Thursday, August 25, 2011

What do Mike Richards and Chris Pronger have in common?

Chris Pronger Playing for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics - Courtesy of

They both come from Northwestern Ontario! With a small population to choose from, Sunset Country has a surprisingly high number of great athletes. Not surprisingly though is the fact that we produce great hockey players up here in the Northwest. Many children learn to skate almost before they can walk. Two of the best are Chris Pronger and Mike Richards. These two hockey greats even had the chance to play together on Team Canada and bring home Olympic Gold at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Duncan Keith who grew up in Fort Frances also played alongside the pair ensuring Northwestern Ontario was well represented at the Olympics. Sunset Country even can boast having won the Stanley Cup. The Kenora Thistles won the Stanley Cup in 1907. Read on for more hockey great hailing from Sunset Country.

Chris Pronger hails from Dryden, Ontario. Chris began his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes). He was Hartford's first pick and #2 overall in the 1993 Entry Draft. In 1995 he was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan. Chris won the Hart Trophy and the Norris Trophy for the 1999/00 season, the first defenseman to do so since Bobby Orr in 1972. Chris has helped Team Canada to win Olympic Gold twice, once in 2002 and also in 2010. Pronger played for the Blues until the 2004/05 NHL lockout. He was then traded to the Edmonton Oilers for defencemen Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. In 2006, Chris became the first player in NHL history to score a penalty shot goal in a Stanley Cup Final game. In 2006, Chris was traded to the Anaheim Ducks and played an important role for the Ducks as they won the Stanley Cup that year. At the end of the 2008/09 season, Pronger was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and consequently played alongside fellow Northwest Ontarian, Mike Richards. Chris Pronger is a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club - hockey players and coaches who have won an Olympic Games gold medal, a World Championship gold medal, and the Stanley Cup.

Mike Richards was raised in Kenora, Ontario. The Kitchener Rangers picked Mike in the 2001 OHL Priority Selection. Richards began his OHL career in 2001/02 and helped win the Memorial Cup in 2003. He led the team in scoring during the regular season with 87 points. Richards was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers Round 1 #24 overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Level draft. Mike scored his first career NHL hat trick, which included two shorthanded goals, against the New York Islanders in 2006. In 2008, Richards was named the 17th Flyers Captain. He played for the Flyers in the NHL from 2004-2011. Philadelphia traded Mike Richards (the Flyers Captain) and Rob Bordson to the LA Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round draft pick in 2012. Mike played in the 2010 Winter Olympics and helped bring home the Gold for Canada.

Mike Richards playing for the Philadelphia Flyers - Photo taken by Rhys Asplundh

Duncan Keith moved to Fort Frances, Ontario when he was just two. His father was transferred to British Columbia where Duncan earned a spot on the Penticton Panthers. Keith played parts of two seasons with the Michigan State Spartans before joining the Kelowna Rockets in the early parts of 2002/03 season. His last stop before playing for the NHL was playing for Norfolk of the AHL. Duncan Keith started with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2005/06 season. Keith won gold in the 2010 Olympics and then returned to the NHL  to go on to win the Stanley Cup during the 2010/11 season. He was playing against Flyers Mike Richards from Kenora in the finals who was also hoping to win a Gold medal and the Stanley Cup in one year.

Sean Pronger first played with Kenora's Boise Cascade AAA Midgets and the Thunder Bay Flyers. He played next for Bowling Green State University in 1990 and was then picked up by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd round of the 1991 Entry Draft, going 51st overall. Signed as a free agent by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he joined their AHL farm team, the Baltimore Bandits. A standout player, he was called up to the Ducks for seven games during the 1995/96 season. He moved into the NHL for 39 games in 1996/97 and remained with the Ducks for most of the 1997/98 season. He also played for the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets. He ended his hockey career after the 2004/05 season with over 700 professional games to his credit, including 260 regular season and 14 playoff games in the NHL.

Cameron Mann was raised in Balmertown Ontario. Mann first gained attention as a top player for Kenora Thistles in 1992/93. Next he played for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL and was selected 99th overall by the Boston Bruins in 1995. He returned to the juniors and helped the Petes reach the Memorial Cup final in 1996. Mann was named to the tournament all-star team, voted the MVP of the Memorial Cup, and placed on the OHL first all-star team in 1996 and 1997. Mann appeared in 94 NHL games with the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators. Since the 2003/04 season Cameron has played professional hockey in Europe.

Mike Allison playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs - Courtesy of the Northwestern Ontario Hall of Fame

Fort Frances' Mike Allison was the number one OHL draft pick for Sudbury in 1978. The fan favourite was selected 35th overall in the 1980 NHL Amateur Draft by the New York Rangers. In his first ever NHL appearance, Mike made a goal with his first shot on net just 46 seconds into his first shift playing in Boston against the Bruins. His second NHL game was even more spectacular as he made a hat-trick against Toronto at the Maple Leaf Gardens. That first season with New York Mike broke a Rangers' record for most points by a rookie with 26 goals and 38 assists in 75 games. Mike was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986, then was traded to Los Angeles during the 1987/88 season. He played for the LA Kings for three seasons before retiring with a 10 season NHL record that included 102 goals and 166 assists in 499 regular season games. 

Mark Vermette played youth hockey in Cochenour, Ontario until age 15, then playing for the Notre Dame Hounds. Mark's hockey career took off while playing for Lake Superior State University in his third year when he scored a circuit-leading 45 goals in just 46 games.
Mark went on to play seven years of professional hockey including 67 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques.

