Ottawa about 6 p.m. and immediately began preparing for their 4th game of the series that night at the Auditorium.

The New York Rangers had a rough time "riding the rattlers" at the beginning of 1945. The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Rangers 7 to 3 on January 18, 1945, in a game that was delayed almost 3 hours. The 7,637 fans were well behaved during the delay resulting from bad weather conditions which made the Rangers train 7 hours late. The game started at 11:13 p.m. and finished at 12:56 a.m. On February 16, 1945, the Rangers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6 to 2, in a game that started 2 hours and 20 minutes late. The delay was caused by the lateness of the train bringing the Rangers from Detroit where they played the night before. A hockey game between 2 local amateur teams entertained the 10,621 fans until the game started at 10:50 p.m.

On December 12, 1945, nine freight cars were piled up into a mass of wreckage on the old belt line in Forest Hill, Ontario. The derailment occurred at the foot of Russell Hill Road, just at the rear of the home of Syl Apps, Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player. Three cars of coal and one of oil were spilled in ditches and back yards of homes along the line and tracks were torn for several hundred feet. No one was injured. “It made a noise just like an explosion.” said Mrs. Apps, who was in her house at the time. “I rushed outside just in time to see one of the coal cars falling into the ditch.” CNR officials stated the derailment was due to a brake beam falling down on a transfer train crossing the old belt line. The line was used as a cut across from the Don Valley to Fairbank, serving coal yards and industrial shops on that line. The residents in the area had been waiting for coal, but this was the first time they had some dumped in their back yards.

On February 5, 1947, 3 people died and 92 were injured when a Southern Pacific steamliner turned into a flaming inferno after striking a gasoline truck at a crossing near Kingsburg, California, 20 miles south of Fresno. The speeding steamliner split the truck’s trailer open, spraying gasoline into the air and within a few minutes the entire 16 car Los Angeles to San Francisco train was engulfed in flames. Among the 500 passengers on the San Joaquin Daylight were 14 members of the San Francisco Shamrocks hockey team. Many passengers escaped the blazing train by kicking out windows and leaping through the jagged panes, only to lie injured in the burning grass. It was reported that several women and children were rescued by the Shamrock players, who were en route to Fresno for a game against the Fresno Falcons. Several members of the Shamrocks were injured while carrying passengers from the train through pools of flaming fuel, leading to the cancellation of their next 2 games by the PCHL. Each team in the league was asked to send one player to San Francisco until the injured players were released from the hospital. The Shamrocks were primarily comprised of players born in Canada, including 5 from the Timmins – South Porcupine area; Roy McKay, Terry Cerenzia, George DeFelice, Boyd Prentice and Billy Adamo. Roy McKay suffered severed tendons in his right hand and Boyd Prentice received treatment for cuts and bruises. The driver of the gasoline truck said that he was driving east and failed to see the northbound streamliner approaching the double track crossing, due to a freight train standing on the west track. Two years following the accident damage claims totaling more than $50,000 were paid to five Shamrock players.

On January 10, 1948 70 people were injured when a Providence - Boston passenger train derailed while entering Back Bay station. Shaken up but unhurt were members of the Brown University hockey team, en route from Providence to Waterville, Maine to play Colby College. They were transferred, with other uninjured passengers, to another train and taken to nearby South Station. The engine and tender jumped the tracks and ploughed along the ties, sheering 14 girders supporting the station. Fortunately the first coach was driven upwards by the force of the crash instead of ramming into the tender. The Dartmouth St. bridge, which formed part of the ceiling of the station, was immediately closed until temporary supports could replace the pillars knocked down. Superintenent of the New Haven Railroad said "speed wasn't a factor", brushing aside statements by passengers that the train "seemed to be travelling much faster than normal as it approached the station". Amid a shower of hot coals and clouds of steam, the entire station was thrown into turmoil and near hysteria. 60 of the injured passengers were treated at the scene and sent home, 10 were taken to City Hospital. Most seriously hurt was the engineer, who suffered a broken arm and second degree burns from the live steam. He was pinned under the wreckage for over an hour and had to be freed by acetylene torches. Hero's of the wreck were a passenger and an off duty railway fireman for Boston & Albany Railroad. They ran to the locomotive, extinguished the flames and then located the engineer.

