1949-50 Chatham Maroons Last Canadian Team To Win Turner Cup
The Chatham Maroons will forever remain the final Canadian team to hoist the Turner Cup.The International Hockey League’s long-expected announcement Monday that it was folding assured the 1949-50 Maroons of their place in history.“I read it about a week ago and I thought, “Good God,”‘ said Albert Plouffe, one of five Maroons who moved from Timmins, Ont., to play in Chatham. “It was the reason we came down here and now it’s gone.“It’s disappointing.”The IHL ceased operations after 56 years. The Maroons came aboard during its fifth year and won the championship that season, defeating the Sarnia (Ont.) Sailors in a seven-game series.The Maroons left two years later for the OHA Senior league. They hadn’t expected to be the last Canadian champs.
“It’s sort of depressing,” said Earl Towers, another Timmins player who settled in Chatham. “It’s sort of sad. But I’m glad we did it.”Their victory began a local IHL championship connection which continued until 1999, when Chatham’s Brian Wiseman, a former Toronto Maple Leafs’ farmhand, raised the Turner Cup with the Houston Aeros.“It’s kind of disappointing the end result was this one,” Wiseman said, “whereas a few years back, it looked like one of the premier leagues in hockey.”Wiseman played five years in the IHL. He was named the league MVP and won the scoring title in the 1998-99 championship season. He also played in three all-star games and was twice named an all-star in post-season voting.A series of concussions sidelined him this season. He returned to his alma mater, the University of Michigan, and is now an administrative assistant with the hockey team.
He said more ex-IHLers may soon be looking for off-ice work.“It’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of good hockey players out there who are going to be struggling to find jobs, especially at that level,” said Wiseman, who officially retired in January. “… I feel bad for the experienced players that still have a lot of hockey in them and can provide exciting hockey for fans.“They’re out on a limb.”Wiseman said salaries had fallen in recent years. Some stars once earning $200,000 annually were making barely half that amount last season.The International Amateur Hockey League began in December 1945 with four teams: two in Detroit and two in Windsor. The Maroons joined in 1949 after the construction of Chatham Memorial Arena.“I thought it was a very high-calibre league,” said Plouffe, a two-time IHL all-star defenceman. “At the time, it was compared to Senior “A’ hockey and shortly after that, it was compared to the American league, which was the next step to the NHL.”After 11 seasons at the senior level, highlighted by their 1960 Allan Cup championship, Chatham rejoined the IHL in 1963 along with archrival Windsor Bulldogs.“The people in Windsor and our executive always had a great rivalry and they decided the calibre would be better in the International league,” said Toronto-born George Aitken, who led the last-place Maroons in scoring that year with 66 points. “And in those days, it was. They were more pro. All they did was play hockey. And we worked every day.”That led to some road trips when the Maroons drove their cars to Des Moines, Iowa, for a pair of weekend games, then headed straight home. Aitken remembers arriving in Chatham at 7:30 a.m., changing clothes and going to work.“We were competitive until Christmas and we were in second place,” he said. “Unfortunately for us, we just didn’t have the finances to bring in more hockey players. We had the nucleus of our (1959-60) Allan Cup team we had about 13 players but we just wore down.”Despite the last-place finish, Maroons’ defenceman Jack Douglas was named a first team all-star and goaltender Al Bennett to the second team.The Maroons and Bulldogs left following the “63-64 season, leaving the IHL without a Canadian team until the Manitoba Moose and Quebec Rafales joined in 1996.
On April 14, 1960 Fort Wayne and the Saint Paul Saints play four overtimes to decide a Turner Cup Finals game. Saint Paul’s Elliott Chorley scores the deciding goal at 1:25 a.m. for a 5-4 victory in a contest which consisted of 118 minutes, 29 seconds of playing time.
June 7, 1960 The NHL Board of Governors announces that L.A. and San Francisco will be considered first should the league expand. The L.A. Kings and Oakland Seals join the NHL seven years later.
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