Memorial Cup: It’s Been 90 Years

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t mention to me the Kingston Frontenacs are going to win the Memorial Cup.   That would be great for Kingston hockey, but for a franchise that hasn’t won a single playoff series in almost two decades, that strikes me as being a pretty bold prediction. I hope that overconfidence hasn’t found its way into the Frontenacs dressing room, there’s a lot of hockey left and a lot of teams standing in the way.

Kingston has only been to the show once in the almost 100 years since the Memorial Cup was founded.  It was launched by Kingston’s Captain James T. Sutherland in 1919,  after he lost two of his hometown hockey heroes in WWI; Scotty Davidson and George Richardson.

Kingston’s one and only trip to the Memorial Cup was in 1926 in Winnipeg.  The Kingston junior team that year was called the ‘Combines’,  because they actually iced a team with players from three different organizations; Queen’s University, RMC and the junior Frontenacs.   Just like this year’s team the ’26 Combines had great goaltending with Bill Taugher in nets; he would go on to play nine seasons of pro hockey, primarily with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League, winning two championships.  George Patterson was one of the Combines scoring stars, the following season he would turn pro and make history by scoring the first goal in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Coached by Lt. Col. Tom Gelley, the Combines beat North Bay, Quebec City and Fort William to capture the Eastern Canadian title and advance to the Memorial Cup. Kingston’s playoff run almost ended in North Bay, trailing by three goals in the third period in the deciding game, they stormed back to tie it.  Then in the third overtime period Patterson scored the winning goal. Back home, hundreds of Kingston hockey fans turned out to greet the team and celebrate the victory when the Combines arrived home by train at the outer station on Montreal Street.

After eliminating Fort William it was off to Winnipeg for a best of three series versus the Calgary Canadians. Two years earlier Calgary had made into the Memorial Cup final,  but lost to Owen Sound. Kingston beat Calgary game 4-2 in the series opener, but dropped the next 2 games by identical 3-2 scores to fall just short. The Memorial Cup had previously been a two-game total goals series, the story goes that Kingston players were celebrating at the end of game two thinking they had won the series, unaware the format had changed and it was now a best of three affair.

Other prominent stars on that Kingston team included Carl Voss & Hartland Molson.  Voss, who was from Massachusetts, came to Kingston to study at Queen’s where he also starred on the football team. After that ’26 Memorial Cup, he turned pro and was the NHL rookie of the year in 1933.  Voss also scored a Stanley Cup winning goal for Chicago in 1938. As for Hartland Molson, he had the good fortune to be born into the right family, that founded and owned Molson Breweries. Hartland got involved in the family business and in the late 1950’s Molson’s would buy the Montreal Canadiens. Hartland became team president and during his watch they won six Stanley Cups and sold a lot of beer. He was appointed to the Canadian Senate and enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1973.

Extra Points:   I don’t know why the OHL allows it,  the Fronts sitting all their top-end players on the final weekend. Potentially Hamilton could still have been in the playoff hunt.   You can still dress your best and give them limited ice time.  It’s also better for the fan who buys tickets.  These guys are 18 and 19 yrs old,  they’ve got all summer to rest.  It’s not like the NHL where you give a 38 yr old defenceman who has logged too many minutes,  a night off down the stretch.   … While the Fronts coaching staff has done a great job this season, they messed up by allowing Jeremy Helvig to fall 63 minutes shy of the 1500 minutes played he needed to officially qualify to be among the league leaders for goaltenders. It’s just criminal.  Helvig’s 2.13 goals against average and .929 save percentage were the best in the OHL,  but he won’t get credit for it  .. My playoff prediction; Peressini falters early  and Helvig takes over the crease and takes Kingston as far as they go  ….  I see Niagara posing the biggest threat to Kingston in the East  … If the Fronts don’t win 2 playoff rounds, the riots outside the KRock Centre will make the Donald Trump ‘rallies’ look tame by comparison  … By the way if they win it all,  the ‘Big Dig’ will screw up the parade route down Princess Street.