On October 30, 1948 the Montreal Royals hockey club battled through flames to save passengers from a fiery death following the head-on collision of two Montreal-Boston trains. The engineers and firemen of both trains were killed. Five mail clerks on the two trains were injured. None of the passengers in the 15 coaches were seriously hurt. Both engines and five non-passenger cars were derailed in the predawn wreck. The Royals were en route to Boston for a game with the Boston Olympics when their train and a north bound train collided. A spokesman for the Boston & Maine Railway said the trains, named the Redwings, had orders to meet at Newbury, Vermont, but the south bound train went through and collide with the other train a mile from the city. All the hockey players were either dozing or sleeping when the crash occurred. They threw on what clothes they could find and immediately pitched into the rescue job, oblivious of the fog and mud. "We heard one man thrown clear, calling for help from the bushes." said Coach Frank Carlin. "It was pitch dark. We could only see a few feet in front of us, so the players lighted newspapers and we finally found the injured man who had a broken back." The Royals arrived in Boston in time for their game, but lost to the Olympics 6-4. They travelled to New York the next day where they beat the Rovers 4-2. 

On January 6, 1950 the Trail Smoke Eaters hockey team did much to prevent panic among passengers when an eastbound CPR passenger train collided head-on with a freight train. The freight train was stationary in the siding at Fessiferne, 6 1/2 miles west of Cranbrook, BC, when the passenger train on the main line plunged through an open switch. The engineer and the front end brakeman of the freight train were killed, seven trainmen and two passengers were injured in the crash. The Smoke Eaters trainer Jimmy Decembrina gave first aid to the injured passengers and trainmen. The locomotives were welded together by the force of the collision. The passenger train included six cars, the first two were a baggage and mail car and these were demolished. The baggage car was standing vertically with its rear wheels on the track and its front wheels about 30 feet in the air. The fourth car, which was filled with milk cans, rolled off the track and plunged down a steep ravine. Little damage was reported to the last two cars which held the passengers. Cranbrook ambulance men, doctors, nurses and CPR wrecking crews worked for more than 3 hours in 10 below zero weather in snow that was 4 feet deep to remove the injured to hospital. 

On December 21, 1950 disaster was averted when the over-night Toronto to Montreal train derailed while crossing the Dorion Bridge, 35 miles west of Montreal. Reporter W.R. Wheatly was traveling with the Montreal Canadiens hockey team and suffered bumps and bruises. “We were all lucky that the train stayed on the bridge. The tragedy would have been terrible if the cars had gone into the St. Lawrence River.” The 400 passenger train blew for the bridge and had started high-balling across when a cracked bearing caused the baggage car to hop the rails. The next four cars also left the track. One stood upright on the damaged ties, the next was at a 45 degree tilt, part of it seven feet below the tie level in the trough the train carved and part of it about three feet above the ties. The rest of the train hugged the ties. Injuries were confined to a handful of passengers who were taken by taxis and ambulances to Ste. Anne de Bellevue hospital, but they required little attention. Three hours after the 7:30 a.m. wreck all passengers had been brought to their Montreal destination by buses or other trains, some from the Canadian Pacific Railway and some from the Canadian National Railway.

The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association selected the Lethbridge Maple Leafs to represent Canada in the 1951 World Amateur Hockey Championships in Paris, France. On Sunday December 17, 1950, the Maple Leafs, 18 players strong, packed their gear and headed down to the local CPR station to begin their rail journey across Canada. With departure delayed 2 ½ hours, while the club’s special car was coupled to the east-bound train, the players received a rousing send-off by the 250 townsfolk who met the team.

