1927 Owen Sound Greys: An Unlikely Canadian National Hockey Champion

The 1927 Owen Sound Greys with a priest serving as coach named Jack Spratt and not one experienced defenseman were an unlikely Canadian National Hockey Championship team.

1927 Owen Sound Greys Memorial Cup Champions

1927 Owen Sound Greys1927 Owen Sound Greys - Paul White Sports Photograph Collection

Much has been written about the 1924 Owen Sound Greys who were this community’s first national hockey title. However, if you travel to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto you will see a picture of another team from Owen Sound which won a national junior hockey championship — the 1927 Owen Sound Greys. 

In the mid-1920s the Owen Sound Greys were known from the Atlantic to the Pacific as a junior hockey powerhouse. The sentiment in Owen Sound at the time was one of high expectations for each upcoming season for their junior hockey team. 

Elmer Dulmage, who was the sports editor of the Owen Sound Sun Times at that time, wrote of this attitude many years later while he was a member of the Canadian Press sports writers corps in Toronto. 

"Believe me, Owen Sound took the broad view in those days. It was national championship or nothing. The OHA title was incidental." 

In the fall of 1926 things looked bleak for the Greys to remain a powerhouse in junior hockey circles. 

Just before the season was to begin, a miracle occurred. A priest came to town with the unlikely name of Father Jack Spratt. 

Spratt had been a star hockey player in his student days at St. Michael's College. Being ineligible to play, he would have to use his talents from behind the bench as the new coach of the Greys rather than on the ice as a player. 

The team he had inherited had four forwards, a promising young goaltender, but no defense. 

The forward line consisted of “Shrimp” McDougall at centre, with Marty Lauder on left wing and Jack Markle on the right flank. The fourth forward was big Hillis Paddon. In goal was a youngster named Benny Grant. 

The defense had been the foundation of the previous Greys' teams and, to be successful, Spratt would have to find a solid defensive corps. He made a decision which must have had many Greys' fans shaking their heads at the time, wondering about his coaching abilities. 

Paddon was moved from forward to defense, and his partner was a gangling young fellow named “Buck” Moore. 

Dulmage described the 1926-27 Greys defense: "It was pretty awful for a while. Paddon was a good poke-checker, but he couldn't bump the oncoming puck-carriers. Big “Buck” aimed at 'em but his aim wasn't so hot." 

The Greys started the season slowly, but Spratt took this collection of players and honed them into a championship team. The forward line could skate fast, and it seemed, forever. 

They all possessed hard shots but, most importantly, the coach taught them how to backcheck. This was a necessity as it took the defensemen a while to learn to play their position. 

Both Paddon and Moore were better than average skaters. As they became more comfortable in their end of the rink they began to think offensively. 

Because the forwards were so deft at backchecking, Paddon and Moore began to lead more and more rushes into the opposition end. By the end of the season they were scoring more goals then they were allowing the opposition. 

Although the team had two substitutes, Les Beattie and Jack Grant, they seldom saw action, especially in important games. The starting players were conditioned by their coach to be able to play 60 minutes a game. 

Dulmage described how the coach turned the players into a top team.

"Father Spratt used to go out on the ice at the old Riverside arena and show'em how. He bumped Paddon, flattened Moore, checked Lauder to death, stole the puck from McDougall and taught Markle how to lay in that low, hard shot to the corner." 

Spratt's techniques seemed to have worked. That season the Greys won 19, tied three and lost only four games. 

In the playoffs they eliminated Meaford in two games by identical 9-1 scores. Next, they disposed of Kitchener and Newmarket. 

However, the series with Iroquois Falls proved to be the biggest test for Spratt and his players. The northern team won the first of the two-game total goal series 4-1. 

Even the local faithful were uncertain a three goal deficit could be surmounted. But the wily coach spurred his team on and, led by Lauder's four goals and shutout goaltending from Grant, the Greys won 5-0. 

After such a comeback the Port Arthur West Ends were no match for the Greys in the Canadian final. Owen Sound hockey fans had witnessed the coaching prowess of Father Jack Spratt as he developed one of the most unlikely hockey teams into Canadian champions. 

A version of "1927 Owen Sound Greys: An Unlikely Canadian National Hockey Champion," originally appeared in my Local History column in the January 6, 1997 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Share this page:

More Great Information Pages
About Owen Sound Hockey History

The 1920s Owen Sound Hockey Stars made there mark in amateur ranks and then many of them went on to careers in the NHL and other professional hockey leagues.

The 1927 Owen Sound Greys with a priest serving as coach named Jack Spratt and not one experienced defenseman were an unlikely Canadian National Hockey Championship team.

