Cornwall - Feb. 13, 2011 - Being the devout hockey fan that I am, I found myself in a mini-paradise watching the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada broadcast on Saturday.
Broadcast live from Whitehorse, Hockey Day featured a triple-header of all-Canadian NHL matchups along with a variety of grassroots hockey stories from across Canada. It's an annual celebration of the game we call our own, and it serves as a reminder of how hockey unites Canadians in a way few other things do. One only has to think back to Sidney Crosby's 'golden goal' at last year's Olympics for proof of that.
In Cornwall, hockey has served as a unifying force for generations. Whether it was a specific team or player, a championship win or a crushing defeat, hockey has been at the centre of many of the biggest moments in Cornwall's history.
In honour of Hockey Day in Canada, we look back at some of the great hockey stories from Cornwall's past.
Si Miller Arena
The Water Street rink was originally known as the Cornwall Community Arena, and it was a fitting name. More than 2,300 Cornwall residents bought shares to help build the arena, raising $60,000 in about three weeks (remember, this was 1936).
Today, the Si stands as one of the oldest arenas in Ontario, and it has played host to thousands of hockey games over the years, from minor hockey right up to the NHL. One such NHL game took place on Oct. 23, 1942, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 6-2 in an exhibition match at the Si. Among those scoring for the Habs was a young rookie named Maurice Richard. It was quite possibly the Rocket's first professional goal.
One of the people tasked with managing the Si in the early years was Ray Miron. Miron played the game himself, but he wasn't the greatest skater. Still, that didn't stop him from making it to the NHL - as a manager.
The Cornwallite became part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and he also served as the general manager of the Colorado Rockies.
However, his real call to fame came with the founding of the Central Hockey League, a minor-pro league based in the southern U.S. Today, CHL players - such as Cornwall's Chris Richards - compete annually for the chance to hoist the Ray Miron's President's Cup.
In 2004, Miron made headlines in his hometown when he was awarded the NHL's Lester Patrick Trophy for helping to grow the sport in the U.S.
During the World War I years, women's hockey enjoyed a big boost in popularity, thanks in large part to Cornwall player Albertine Lapensee. The 26-year-old had been the best player that women's hockey had ever seen, and Lapensee and her Cornwall Victorias would draw thousands of spectators when they played teams from Ottawa and Montreal.
Lapensee was so good that opposing teams actually questioned whether she was a woman. Her shot was so feared that a Montreal goalkeeper donned a baseball catcher's mask to protect her face in a January 1916 match with Lapensee's Victorias. That could very well be the first time a goalie wore a mask in a game.
Lapensee's rise to fame abruptly ended in 1918 when she suddenly vanished from the game. The rumour was that she went to New York City, had a sex change operation, married and returned to open a gas station near Cornwall under the name Albert Smythe.
Newsy Lalonde was one of the great players in the early history of hockey, and he was also a star of lacrosse.
The Cornwall native served as captain of the Montreal Canadiens from 1915 to 1921 and he was a member of the first Canadiens team to win a Stanley Cup in 1916.
He held the record for most goals scored by a major league player until 1954, when the record was broken by Maurice Richard. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, much to the delight of his hometown fans.
The Cornwall Flyers
In the early 1900s, winning the Allan Cup - Canada's senior hockey championship - was second only to winning the Stanley Cup. In 1938, the Cornwall Flyers came within a few games of doing just that.
The Flyers garnered the support of their hometown as they played their way through the local competition, making it all the way to the Allan Cup finals - a pretty big feat for any team in those days.
The Flyers met the Trail Smoke Eaters in the finals and came out on the losing end, but they could take solace in knowing that they lost to the eventual world champions as Trail went on to win the world hockey title in 1939.
The Cornwall Royals
The brainchild of Red Lascelle, the Royals represented the ultimate rags-to-riches story. They started out as a local junior hockey team playing with borrowed sweaters and eventually rose to become Memorial Cup champions.
The Royals won the Memorial Cup in 1972, 1980 and 1981, becoming one of a select few cities to win the championship three times in a 10-year span.
During their 31-year history, the Royals helped groom dozens of future NHLers including Dale Hawerchuk and Doug Gilmour.
Another Hockey Hall of Famer, Cornwall's Cy Denneny played senior hockey in his hometown before eventually joining the Ottawa Senators, where he won four Stanley Cups in the 1920s.
In 1929, he helped lead the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup as a playing coach, resulting in his name being engraved on the cup twice - once as a coach and the other as a player.