|Out of the Mists of the Past
|The Kenora Thistles: 1907 Stanley Cup Champions
In 1896, Hooper, along with fellow 13 year-old Tommy Phillips, joined the Senior League Rat Portage Thistles club, eventually taking the squad to the top of the Manitoba and Northwestern Hockey League (M.N.H.A.)'s standings by 1901. The following two seasons saw the Thistles move up from the intermediate to the premiere division of the M.N.H.A. and win the championship in only their first season. That gave Hooper and his teammates the opportunity to challenge for the honored Stanley Cup, which had just been won by the imposing Ottawa Silver Seven club. In a two-game Ottawa sweep that saw the young Thistles play valiantly, Hooper was denied a single goal. He spent that summer, as he had for the past several years, rowing for the Rat Portage Rowing Club and keeping in shape for the upcoming season.
The following season Hooper played in 9 regular season games, tallying four goals, but the Thistles could not wrest away the league championship from the Lester Patrick and the Brandon Wheat Kings, and were as a result denied a rematch with the Silver Seven.
During the regular season of 1904-05, Tom potted nine goals in eight games as the Thistles cruised to a 7-1 record to win the Manitoba Hockey Association (M.H.A.) championship.
The Thistles were much better prepared for the long-awaited Stanley Cup rematch held in Ottawa, winning the first game by the score of 9-3, but Ottawa responded by taking the last two games, 4-2 and 5-4. Tom netted three goals in the hard fought, three game series.
In 1905-06, Tom switched positions to Cover Point, putting in four goals over the span of eight games as the Thistles again dominated the M.H.L., but were unable to challenge the Silver Seven, who had accepted challenges from three other less qualified teams earlier in the season and, due to the late conclusion of the M.H.L. season, were unable and/or uninterested in playing yet another challenge series. A challenge match was set up for the middle of the 1906-07 season, and Hooper and his teammates would have to wait.
In January, 1907, Tom and the Thistles finally won the Stanley Cup, but it wasn't against the Ottawa Silver Seven. The Thistles beat the newly crowned Montreal Wanderers in a two game, total goals series. Hooper was dominant, adding three goals in the deciding second game, including a bliding breakaway at the end of the game that put an emphatic exclamation point on the Thistles' remarkable achievement.
Just two months later the two teams squared off again, yet Hooper was unable to play due to a fractured collarbone. Hooper's replacement was newly acquired ringer Alf Smith, who twice captained the Ottawa Silver Seven over the Thistles in Cup play. Despite Smith's credentials, the Thistles sorely missed Hooper and the hallowed trophy went right back to the rival Wanderers after losing the two game/total points series by the score of 12-8 (2-7, 6-5).
The following year, due to the sudden acceleration in the number of players jumping into professional hockey, the Thistles were systematically gutted. playing with the younger, smaller, and less-talented brothers of departed stars Billy McGimsie and Tommy Phillips, Hooper and goalie Eddie Giroux were all that was left from the Stanley Cup winning team just one year prior. Hooper played in the season opener, a 15-1 drubbing at the hands of the Winnipeg Strathconas, before the team totally fell apart and finally decided to call it quits.
After the great Thistles squad faded back into amateur obscurity, Hooper was lured east, where he played one game with Pembroke Lumber of the Upper Ottawa Valley Hockey League (U.O.V.H.L.) before signing on with the Wanderers as a ringer, playing in two regular season games before helping the powerful club defend its Stanley Cup title that January against the Ottawa Victorias. The Wanderers crushed the Vics in a two game sweep, 9-3 and 13-1, although Hooper failed to contribute a goal in the onslaught. Tom then moved on to play with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, scoring 9 goals in seven regular season games before deciding to retire from hockey for good.
Tom Hooper died in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 23, 1960. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame two years later.
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