1957 – Flin Flon Bombers
Could the Flin Flon Bombers win the Memorial Cup?
The Bombers, who played in the 1,141-seat Community Arena?
The Bombers, from a northern Manitoba mining town of 12,000 that had never been home to a national champion — team or individual?
Coached by Bobby Kirk, the Bombers roared through the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League at 64-9-2, winning 43 of 55 regular-season games.
The Bombers’ attack was led by the line of SJHL scoring champ Ted Hampson, Mel Pearson and Pat Ginnell, a 19-goal scorer in the playoffs who had played for the Port Arthur North Stars the previous season.
Only Ginnell, Barry Beatty (St. Boniface Canadiens) and Wood (Lethbridge Native Sons) had been brought in for this season. The rest of the boys were homebrews.
The Community Arena had 200 seats added for the start of a Memorial Cup that was to have opened on April 25. However, it was postponed one day when Sam Pollock’s Ottawa Canadiens didn’t show up.
Ottawa arrived in Winnipeg on April 22, then waited until April 24 to fly north. But the weather closed in and flights were grounded. The Canadiens rode a train to Flin Flon, where they were put in bunkhouses that were living quarters for miners.
On the ice, Ottawa was sparked by future NHLers Ralph Backstrom and Murray Balfour, the latter making his third straight appearance in the Memorial Cup after two seasons with the Regina Pats.
The Bombers won the opener 3-1 before more than 2,000 fans. George Konik, the SJHL’s most valuable player, scored twice, with Hampson adding the other. Wood was outstanding, stopping 23 shots, including three breakaways.
Ottawa won Game 2 on April 28, 4-3, thanks to goals from Bill Carter and Backstrom in the final 33 seconds of the third period.
Because the first two games were split, Game 3 was played in Flin Flon. Ottawa won it 5-2 on April 29 behind three goals from Balfour.
“His first one in the third was the turning point,” Pollock said. “It gave my boys a big lift. It also shows that we can come from behind in the worst places in the world.”
The teams then headed for Regina’s Exhibition Stadium and the rest of the series.
The Bombers tied it with a 3-1 victory before 5,118 fans on May 1. Hampson, Pearson and Ginnell each scored once.
The Bombers took a 3-2 lead on May 3, winning 3-2 before 4,913 fans.
On May 6, Backstrom was the star of Game 6, scoring twice as Ottawa won 4-2 before 4,949 fans.
A tremendous Memorial Cup final ended on May 8, the Bombers winning 3-2 before 4,500 fans. Hampson broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal at 10:30 of the third period.
It was the first time since 1948 (Port Arthur West End Bruins) that the West had won the Memorial Cup. The East now held a 22-17 edge.
1957 Flin Flon Bombers:
Barry Beatty, Jean Gauthier, Patty Ginnel, Harvey Fleming, Carl Forster, Ted Hampson, Ron Hutchinson, Mike Kardash, George Konik, Orland Kurtenbach, Rod Lee, Cliff Lennartz, Mel Pearson, Duane Rupp, Ken Willey, George Wood, Bobby Kirk (coach).
NHL: Of the 1957 Bombers to play in the NHL, only Gauthier would win a Stanley Cup doing so with the Montreal Canadiens in 1965. Kurtenbach played 13 NHL seasons and was the first ever captain of the Vancouver Canucks who he would also coach from 1976-78.