The Port Arthur Seniors played a strong regular season in heady company – the Interprovincial League that they played in was also home to the University of Manitoba Varsity team, defending Allan Cup champions, as well as a strong Fort William team always eager for inter-city superiority. So when the playoffs began, the Seniors knew it would be a hard fight from beginning to end.
Their first series was against Fort William for the Inter City title and the right to proceed to the Interprovincial championships. The first game of the points-based series was a decisive victory, the Ports’ relentless offence winning them the game 9-3 and giving them an imposing six point lead in the two game series. This deficit would prove too much for the Fort William team, and Port Arthur won the following
The next team Port Arthur had to take on was the Manitoba Varsity, who were the defending Allan Cup champions and rated as one of the best teams in the country. Throughout the regular season, Varsity had only suffered one loss, but it was a loss at the hands of the Seniors, so anticipation grew in the lead-up to the first match of the points-based series. In the first game, Port Arthur rallied for an exciting 2-1 win. This gave them great confidence, but their lead in the series was only by a goal, so tension was high during the following match. The first period was packed with end to end rushes by both sides, but the defensive forces proved just as volatile as the offensive, and no score was registered. The second period played out in much the same fashion, but Port Arthur had begun to back the Varsity squad into their own end; then, with less than a minute of play left in the period, Cliff Barton slipped a goal passed Varsity goaltender Art Puttee to increase the series lead to two goals. This drove the Manitoba team to fervor, and Port Arthur played a desperate defensive game during the last period. Although they were once unable to stop the Varsity offence, the final bell sounded and they retained their series lead 3-2, granting them the Interprovincial title.
In their series against the Regina Vics in Winnipeg, the Seniors gained a one point advantage in the first game, shutting out the Saskatchewan team 1-0. The following game saw them continue in their winning ways, as their greater speed and stamina earned them a 4-1 victory.
The only remaining contenders for the Western Championship were the Trail Smoke Eaters, a veteran British Columbia squad. Coming off of their easy wins over Regina, the Seniors were overconfident going into the first game of the series, and their hubris proved costly. The Smoke Eaters began the game in a frenzy, and kept the floundering Port Arthur squad scrambling on defence; before the first period was over, Trail were up three goals. Port Arthur came back determined in the second, holding the game scoreless, but in the third period they relapsed and let in three more. They netted one goal for a final score of 6-1, but their lone goal was little reprieve in the face of a five-goal series deficit.
However, soon after the game it was revealed that Anderson, Trail’s burly defenceman, was in fact ineligible to play in the game he had just helped his team to win. On that account, the game was thrown out and the series was converted into a one-game sudden death contest. This lucky ruling gave Port Arthur some room to breathe, but their loss was still resounding as they skated out for the sudden-death game. With new resolve, the Seniors scored one goal in the first period, two goals in the second, and three goals in the third, never allowing the Trail team a single goal. This 6-0 victory won them the Western Championship series, and would have even done so had the prior game not been thrown out.
The Allan Cup final series was to be played in Winnipeg against the Eastern Champion Montreal St. Francois Xavier intermediate team. The Seniors were determined to make history by winning their third Allan Cup in five years, but St. Francois were having none of it. The first game of the series became a nerve-wracking marathon, as both teams were held scoreless in regular time, despite many good opportunities on both sides. In first overtime St. Francois scored what seemed like a decisive goal, but the Seniors fought back and scored the equalizer, sending the game into two more scoreless overtime periods before the match was called a 1-1 tie.
The following game saw the scales tip decisively in Port Arthur’s favour, and the Tricolours, as they were often called, found their scoring touch early. They drove home a goal in the second minute of the game, and had six by the end of second period. At the final bell, Port Arthur was up 7-2, and their victory felt
Sure enough, on March 30, Port Arthur shut out St. Francois 3-0 and became Allan Cup champions.Eddie Baker’s terrific goaltending spurred the team on when the Montreal team seemed sure to take control in the second period, and the rest was relatively smooth sailing. This victory marked the record-breaking third Allan Cup win for Port Arthur and for players Gordon Wilson and Wilf L’Heureux; these records would stand until they were improved upon by the post-amalgamation Thunder Bay Twins and player Gerry Cizmar, who won four Allan Cup titles for the city during the 1980’s.
Standing left to right: Steve Vair (Coach), Bill Price, Bruce Cox, Norman Friday, Jimmy Creighton, Henry Gross, Eddie Baker, Gordon Wilson, Wilf L’Heureux, James ‘Bud’ Jarvis, Cliff Barton, Bobby McCranor, Malcolm Cochran (President), Wally ‘Scotty’ Stewart (Trainer)
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 25, 1982