The Galt Hornets OHA Senior hockey club:The Beginning
"Everyone has heard of the Hornets. There's a sort of stigma attached to playing for them." To me, that says it all!! Truer words were never spoken, and that quote was from the president of the Preston Jesters, in the summer of 1979 when the Hornets joined the Continental Senior League. Senior hockey in Galt and now Cambridge has been a way of life for over 80 years. In its heyday, the popularity of Senior hockey rivaled and in some cases was more popular than the National Hockey League. It was known as the working man's league, and for the most part, players worked and lived in the community.
In 1923/24 a team known as the Terriers moved from the intermediate ranks and became the cities first senior team. They continued through the 1930's with some success and withdrew by the early 1940's. Senior hockey returned to Galt in 1959, when Galt Arena manager Len Gaudette, formed the Galt Terriers and in only their second season won the Allan Cup, symbolic of senior hockey supremacy in Canada. The following year the Terriers won a silver medal at the World Hockey Championships in Colorado, but found themselves in a sea of debt and with waning fan support, proved to be their demise and by September 1963, the team ceased operations.
A new Senior team would rise from the ashes within days of the Terriers announcement and Len Gaudette would once again help organize the team which would become to be known as the Hornets. From 1963/64 to 1970/71, the Hornets won the Allan Cup twice-1968/69 & 1970/71. From 1971/72 till 1978/79, the Hornets were not the powerhouse team they were in the sixties due to new leagues like the WHA and other leagues in the U.S. Although there were a few lean years in the '70's, the team was getting younger and those players quickly gained the experience to get the Hornets to the next level.
As the 1979/80 season was to begin, the league folded and left the Hornets with no league to play. Fortunately, the Hornets gained admission to the Continental Senior Hockey League and played so well they made it to the Allan Cup Final that year, but lost to Spokane. That season saw the beginning of one of Senior hockey's greatest rivalries as the Hornets beats the Petrolia Squires 4 games to 3, a series that the home team never won a game. The Hornets would once again win the Allan Cup in their 20th season, 1982/83. The series before the final, was one of the most memorable series ever as three of the five games went to double overtime against the Newfoundland champs the Stephenville Jets. The Hornets would have a few more good seasons, but by the end of the 1986/87 season, the league once again would disappear around them, leaving the Hornets with no place to play.
The Hornets would stay in hibernation for 11 winters, but by 1999, they would return to action. I appreciated the hard work that the executive of 1963 faced as the group in 1999 had to virtually start from nothing, to playing their first game only a few months later. Being appointed General Manager in 1999, along with Matt Beechey, was a great honor for me, holding a position held previously by Wes Lillie, Jim MacDonald, Henry Wynen, Don Vipond and Glen Crichton, among others. I had no idea of the history of the Hornets and everything that happened over the first 24 years when I originally started this project in the mid 1990's. I listened to many great stories from so many people that were actually part of the history, it made me appreciate much more, the history that awaits you.
The name of the book. "Smokey, Skeeter, Bugsy and Boat", just came to me, it sounded right. The players behind the nicknames, Smokey-John Leclair, Skeeter-Vic Teal, Bugsy-Brian Crichton and Boat-Harold Hurley, the greatest goalie in Senior hockey history and the greatest goalie never to make it to the NHL. I hope the stories you sill read brings back wonderful memories and inspires conversation and reminiscing and appreciation of the past. If you have never heard of the Hornets, you will be amazed by the stories and their success. Enjoy the 32 chapters, one for each season and a story on the years between 1987 and 1999 when there was no Hornet hockey.
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