Several welcoming parties greeted the team as they rode the rails across the base of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The team arrived in Melville, Sask. Dec. 18th and played their first and only exhibition game in Canada en route to the World Tournament and exhibition tour of Europe. The Maple Leafs derailed the Melville Millionaires 7-1 and following a banquet sponsored by the board of trade, road the bumpy roads by bus back to the Regina depot. The train had traveled only 35 miles east to Sintaluta when it struck a truck. The engineer took some time to halt the 85 mph speeding train. Players Bill Chandler, Lou Siray, Napper Milroy and Shorty Malacko went back to inspect the damage. The engine had been hurled completely out of the truck and the driver was dead. After more than an hour’s delay, the train continued on and at Winnipeg the team was met at the C.P.R. station by a sports reporter of radio station CKY. He recorded an interview of all the men to be rebroadcast in Winnipeg and Lethbridge. During the long train trip the team passed away the time playing bridge, whist, hearts and cribbage - no poker allowed. The team traveled on through the rugged country of western Ontario, arriving in Ottawa on the morning of Dec.20th and on to Montreal for a three hour stopover. “At this moment we are in St, John, Quebec. Tomorrow morning we will be in St. John, New Brunswick. And tomorrow, if we wanted to, we could also be in St. John, Newfoundland”, said Stan Obodiak. The Maple Leafs train journey ended in Halifax and on the night of Dec. 22 boarded the ocean liner Scythia. For the majority of players this marked the first time they had seen the shores of England. Dick Gray, Hec Negrello, Mallie Hughes, Stan Obodiak, Nap Milroy, Bert Knibbs and Ken Branch were in England during WW II. For the rest it was a new adventure. Hughes commented “I’m glad we’re going over there to shoot pucks instead of bullets”.



 A Day to Remember

The End Of My (Illustrious?) Hockey Career, Feb.16, 1936

By C.R. Gallagher

February 16, 1936 was a bright sunny Sunday and for me started off to be an enjoyable one. I attended the 9:30 a.m. mass at our parish church, St. Joachim’s, and returned home for breakfast. In those days, communicants had to be fasting if they were intending to receive Holy Communion, which meant no food or drink from midnight the previous day, until after the ritual was completed. So I ate heartily and happily and then worked on my “homework “ preparatory to attending my classes in “Form 5” as it was called then, later became known as “Grade 13” or “Senior Matriculation”. I took my time, not being a particularly good student in either ambition or knowledge, but also because I could not go hunting or participate in any full-day activity. I had been asked to take part in the ritual at St. Joachim’s Church relevant to the Christening or Baptism of my new-born cousin, John Allen Pearce. I was standing “Proxy” Godfather for John in place of his Uncle Girard Bailey, who had agreed to be Godfather, but lived then in Montreal, Quebec. In those times such rituals were usually performed on Sunday afternoons, at 2:30 p.m. or so, the priests being busy in the mornings.

So having fulfilled my promise to John’s mother, my first cousin, Margaret Pearce, I went home to our house on Connaught Hill. Arriving there, I noticed many of my peers and neighbours playing “shinny” on the outdoor rink on my friend’s the Evans front lawn. I loved to play hockey, at the time I was on the local high school team and also the newly formed juvenile team, so I hurriedly donned my skates and walked over to the rink and joined the “fray”. There was no age limit in effect, some kids under 12 and even some men in their 20’s or more, nor was there any limit on the number of players on the ice, just even sides. I had only joined in the crowded scrimmage for about 15 minutes when I attempted to steal the puck from two players, coming between them, when a third player with the same idea tried to lift my stick up so I couldn’t pick up the puck. He was playing with a stick which only had a thin remnant of a blade, having broken off previously leaving a thin long pointed portion of the blade. He used a sudden forceful motion and somehow his stick slid up the handle of my stick, with the pointed portion striking me very hard in my left eye, smashing the same and tearing it from the socket. The last thing I saw was a great red and yellow flash, and then bled copiously. My friend Bud Evans gave me a handkerchief to stem the flow but with no success. Already suffering from severe pain and shock, Bud and another player took me by each arm and walked me on my skates to the local hospital, which was just next door to the rink site. We climbed the short flight of steps and entered the hospital. A nurse, Miss Isabel Tait, was on duty and perceived that I had suffered quite a bad injury, and someone administered a morphine needle to me, I don’t know who. I was put to bed and I was soon out of the picture.

