Owen Sound Hockey's
Early History 

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.

1901-02 Owen Sound Hockey Team1901-02 Owen Sound Hockey Team - Paul White Sports Photograph Collection

Top Row (L-R) R.D. Bloomfield, J.N. Boddy, J. Skinner (Exec), J.S. Crate (Exec), R.D, Murray, Middle Row (L-R) D.C. Morrison (Exec), R.I. Adolph (Exec), R.T. Hamilton (Manager), J.E. Cameron (President), G.A. Ferguson (Secretary), J. Ramsay (Exec), Front Row (L-R) T.J, Simons, H.H. Williams, A.R. Grant (Captain), F, McKenzie (Mascot), D.A. Galloway, B.F. Johnston, W. Johnson

Although there are some references to organized hockey starting in the 1880s in Owen Sound, and local history books often refer to youngsters playing hockey on the ponds and rivers of the region, hockey was not the dominant sport in the region. Baseball, football, lacrosse, sailing and other sports seemed to have equally and, in some cases, more popularity than hockey. 

Hockey began an upward trend in popularity about 1903 in Owen Sound. (References are divided whether it was 1903 or 1904). In that year, a junior team from this community took part in the OHA playoffs. The players on the team included Lester Brown, Herb Johnston, Len Loos and others. They reached the finals only to be beaten in a tight battle with Woodstock. 

Owen Sound's Lester Brown received accolades from the Toronto newspapers who suggested that he was one of the most outstanding defensemen in junior hockey in this province. The sports writers spoke of his ability to block well and to "lift" the puck.

Lifting the puck was a trick that was practiced by all those who played hockey at the Boyd Street arena. 

Writing in 1938, J.J. Gilchrist, who managed the Greys in the period around the First World War, stated, “It used to be considered quite a clever thing to lift the puck clear over the rafters and lights of the old Boyd Street rink. Sometimes a goal would even be scored that way.”

Unfortunately, junior hockey in Owen Sound did not continue on a successful path, after this auspicious debut in the OHA. The problem was a continuity of management of the junior organization. These managerial difficulties caused Owen Sound teams to be at loggerheads with the OHA.

J.J. Gilchrist described the situation as follows: “From year to year, different organizations or managements handled the hockey clubs here. Sometimes these managements were not so bad and sometimes they were just terrible. The result was that Owen Sound was not in the good graces of the OHA executives, more particularly, with that great mastermind of hockey executives, Mr. W.A. Hewitt.” (W.A. Hewitt was the father of legendary broadcaster, Foster Hewitt.)

About 1912, the Owen Sound juniors were once again a dynamic force in provincial hockey circles. A roster which included goaltender Karl Lenahan, Barlow and Ben Legate, Webster Butchart, Ernie Pallister, Earl Hicks, Teddy Creighton, and "Baldy" Bell won the divisional title and went on to the provincial playoffs until they were defeated by Orillia. 

Despite the success of the team on the ice, Owen Sound was once again in trouble with the OHA. Fed up with the management of the organization, the players decided to take the initiative to rectify this on-going problem. 

In the fall, they called a meeting at the YMCA. At this gathering, J.C. Telford was selected president, with J.J. Gilchrist as vice-president, and Sandy Grant as manager. It was hoped that this executive would, with directives given them at the meeting, be able to rectify the problems that had been incurred by previous management teams.

Shortly after this meeting, another encounter occurred which would prove to be one of paramount importance for junior hockey in Owen Sound for more than a decade. 

Webster Butchart approached Gilchrist and asked him if he knew that Bill Hancock was working as a tailor for Jack Herbert. Hancock was a referee with a reputation for honesty, a straight-forward attitude, and great hockey knowledge. 

Butchart told Gilchrist that Hancock would be an ideal coach for the junior team. Although there was no money to pay him, Hancock agreed to run the juniors because he loved the sport.

Hancock’s acceptance of the coaching position marked the beginning of an era in Owen Sound junior hockey which would one day lead to this city’s first national hockey title.

The Birth of the Greys

One of Hancock’s first actions was to name the team the Greys. Up until then, the team had been called the Owen Sound hockey team. The first uniforms were gray sweaters and stockings with a red band.

Junior hockey took a hiatus due to the First World War. Intermediate hockey was the only game in town. But hockey was being played on other levels which would create the impetus for the great teams of the 1920s.

A version of "Owen Sound Hockey's Early History" originally appeared in my Local History column in the January 27, 1997 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times

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.