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For a team to win the Stanley Cup these days, an NHL team is required. For an NHL team, a community needs at least a few hundred thousand people, a huge arena and millions dollars to spend. That is how it has been for decades now, but there was a time many years ago when that was not the case.
In 1907, a small Ontario community of just under 6,000 people would field a hockey team called The Thistles, and win the Stanley Cup.
The Kenora Thistles got their start in the late-1880s when an amateur hockey club was formed by several of the community’s professionals, including lumbermen, gold miners and individuals who worked in the mining business. Within a few years, a group of children formed a team called the Kenora Thistles and they began to play and defeat the senior version of their team.
This was no slouch of a team, and it would feature Tommy Phillips, Tom Hooper, Billy McGimsie and Silas Griffas, all future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. As the players aged, they began to take over the senior team and they would turn it into one of the greatest teams in Canada.
In 1903, they challenged Ottawa for the Stanley Cup, but lost, and would challenge again in 1905 but lose once more.
In 1907, they decided to once again challenge for the Stanley Cup and with Art Ross and Joe Hall, two more future Hall-of-Famers, the team would travel to Montreal to play the Montreal Wanderers for the Stanley Cup.
In two heated games, Kenora would win 4-2 and 8-6, outscoring their opponent 12 to 8 and in turn, become a team from the smallest town to ever win the Stanley Cup.
Two months later, they challenged Montreal for a rematch, and even with three more Hall-of-Famers, they lost to Montreal 12 goals to 8.
The team would break up in 1907, but the Kenora Thistles would live on in several incarnations including a Canadian Junior Team. That team would win the 1934 Turnbull Cup, and do so again in 1940. They would also win the Abbott Cup and compete in the Memorial Cup.
In 1940, the Kenora Thistles were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. They are also in the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, the Midwest’ern Canadian Professional Men’s Winter Sports Hall of Fame and the Kenora local Hall of Fame.
Of the 12 players who were on the Stanley Cup winning team, a total of nine are currently in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Art Ross was recently listed as one of the 100 greatest NHL hockey players of all time.