My father was away in Toronto at the time, and was contacted and advised of my injury and condition. It was decided to fly me down to Toronto for surgery as there was some fear of complete loss of vision due to possible infection setting in and he arranged with the owner/pilot of Algoma Air Transport, Mr. Ed. Ahr, to do the flight early the following morning. However, when morning came, unusual weather for Northern Ontario had set in. It was raining, making it impossible for the big Fokker Super Universal aircraft to fly, there being too great a risk of ice forming in flight on the wings and thereby forcing the aircraft down. There was at the time a little train which left South Porcupine about 7:00 a.m., but it had already left on its way to Porquois Junction, on the main line of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. However, my dad at the time was a Commissioner on the board of the said railway, so he contacted Mr. Malcolm D. Lang, who was Chairman of the Board. The latter advised that the private Commissioner’s car was at Porquis Junction, that there was an engine and caboose in Timmins, and I was to be transported on this latter to Porquis Junction and thence to be placed in the Commissioner’s car and taken to Toronto. My dad had to pay the cost of the special train including the private car to make the fast run to Toronto. If I remember correctly, it was an amount of $600, quite a princely sum for those still depressed days. I do remember my cousin Allen Pearce helped dress me for the trip including going down to Buckovetsky’s Men’s Wear to get me a cap. But with my head being completely bandaged in circumference around the both eyes, the cap would not sit down on my head, but on top only. Despite being in rough shape, I was concerned somewhat about my appearance (stupid?), but it was a done fact!

Of course I could see nothing and was very nauseous from shock, puking regularly every few minutes. The railway didn’t need any mileposts! I couldn’t even keep down a drink of water. Our family doctor and his nurse came on the trip with me to Toronto, as did my twin sister and a family friend, after all there was plenty of room on the posh, private car. The run to Toronto was made in record time over the T & N.O. and the CNR lines. The engineer was Joe Legear and the fireman was R.J. Riddell. It made front-page headlines in the Globe and I think the Toronto Star, especially since my dad was a well known figure in Northern Ontario and also in Toronto, being very active in politics in the municipal, provincial and federal level. On arrival at Union Station in Toronto, we were met with an ambulance and rushed to the O.R. in St. Michael’s Hospital and I was operated on about 11:00 p.m. I was hospitalized about a month and a half, home about April 1. I had quite a bit to learn about coping with monocular vision, loss of stereoscopic viewing, e.g. thinking you have reached the bottom of a stairway when you still have one or two steps to go, sometimes with bruising results. I had wanted to be a commercial pilot, but the accident finished any hope of that, although I did obtain a Private Pilot License some years later, with wheel, float and ski rating. I flew for several years, but finally gave it up due to rental costs, could not afford to buy a small plane of my own and thought I was getting a bit too old to fly.

The following year, I went to St. Michael’s College School in Toronto and did play a game in the “house league”. I scored 2 goals in the Maple Leaf Gardens, despite being out of shape, but I never told my dad, he would have killed me!