Benny Grant: Memorial Cup Champ grew up in Owen Sound and enjoyed a hockey career, which included a surprising turn of events that led to a stint in the NHL.

"Buck" Jones, like most Canadian boys, dreamed of playing in the NHL. Little did he realize that one day he would wear the sweater of an NHL club and would be the idol of youngsters like himself!

The Chin Brothers dominated in their hockey league which drew attention from the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ralph "Cooney" Weiland skated from a Memorial Cup championship in Owen Sound, to a Stanley Cup in Boston to fame as a U.S. college hockey coach.

The Crescent Club has a long history of sponsoring sports teams and leagues in Owen Sound providing consistent management and financial assistance to athletics.

"Cyclone" Taylor was hockey's first superstar. Born in Tara Ontario, he was involved in a controversy in Ottawa which still has not been resolved.

Doug Brindley: From Maple Draft Choice to a role in Slap Shot: a Memorial Cup champ; coached by Don Cherry; and he played in the WHA; what more could a Walkerton Ontario native ask for in a hockey career?

The Durham Yellowjackets hockey team was a force to be reckoned with in Ontario Intermediate hockey in the 1930s.

Goalie "Red" Henry: An All-Star Netminder: Another great Owen Sound goalie who played for the love of the game.

"Hap" Day was a Hall of Fame hockey player, coach and general manager as well as a life-long Toronto Maple Leaf.

Norm Locking Chicago Black Hawks & Former Owen Sound Grey was known for his hard and deadly shot in Al Capone's Chicago.

Harry Lumley spent his Hall of Fame hockey career tending the nets for four NHL clubs and he spent one period of a hockey game goaltending for a fifth NHL team.

Henry Kelso: Owen Sound Sports Legend not only contributed to the sporting life of his students, he also had a significant influence on the rest of their lives.

Junior Hockey Commentary: Should there be controversy about the use of non-local hockey players? This article was written in 1998 in response to a letter to the editor in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Meaford Knights Hockey: The 1953-54 Championship Knights' line-up had of several pairs of brothers. Many felt that the brothers made a winning difference.

Newspaper Sports: Owen Sound Hockey History was detailed in the pages of the Owen Sound Sun Times in detail in the days before the radio and television eras.

Owen Sound Hockey's early history some references suggest started in the 1880s. However there are records of organized hockey teams beginning in the early 1900s.

Owen Sound was a Hockey Hotbed in 1950-51: Their fans were hockey crazy during this OHA Senior A Championship season as their star-studded team marched to an Allan Cup victory.

The 1959-60 Owen Sound Greys: A Tough Act to Follow: Tragedy struck this hockey team of young men, yet they persevered.

The 1960s Owen Sound Greys Stars who went on to NHL action including Brian Perry, Doug Brindley, Jim Schoenfeld, and Jack Lynch brought Owen Sound a reputation as a hockey hotbed!

Owen Sound Attack: The arrival of this new OHL team is the latest chapter in the Owen Sound region's rich hockey history.

Owen Sound Goalies: Why does Owen Sound produce so many fine goaltenders? There must be something in the water! 

Some Great Owen Sound Greys. The history of this hockey team is a story of players who were not only local boys, but came from many locations to hone their skills.

Owen Sound Hockey Heritage stretches from rural farmhouses on Saturday night to backyard rinks to cheering for local hockey successes and hockey heroes.

Owen Sound Junior Hockey History began almost one hundred and twenty years ago and is rich with championship teams, great players, and dedicated fans. 

Owen Sound's New Arena in 1938 opened a new era in Grey and Bruce counties with the first artificial ice making machine in western Ontario north of Kitchener.

Owen Sound Platers: Ray McKelvie the quiet and knowledgeable leader behind the success of the 1999 hockey team.

Pat McReavy enjoyed a long hockey career which brought him three championships, the Stanley Cup, the Allan Cup and a World Hockey Title.

Paul MacDermid, born in Chesley Ontario, through hard work and determination enjoyed a 12 year NHL career, before keeping junior hockey alive in Owen Sound by working with a group citizens to purchase the Attack OHL franchise.

"Red" Armstrong, a fiery spirited hockey player, known more for his fierce checking than his scoring prowess surprised even himself on his first NHL shift.

Red Leckie was more than a good hockey player. He played for the team, not for himself. Outside hockey, he responded when he saw a need in his community.

Southampton hockey history in the early years featured a distinct line of defense in the local arena, and stories of interesting "road" trips.

Tommy Burlington: the Greatest North American Never to Play in the NHL captured scoring titles in every league that he played, bringing comparisons to NHL greats.

Owen Sound Hockey History is rich with stories of championship teams, star hockey players, and community support.