Junior hockey has enjoyed a long history in Thunder Bay, dating back to the early part of the last century. The first national hockey title to be won by a Lakehead team was the Memorial Cup, emblematic of junior hockey supremacy in Canada.
The year was 1922, the team the Fort William Great War Vets; a group of eight players who shocked the junior hockey world with their unprecedented win. That year the Vets first faced off against Kenora in the district final, winning the series in overtime. Given the time period and the cost of travel, the CAHA decided that instead of the Vets travelling to Regina for the western final, the eastern champions, Toronto Aura Lee, would stop in Fort William en route to the finals in Winnipeg.
It was here that the one of the biggest upsets in Memorial Cup history took place. Before a packed crowd at the Prince of Wales Arena the Vets took early control of the game netting the first three goals. By the end of the match-up the Vets had done the unthinkable, defeating the highly favoured Aura Lee by a score of 5-3.
In Winnipeg, the Vets faced off against the Regina Patricia’s in a two-game total goal series. Taking an early lead in the first game they held off the Pats to earn a 5-4 victory. The second and deciding game ended in a 3-3 tie, which resulted in the Vets winning the total-point series 8-7 to clinch the Memorial Cup title. The returning victors were welcomed home by thousands of adoring fans, feted with many functions and presented gold watches by the City of Fort William.
The members of this record-setting team included Walter Adams, John Bates, Gerald Bourke, Ted D’Arcy, John Enwright, Alex Phillips, Fred Thornes and Clark Whyte. The coach was Stan Bliss, the trainer Jack Silver, the assistant trainer was Walter Jessop and the Secretary-Treasurer of the team was Fred Edwards.
This win also marked the first and last time a national hockey title was won by a Fort William team, a fate sealed by the city's amalgamation with Port Arthur in 1970 to form the city of Thunder Bay.