Hockey in Buchans has been a favourite pastime since the mines started operations in 1927. During the long, cold winters, players and fans alike thrilled to the playing and watching of the game of hockey.
In 1929, the Buchans Mining Company converted an ore storage shed into a hockey rink. It had a small ice surface, maybe as long as a regular-size rink, but considerably narrower, being only 59 feet wide. The rink had a natural ice surface and depended on the cold weather from late November until late February or early March.
At first, the old rink had a dual purpose. When there was enough frost to freeze the natural ice surface, ice hockey and skating were the main activities. After the hockey season ended and as soon as the ice had melted, the shed reverted back to its original purpose as an ore storage shed. This was done as soon as the hockey boards were taken down from the shed. This conversion continued until around 1935 when renovations were made to erect and repair all side boards, providing gates and openings wherever required for team benches and penalty boxes. Wire matting was placed around the end boards, and two large spectator stands, with the necessary approaches and guardrails, were built at the western end of the rink. A second dressing room was constructed, and benches and extra lighting were added to the building. At one time, flashlights were used to signal a goal. Later, this was changed to a red light system.
The Buchans Miners competed in the Newfoundland Western playoffs in 1936. That year they defeated Grand Falls by a score of 6-5 and went on to play Corner Brook in a two-game series, losing by scores of 5-4 and 4-3.
In 1937, Buchans was once again in the west coast playoffs, this time winning a two-game, total-goal series. The games were played on February 26-27. Buchans then went on to play the east coast winners, St. Bon’s, losing 4-1 in the championship game for the Herder Memorial Trophy. The Buchans Miners’ lineup consisted of Phil Veitch, Bill Trerise, Jim Smith, Aubbie Martin, Ralph Colyer, Hal Cross, Cyril Veitch, William Chapline, Robbie Robertson, Ed Hancock, Bob Godden, Alan Wilcox, Billy Hunt, Eldred White and Ron Chafe. Ralph Colyer, of the Buchans Miners, was the leading scorer in the 1937 Herder playoffs with four goals.
In 1939, Buchans again won the Western championship by defeating Grand Falls 8-4 and 13-8. On March 14, 1939, Bell Island defeated Buchans 3-2 to knock Buchans out of Herder contention. St. Bon’s went on to win the Herder Memorial Trophy over Bell Island by scores of 14-0 and 2-0.
Buchans was in the hunt for the Herder Trophy again in 1940. The Miners played a two-game, total-goal series against St. Bon’s. In the first game, St. Bon’s won handily by defeating the Miners 12-2. The second game was played on March 28, 1940 and Buchans proved to be the winner by a 6-5 score. Owing to the total goal setup, Buchans lost the Herder by a 17-7 score.
The Buchans Miners won the west coast championship again in 1941. On March 8, 1941, Buchans defeated Grand Falls by a score of 7-4. The next night they lost to Grand Falls 5-4, but won the series on total goals. Buchans had to withdraw from play for the Herder Trophy against the Eastern champions due to the lateness of the playoffs, the unavailability of ice on their home rink, and work commitments of the players.
The 1942 All-Newfoundland playoffs were declared as “unfinished” and “no winner was declared”. St. Bon’s attempted to claim the title, but the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association ruled that there wouldn’t be a champion declared for 1942.
By 1943, the Second World War was having an effect on the All-Newfoundland Herder playoffs. That year, a Herder champion was not declared mainly due to the problem of players not getting time off from work and teams having trouble icing a squad. On the west coast, Corner Brook did not compete, but Grand Falls and Buchans did, with Buchans being declared the winner. Buchans was then scheduled to play off against Bell Island for the Herder, but there were problems with players getting time off from work to play in the series. Bell Island was willing to travel to Buchans, but could not get a team together. St. Bon’s claimed the right to represent the St. John’s area but, in the end, the Herder championship contest was not held.
The next year, 1944, Buchans played off against Corner Brook. In the first game on March 8, 1944, Corner Brook defeated Buchans by a score of 4-3 in overtime. The second game saw Corner Brook win by a 9-1 score. The third game, held in Buchans, saw Corner Brook down the Miners 8-4. Corner Brook completed a sweep in convincing style by beating the Miners 13-2 in the fourth game.
Buchans was out of the Herder Memorial playoffs for the next three years.
The team returned to the finals when they played off against St. Bon’s for the Herder in 1948. They lost 2-0 in a best-of-three series. In 1948, Buchans was the first team in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to import hockey players when they added athletes from Kirkland Lake, Northern Ontario. On December 13, 1948, the Buchans Miners imported playing coach Frank Bowman and players Phil “Scotty” MacPhail, “Red” Corteau, “Humby” Kennedy and “Bun” Smith.
These players came to Buchans as a result of M.W. Hotchkin, mine manager of Toburn Mines in Kirkland Lake, and G.G. Thomas, mine manager of the Buchans Mining Company at Buchans. Both of the mines were subsidiaries of the American Smelting and Refining Company of New York. Through the efforts of Hotchkin and Thomas, the Buchans Miners were now able to ice a topnotch team in Newfoundland senior hockey and were a good bet to win the Herder Trophy. This was not to be as the N.A.H.A. placed a residence rule in effect, making the players ineligible to play as they did not meet residential rule requirements. The Miners, without the imports, were in the finals, but St. Bon’s went on to win the Herder in 1949.