Mile       Location                          
------     -------------------------------------
 0.0       Iroquois Falls station
 2.9       Onagon station
 7.5       Porquis, jct. with Main Line mi. 224.4
 9.7       Killburn station
 16.2      Barber Bay station
 17.2      Connaught station
 24.1      Keys station
 28.3      Three Nations station
 31.0      Porcupine station
 33.7      South Porcupine station
 38.6      Schumacher station
 40.1      Timmins station

Left to right; Conductor, coach Joe Swabb, Gus Galbraith, ?, Rick Albert, Paul Balic, seated with cigar manager Mr. Grant, on the stairs Bruce Jones, Jarvis, goalie Art Mousley, Bob McNeil, Deneault is holding cards; back up goalie Kobe in white hat, Demarco, Cochrane, Piche, Pete Gazzola, Graham Savard, Merve Towers. Gus Galbraith, Pete Gazzola and Graham Savard were picked up from the South Porcupine Gold Diggers when the Timmins Combines beat them in the Northern Ontario Junior playoff semi finals. The Timmins - Porcupine Combines went on to beat the Falconbridge Wolves 3 wins to none, advancing to the 1952-53 Eastern Canada Memorial Cup Playoffs. In the First Round Best of 5 the Combines beat Ottawa’s Eastview - St. Charles  3 wins to 2. In the Quarter Final Best of 7 the Combines beat the Maritime’s North Sydney Franklins  4 wins to 1 & 1 tie. In the Semi Final Best of 5 the Quebec Citadelles beat the Combines 3 wins to none.


 The Calgary Stampeders completed their long train trip from Calgary to Eastern Canada in high spirits. There was a brief stop over in Port Arthur, where Marty Burke's cowhands clinched the Western Canada Senior hockey championship against the Bearcats. The Stampeders spent a day and night on the train, arriving at Toronto's Union Station on the morning of April 17, 1940. They checked in at the Royal York hotel wearing their 10 gallon hats and bright red & white team jackets and began preparations for the Allan cup finals against the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils. “Lanky” Lex Cook's miners had been in Toronto for about 6 weeks, based out of the Royal York hotel while blasting their way through the Toronto Goodyears, Sydney Millionaires and Montreal Royals on their way to capturing the Eastern Canada hockey crown.

The best of five series at Maple Leaf Gardens was anticipated to be the greatest series in over a decade, but the Blue Devils badly outclassed the larger Stampeder team with their “burning speed and terrific scoring punch.” Winning by scores of 8-5, 9-1 and 7-1, one Calgary sports editor reported “Had it not been for the goal-tending of Art Rice-Jones, the scores could have gone into box-car figures.” The brilliant march of Kirkland Lake to the Canadian senior title was led by goalie Bill Durnan, Johnny McCreedy and the Dynamite Line of Dick Kowcinak, Hal Cooper and Blink Bellinger. McCreedy scored hat tricks in the finals second and third games. In the first game of the Eastern Canada finals Johnny scored all the goals when his team beat the Royals 3 to 1. Calgary Coach Marty Burke hailed the Blue Devils as “The greatest amateur team I have ever seen. This Lake Shore club is to my mind an even greater hockey team than the 1924 Toronto Granites.” In 14 playoff games outside their league, they were beaten only once and scored 66 goals while holding the opposition to 28. For that achievement the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils were voted the outstanding team of the year in Canadian Sports by sports writers across the country.

On April 27, 1940, Ontario's Gold Belt welcomed home its Allan Cup champions. All along the northern route crowds gathered at railway stations to salute the team. At Hal Cooper's hometown of New Liskeard, 1,000 adults and children lined the tracks to applaud the Blue Devils. (You can view a photo of the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils celebration here, courtesy of Hockey Heritage North website.) Similar fanfare was exhibited at Colbalt and Englehart. The high point came however when the team detrained at Swastika. A guard of honor consisting of 200 uniformed cadets from Kirkland Lake High School was assembled on the station platform. The players climbed aboard the town's largest firetruck with player-coach Lex Cook and manager Doc Ames on the front fenders, arms wrapped around the Allan Cup. Led by two bands, the team began a triumphant cavalcade to the Kirkland Lake town hall for a civic reception. Thousands of cars were parked along the way and their occupants cheered the new champions. Some of the players sported Western sombreros obtained from the Stampeders in a swap for hockey sweaters after the final game.