Thursday, January 21, 2016
When the Stanley Cup was first offered in 1892 as the prize for the best team in among Canada's amateur ranks, it was called the "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup".
The cup was donated, at the urging of his two sons Arthur and Algernon, by Lord Stanley of Preston, then the Governor General of Canada, with the intent of creating a way to recognize which club was the current champion.
There was no single league across the whole of Canada at the time, so the format of awarding the cup was based on a challenge format, where the champion of one of the various amateur senior hockey associations could issue a challenge to the holders of the cup. This meant that challenge games could happen at any time during the season as challenges were approved, or ordered, by the cup's trustees. For example, the Ottawa Hockey Club faced four separate challenges for the cup, defended successfully each time, between January and March of 1904 from the Winnipeg Rowing Club, the Toronto Marlboros, the Montreal Wanderers and Brandon Wheat Cities, the latter two taking place just one week apart.
The challenge system was in effect until 1914, with the challenges varying from single-elimination games to best of three or two games, total goals series throughout the challenge era, when the trustees of the cup agreed that it would now be awarded to the winner of a playoff series each season between the champions of the professional National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) leagues.
It was on this date in 1907 that the Kenora Thistles captured the Stanley Cup as they successfully completed a two-game total-goal series against the current cup holders, the Montreal Wanderers, by a score of 12-8.
The Wanderers had held the cup since March of 1906 and had defended the cup once in December of 1906 before the Thistles issued their challenge based on being the champions of the Manitoba Professional Hockey League (MPHL).
The Thistles won the first game at the Montreal Arena on January 17, 1907 4-2 and captured the cup four days later by outlasting the Wanderers 8-6. Members of the Thistles included future Hockey Hall of Famers Joe Hall, Tom Hooper, captain Tommy Phillips and Art Ross.
Kenora would retain the cup two months later on March 16 and 18, 1907 by winning the MPHL playoffs against the Brandon Wheat Cities club in a best-of-three series 2 games to none by scores of 8-6 and 4-1.
Just five days after defending the cup, Kenora faced another challenge, this time from the same Montreal Wanderers whom they had taken the cup from exactly two months earlier. The Wanderers took game one in the two-game total-goals series by a commanding 7-2 margin. The Thistles preserved some pride by winning Game 2 by a score of 6-5, but it was not enough to overcome the five goal advantage the Wanderers took into the contest, as they regained the rights to the cup by a final margin of 12 goals to 8, ending the Thistles reign as cup holders at a mere 62 days, the shortest reign in Stanley Cup history.
The 1907 Stanley Cup champion Rat Portage Thistles luckily
took time to pose with their trophy during the brief two months they held it
Of note, while each previous cup champion had the right to engrave the name of their club onto the cup, it was the Wanderers who were the first to include the names of each individual player on the championship team, a practice which became an annual tradition in 1924 and set the cup on it's journey from 7 inch bowl to the three foot tall trophy it is today.
Kenora, originally called "Rat Portage", then with a population of just 4,000 holds the record as the smallest city to ever hold the Stanley Cup. It is located 2oo kilometers east of Winnipeg, directly above Minnesota, in far western Ontario.
The Rat Portage Thistles were founded in 1896 and unsuccessfully challenged for the cup twice before in 1903 and 1905 when they were turned back by the Ottawa Silver Seven. It was later in the summer of 1905 that Rat Portage changed it's name to Kenora. The Thistles hockey club would fold during the 1907-08 MPHL season.
The 1897 Rat Portage Thistles
Today's featured jersey is a 1907 Kenora Thistles Art Ross jersey. The Thistles name was chosen in a contest and the winner was a local Scottish carpenter named Bill Dunsmore who not only submitted the name in reference to the region's Scottish heritage, but a drawing of a thistle for the team's logo.
This jersey is the style worn by the Stanley Cup champion Thistles club, which included Ross, who would go on to be not only a player, but a general manager and coach in the NHL and have the trophy for the NHL's annual trophy for the league's leading scorer, the Art Ross Trophy, named after him.
These jerseys were reproduced by the CBC in connection with their "Hockey: A People's History" documentary, and are sadly no longer available on demand.
In another one of those amazing youtube moments, here is a video on the Kenora Thistles. While the original Thistle club disbanded in 1908, subsequent clubs in Kenora have adopted the Thistle name, which was the case for the club that Louis McKay played on in 1934.