|Out of the Mists of the Past||The Kenora Thistles: 1907 Stanley Cup Champions|
ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY years ago, the Lake Of The Woods, separating the newly formed American state of Minnesota and the territory of Canada known as Ontario, was nothing more than a territorial landmark. Several small settlements had been founded along its rocky, twisty shores, yet, other than the lakes' burdgeoning fish population, there was nothing there of permanance that might keep an 19th century prospector and settler apt to stay. Gold and silver had been discovered in the far west, as well as vast deposits of iron ore and coal. The Lake of the Woods provided a nice stop-off point for those who sought to make their fortunes through these high risk ventures. Prospectors would stay a few days, rest up, gather supplies at local trading posts, and then move forward into the vast rolling plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to engage their destinies.
One of these small lakeside trading posts was Rat Portage. Named as such for the numerous muskrats that called the Lake Of The Woods shoreline their seasonal home, Rat Portage, originally a small hunting and trapping area of the Ojibway Indians along the Winnipeg River, was noted well for its timber, fish, and fur market. In 1860, Hudson's Bay Company established a fur trading post at the site, and soon many trappers and settlers began to call Rat Portage their home. During the late 1870s, work was begun on the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.). One of the stops along the way was to be Rat Portage. For the next twenty years the town blossomed. Gold prospectors discovered several gold veins in the Rat Portage area, and as a result migrants began to flock in by the bushel, staking claims, and opening dozens of mining camps all around The Lake Of The Woods. Businessmen and marketeers came to Rat Portage to peddle their goods to a swiftly growing citizenry. Somewhere along the way a few of these newly transplanted settlers brought along the knowledge of ice hockey, and it is around this time we find the first local amateur hockey teams being formed.
the formation of the first hockey team in Rat Portage was initiated in the early 1890s by the Hardisty family, who moved from the nearby city of Winnipeg, bringing with them an enthusiasm for the winter past-time. Thomas Hardisty was the team's first goalie, and his brother, Donald Hardisty, played the position of defensive cover point and served as the team's first captain. The name of the team, the Thistles, was selected after a town contest was held. Bill Dunsmore, a local Scotch carpenter, submitted the winning entry alongside a simple drawing of a thistle which became the team emblem as well as a symbol of the area's largely Scottish heritage. The team's colors were red on white.
The early Thistles competed in local matches or "challenges" with other clubs around the area. Teams from Winnipeg, Brandon, and Portage La-Prairie would play the Thistles during the slow winter months, giving townsfolk entertainment and relief from the bitter cold, snow and the wind. In 1894, the team won twelve games competing in the Manitoba Hockey Association (M.H.A.). The early popularity of the team encouraged local children to acquire a pair of skates and a stick and have pick-up games of rag-tag hockey along the lakeshore and the adjacent Laurenson's Creek. It is from these young, talented hockey players that the Stanley Cup Champion Kenora Thistles would be comprised.
In 1895, a man by the name of Samuel Charles McGimsie built an indoor ice rink installed with electric light to be known as the Princess Rink. Originally thought of as a home for the original Rat Portage Thistles team, who were now playing in the Manitoba and Northwest Hockey Association (M.N.H.A.), the rink soon began to serve as sort of a clubhouse for several young teenage boys who would lace up their own skates and play pick-up games of hockey when the rink was not in official use. Two of these boys were McGimsie's own sons, Billy and Charlie. Other boys from around Rat Portage joined in. It soon became apparent that these lads weren't just a bunch of kids who had simply found another way to occupy their extensive free time-- this being most apparent to the lads themselves. An unofficial "junior" Thistles team was eventually formed, and the boys began to play exhibition games in the style of their older namesakes.
In January, 1896 the brash young junior Thistles challenged their senior counterparts to an exhibition game. The result was shocking: the younger, faster, tighter Thistles, some as young as eleven, not only beat the senior leaguers, but thoroughly trounced them. On that fateful day, the line-up for the junior Thistles included Fred Dulmage in goal (one of two older brothers is almost certain to have played against him on the senior side), along with Wellington "Duke" McCannon, Tom Hooper, Roxy Beaudro, Matt Brown, Theophile "Tuff" Bellefeuille, Billy McGimsie, Si Griffis, Tommy Phillips, Bill Martin, and several others. The names of five of these boys would someday be engraved upon the Stanley Cup.
Over the next couple years, the boys who comprised that junior Thistles squad populated the largely abandoned senior roster, and by the turn of the century began to dominate the M.N.H.A. intermediate divison.
This web page is designed and maintained by Borden D. Mills. Best viewed using Internet Explorer, with medium fonts, at 600x800 to 1024x1280. It is a historical project, not for commercial gain, and claims all usage of images and photos as that of "fair use". All writings 2001-2007 by Borden D. Mills using a variety of great resources, many of which you can access by going to the links on the lefthand menu. Any comments, information, or corrections anyone has regarding this website can be sent to this address.
Proud member of the Society for International Hockey Research