|Out of the Mists of the Past
|The Kenora Thistles: 1907 Stanley Cup Champions
For Giroux, that second chance came just two years later as a member of the Rat Portage Thistles. Along with teammate Phillips, a Rat Portage native, Giroux made the 1,000+ mile trek up to the tiny northwestern Ontario boomtown to play alongside a spirited group of youngsters that had hockeyists in the west as well as the east talking excitedly about their talent, speed, and grace upon the ice. Giroux's arrival promised quickness, stability and superior puck catching abilities between the flags and he did not disappoint. Giroux played brilliantly in his first regular season with the squad, posting a 7-1 record with a sparkling 2.84 goals per game average. At the conclusion of the season, the Thistles challenged the Ottawa club for the Cup. Ottawa had not lost a challenge match in over two years, icluding a 1903 match versus the Thistles. Most recently they had made mincemeat of a team from Dawson City, Yukon by a two-game combined score of 32-4. Giroux was determined not to be shredded like poor 19 year-old Yukon backstop Albert Forrest, who allowed Ottawa's star forward, "One-Eyed" Frank McGee, to pot an unimaginable fourteen goals!
On March 7th, 1905 the Thistles took the ice against a team all had played at least once before. As a result, they knew exactly what to expect and quickly built a lead in game one, going on to win by the heady score of 9-3. Rat Portage's high-flying offense flew up and down the swift ice and Giroux did his part to insure that the Silver Seven never got too close. The second game, two nights later, was a whole different experience altogether. Hampered in part by a ice that was now suspiciously slushy, the Thistles' vaunted offense was held in check. Giroux played almost as well as he did in game one, but it wasn't enough as the Thistles' fell 4-2.
That set the stage for the deciding match, to be played on March the 11th. The Thistles, playing on even slushier ice than in game two, clung to an improbable 3-2 lead with just over fifteen minutes to play, but the Silver Seven chipped away, putting three pucks past Giroux and sending the Thistles down for the count 5-4. Again, each Thistle including Eddie went back home wondering if they would ever get another second chance at hockey glory.
The third time for Giroux and the Thistles would prove to be the charm, this time as the re-christened Kenora Thistles. The mighty squad did not let the crushing defeat compromise their play in the least for the start of the 1905-06 regular season. Giroux appeared focused as ever, compiling another 7-1 record and registering an amazing 2.26 GAA. The Thistles again went on to dominate the Mantoba Hockey League (M.H.L.) and issued another challenge to the Silver Seven. However, because of the lateness of the season, the challenge was put off until that following January. Considering the fact that Ottawa had barely gotten by an upstart hockey club from Smith's Falls, and that Kenora had beaten the rival in two early season exhibition games, the Thistles were primed to bring the mighty Ottawa dynasty to an end. Instead, they had to wait impatiently through the summer. Before the 1906-07 season started, Giroux had hinted at retirement by considering traditional employment as a timekeeper for a nearby Vermillion Bay lumber camp. Whether he, like his teammate Tommy Phillips was paid to remain on the Kenora roster is uncertain, but Giroux was in mid-season form by time the challenge match rolled around, not against the arch rival Silver Seven, but against the Montreal Wanderers, who had wrested away possession of the Cup the previous spring.
Acquiring the services of Art Ross and Joe Hall from the nearby city of Brandon, Manitoba to offset the losses of longtime teammates Mat Brown and Theo Bellefeuille, the Thistles once again travelled east to meet their date with destiny. The first game of the match pitted two of the most brilliant offensive squads in early hockey history, yet resulted in an uncharacteristically low scoring affair. Giroux played brilliantly, outdueling Montreal's recently acquired professional goaltender and future Hall-of-Famer Riley Hern and pacing the Thistles to a 4-2 victory. The first half of game two again saw Eddie in fine form, allowing his teammates to open up a 5-2 lead. The second half, however saw the Wanderers' offensive juggernaut, led by legendary snipers Ernie Russell and Lester Patrick, come to life, scoring four times in rapid succession to tie the score at 6 with just under two minutes to play. Giroux regrouped and stemmed the rapidly changing momentum, and with a minute remaining, teammate Roxy Beaudro beat the Wanderers' Hern to regain the lead. A half minute later Tom Hooper added an insurance tally and the Giroux and the Thistles were, finally, National Champions.
The victorius Thistles, Stanley Cup in tow, returned home to an ecstatic small-town reception. Their time to celebrate was short, however. The rest of the 1906-07 M.H.L. regular season was still yet to be played. Giroux continued his solid play over the course of the next two months, even as injuries to the rest of the squad mounted, posting a 4-2 record and a 3.17 GAA, including a season ending shutout of the Portage La Prairie Plains. In a two game playoff against the Brandon Wheat Kings, Giroux survived a replay of game two versus the Wanderers, allowing an early three goal lead to virtually melt away, holding on for an 8-6 victory. The next game Giroux excelled, holding Brandon down 4-1.
The following week, Giroux again faced the mighty Wanderers, a team that had averaged an incredible 10 goals a game in the regular season. Even with the additions of Ottawa Silver Seven vets Harry "Rat" Westwick and Alf Smith to replace injured Kenora lads Billy McGimsie and Tom Hooper, the Thistles went down in defeat 7-2. Two nights later Giroux the Thistles regrouped and managed to win the game 6-5, but lost the Cup based on total goals scored, 8-12.
Giroux decided to stay on in Kenora one more year, even though all but Tom Hooper has either retired or had accepted professional contracts and gone on to other teams. The first game of the 1907-08 regular season was a complete rout, with the Winnipeg Strathconas smothering the outmanned squad 15-1. Before the next game could be played, Hooper too had gone pro and the Kenora squad dropped out of the professional league, never to challenge for the Stanley Cup again.
After the demise of the pro Thistles, Giroux stayed on in the area, marrying a local girl in November, 1908 and settling down. He served as a timekeeper for regional amateur hockey matches, including Kenora's Allan Cup challenge versus the Winnipeg Victorias in March of 1911, in which Tommy Phillips, Giroux's longtime teammate and friend, officiated.
Eddie Giroux died on May 26, 1930 in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the age of 46.
TEAM PHOTOS FEATURING EDDIE GIROUX:
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