Rick St. Croix started his hockey career by being one of the top goalies in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playing with the Kenora Muskies for three seasons. Next, Rick played in the OHA for the Oshawa Generals. The Philadelphia Flyers picked Rick as their third choice in the fourth round of the 1975 Amateur Draft, going 72nd overall. After signing with the Flyers in 1977, Rick played for the club's AHL Affiliate, the Maine Mariners. During the 1979/80 season, Rick was named to the AHL First All-Star team was the co-winner of the Harry (Hap) Holmes Memorial Trophy for outstanding goal tending in the AHL. Playing for the Flyers in 1980/81, Rick appeared in 27 games posting a 2.49 goals against average. He also recorded his first NHL playoff shutout against Calgary. In 1983 Rick was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he played until he retired from professional hockey in 1985.

Wayne Muloin was the first hockey player from Dryden to play in the NHL. After developing his skills in the minor leagues in Dryden, Wayne joined the Edmonton Oil Kings Junior A Hockey Club in 1959. He was made Captain in his third and final season with the Oil Kings. Wayne enjoyed a successful professional hockey career that saw him play for the Edmonton Flyers, Cincinnati Wings, St. Paul Rangers of the Central Professional Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League, and the Providence Rhode Island Reds American Hockey League Club. He joined the NHL full-time in 1969, at the age of 29, with the Oakland Seals. He was was traded in March of 1971 to the Minnesota North Stars. From Minnesota, Wayne went on to the Cleveland Barons of the AHL, then to the Cleveland Crusaders of the newly formed World Hockey Association. After a season with Edmonton he returned to Rhode Island in the AHL retiring with them in 1977 rounding out close to two decades of a professional hockey career. 

Wayne Muloin Playing for the Oil Kings - Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame

Keith 'Huffer' Christiansen played Junior Hockey with the Fort Frances Royals and then continued on to play at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. He was named the Bulldogs Rookie of the Year in 1963/64 and went on to become the team's lead scorer in all of his 4 seasons. The 1966/67 season was stellar; he was a WCHA first team all-star, scoring champion, league MVP, NCAA All-American and named UMD's Outstanding Senior Athlete. He was a member of the US National Hockey Team from 1969-71. In 1972 he was named co-captain of the US Olympic Hockey Team and helped his newly adopted country win silver at the Olympics that year.

Gary Bergman, born in Kenora in 1938, played intermediate hockey with the Kenora Thistles and then played for the Memorial Cup champion Winnipeg Braves. From 1960-64 he played with Buffalo, Cleveland and Springfield of the AHL, then moved to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings in 1964/65. Bergman was a defenceman with the Red Wings for 10 seasons and was voted their most valuable defenceman from 1971-1974. He was traded to the Minnesota North Stars for the 1974/75 season, but returned to the Wings later that season. In 1975/76 he jumped to the Kansas City Stars of the World Hockey League where he played out the rest of his hockey career. He is also remembered for being selected as a member of Team Canada for the epic 1972 Canada-Russia series.

Ed 'Sonny' Kryzanowski was the first hockey player from Fort Frances, Ontario to make it to the NHL. After a season with the Fort Frances Canadians senior team, Ed played defense for the Varsity Blues at the University of Toronto from 1945-48. Ed joined the Boston Bruins in 1948. He was a versatile hockey player and played every position but goalie while service in the Royal Canadian Navy, Ed played defense for the Varsity Blues at the University of Toronto from 1945-48. Ed was such a great hockey player that he joined the Boston Bruins in 1948. He was a versatile hockey player and many every position but goalie while he played for the Bruins. He was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1952 and then afterward played in the AHL with the Providence Reds and the Hersey Bears.

Johnny Gallager played defense for the Kenora Thistle Juniors from 1925-29. Next Johnny played for Montreal AAA and in 1929/30 claimed the illustrious Allan Cup. The Montreal Maroons, having sponsored his senior team, felt that they had first claim on him. Johnny, however, had entered into negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it cost the Maroons $12,500 to get him on board for the 1930/31 season. This was the beginning of his 7 year NHL career. After a serious injury, Johnny played in the IHL during the 1934/35 season. Moving back into the NHL for the 1936/37 season Johnny's dream became a reality, winning the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. Not bad for a guy who started out as a mascot. He played his final two years in the NHL with the New York Americans, retiring in 1939 with a NHL record of 205 games played, 14 goals and 19 assists.

Charles 'Rabbit' McVeigh played with the Kenora Thistles Senior team in 1918/19 before making his way west to play for the Winnipeg Victorias, Moose Jaw Maple Leafs and the Regina Capitals. Charley joined the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1924 playing for Portland Rosebuds in Oregon. When the PCHL disbanded, the Rosebuds became the Chicago Black Hawks. In 1926 the Black Hawks were admitted into the NHL and Charlie played for them until 1928 when he was traded to the New York Americans. Charlie's nine seasons with the NHL included 84 goals and 88 assists in 397 games. 

1907 Stanley Cup Champions

The Kenora Thistles Win the Stanley Cup in 1907

In January of 1907 the Kenora Thistles challenged the Montreal Wanderers  for the Stanley Cup. The Thistles traveled to Montreal and won both games to claim the Stanley Cup. Kenora was the smallest town to ever win the Stanley Cup and boy, were the townspeople ecstatic. People across Canada were awed by the performance of the small-town boys. Visit  the Lake of the Woods Museum website to read some of the Newspaper excerpts after Kenora won. Some of the local men on the Thistles winning team were Silas "Si" Griffis,
W.G. 'Billy' McGimsie, Tom Cooper, and Tommy Phillips.

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