Senior B Petes battled on, off ice for provincial title
Just months before the beginning of the Second World War, 79 years ago next month, Peterborough’s premier hockey team, the senior B Petes, was in the thick of a provincial championship series.
The year before, in 1938, the Petes lost the two-game goals-to-count senior B semifinal series 7-6 to Niagara Falls. With essentially the same team, the Petes were prepared to redeem themselves.
Playing out of the Brock Street Arena with its natural ice, the playoffs started in February of 1939. In the Eastern Ontario group playoffs, the Petes faced the Trenton Airmen.
The first game of the best-of-five series was in Peterborough where the locals squeaked out a 6-5 win. More than 1,500 fans crammed into the “Brock” as it was often referred to in those days. Comfortably up 6-2 late in the third period they gave up three goals in 90 seconds to the “Flyboys” as Examiner sports editor Cec Perdue called the Trenton team. Eddie Starr paced the Petes with four points with Honey Tomkins and Bun Kingdon helping out.
In game two in Belleville where Trenton played their home games, the Petes took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-1 victory. Ray Harding was noted for his “brilliant” play in goal for the Petes.
Now with the third and possibly deciding game scheduled for Peterborough, an earlier backroom deal intervened, as was often the case in those days.
Cec Perdue explained in The Examiner: Before the season started, the convener of the league, from Belleville, held a vote with the team managers. They approved a deal that if in a five-game series, one team wins the first two games, the losing team is guaranteed the third game, regardless, in the series. That meant the third game, scheduled for Peterborough, was shifted back to Belleville. The local fans or the press were not alerted to this possibility and were extremely upset.
There were suggestions the Petes would lay down in game three to get another home gate but they instead slammed the Flyers 9-4 to win the series. Unfortunately there still was a lot of animosity by local fans towards the Petes management for not announcing the deal earlier.
As Perdue wrote the next day, “Personally, we think it was more poor judgment on the part of the Petes officers than deliberate ‘phenagling.’”
In 1939 the Ontario Hockey Association had four divisions of senior B hockey. The four division winners, Peterborough, Chatham, Niagara and Waterloo, played a round robin series for the provincial championship.
In another story the Owen Sound Greys of the OHA junior A series announced a unique system to scout players for their next year’s team. They invited in a team of prospects to play the current team and gave each fan a ballot to write the names of three of the opponents they would like on their team next season. They then signed them.
After the earlier controversy, the Petes, in another unpopular move, raised admission prices for the three round-robin games to 75 cents for adults.
After splitting the first two games at home, the Petes headed out in taxis to play first in Niagara, then Chatham. They lost 5-1 in Niagara in a fight-filled game with hostilities running over from the previous year’s playoffs. The next night in Chatham, they tied the Maroons. That eliminated them from the series.
Peterborough had no senior B team the next year. In the 194142 season, playing as a Canadian army team and using some soldiers training in Morrow Park, Peterborough won the Ontario title. Soon after the city sold the Brock Street Arena to a dance hall operator and the city was without an indoor rink until 1949.
Don Barrie is a retired teacher, former Buffalo Sabres scout and a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame. His column appears each Saturday in The Examiner.