On February 18, 1949, an unusual event occurred in Newfoundland senior hockey that involved the Buchans Miners. The Buchans goaltender, Ron Mullins, scored a goal in Newfoundland senior hockey play. Ron skated out to center ice with the puck, where he batted it with his goalie stick. The puck went the whole length of the ice, past Grand Falls’ goaltender Ed Sheppard, and into the net. Sheppard never saw the puck until he heard the roar of the crowd. Then he turned around to see the red light on and the puck in the net. Buchans won the game 6-4.
In 1950, the import hockey players were in Buchans on time and were able to compete in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League. Frank Bowman, Scotty McPhail and “Red” Corteau were back along with Jimmy Hornell, Ken Joy and Tommy Barrett. These imports, along with local players such as Bill Scott, Copper Leyte, Al and Roy Mullins, George and Herb Pike, Bryan Mitchell, Bob Percy, Jim Byrne, Otto Woodman, and Ken Tilley, formed the nucleus for a very strong hockey club. This team rolled through all the opposing teams with ease and went up against St. Bon’s for the Herder Memorial Trophy. They won the best-of-three series in two-straight games by scores of 9-3 and 8-2. Buchans finally laid claim to Newfoundland’s top hockey prize.
The people of Buchans were elated at their team’s winning of the Herder. They went all out to welcome the boys home in style. The train carrying the players pulled into the station at Buchans decked out in red and white ribbons, and with two crossed hockey sticks pinned on the front of the locomotive. A roar went up from the crowd that was waiting at the station as the players stepped off the train with the Herder. A motorcade wound its way through town with the victorious players in the back of a mining company truck holding the Herder high for all to see. The players of the Miners hockey team were the toast of the town. Each player received an engraved medal with his name and the following inscription: Buchans Newfoundland Hockey Champions 1949-1950. The players also received a watch and a team jacket.
Buchans was able to ice another strong team in 1951. Bowman, MacPhail, Hornell and Joy were back once again as well as Allie Carver, Cy Kelly, Willie Robinson, Jim “Sham” McInnis, and Bernie “Bessie” MacDonald from the senior hockey leagues in the Maritimes. The team also added Ray Marshall from the Kirkland Lake area. Most of the other regulars returned along with local newcomers Roy Mullins and Pat Kennedy.
During the 1951 All-Newfoundland semifinals, the Buchans Miners defeated Corner Brook by scores of 29-1 and 25-1. This was possibly the worst defeat ever in the annals of Newfoundland sport.
The power-packed Miners skated effortlessly with speed and precision passing plays to thrill the spectators. Corner Brook goaltender Paul Young played well but, in the two-game series, he faced 151 shots, with many of them coming from close range.
Bernie “Bessie” MacDonald put on a display of agility and stick handling skills that mesmerized the Corner Brook players. MacDonald scored 16 goals in the two-game series. In the third period of the second game, MacDonald scored four goals in two minutes and 33 seconds. Willie Robertson scored six goals in the series. Jimmy Hornell scored four goals and assisted on eight others for a 12-point total. “Bessie” MacDonald collected a total of 18 points in the series. Allie Carver and George Pike each scored five goals. Ken Joy and Cy Kelly potted four goals apiece. Al Mullins had four goals; Ray Marshall and Frank Bowman two, and Bill Scott, Herb Pike and Scotty MacPhail scored one each.
Only two penalties were called in the series, both in the first game. Power, of Corner Brook, went for boarding and Bowman of Buchans for kneeing. The Buchans’ defence of Bowman, MacPhail, and Scott and Herb Pike turned back the Corner Brook attackers time after time. Corner Brook managed a total of 48 shots on goalies “Sham” McInnis, who played the first game, and Ron Mullins, who was in the Buchans’ goal for the second game.
Buchans went on to win its second-consecutive Herder Memorial Trophy on March 16, 1951, defeating the St. Bon’s team 6-2 before a capacity crowd in the Grand Falls Stadium. The night before, the Miners had won over St. Bon’s by the same score of 6-2.
In the first period, two goals by Allie Carver and one by Ken Joy made it 3-0 for Buchans. Buchans outshot St. Bon’s 15-4 in the first period. In the second period, Allie Carver scored again and then Marshall scored for Buchans to make it 5-0. Ted Gillies, from the St. Bon’s team, scored two goals to cut the lead to 5-2. Buchans outshot the Blue and Gold 18-7 in the second period. Carver scored again in the third period to give Buchans the win and the Herder. Captain George Pike accepted the Herder, on behalf of his teammates, from Magistrate Abbott. The Buchans’ players also received Schick razors as the All-Newfoundland hockey champions for 1951.
The Buchans Miners’ 1951 All-Newfoundland hockey champions included Paul “Scotty”McPhail, Bill Scott, coach Frank Bowman, Herb Pike, Allie Carver, Cy Kelly, Jim Hornell, Willie Robertson, Bernie “Bessie” MacDonald, Ray Marshall, George Pike, Al Mullins, Ken Joy, Ron Mullins, Roy Mullins, Pat Kennedy, Jim “Sham” MacInnis, and manager Gus Soper.
The year 1951-52 started out on a sad note for in the fall of 1951, George Pike, a star player and captain of the Buchans Miners, was killed in a plane crash at South Pond while ferrying supplies to diamond drill camps on the far side of Red Indian Lake. Pike was a star of the previous year’s championship team, helping the Miners win its second-consecutive Herder Memorial Trophy. The team, while still feeling his loss to the team, managed to have another successful year. In two exhibition games played in Buchans, the Miners handily won both games by scores of 16-5 and 15-7. Before the start of the first game on Saturday, E.M. Martin of the Buchans Miners called for a minute silence in memory of George Pike. The Buchans Miners ended the season on a victorious note, winning the Herder for the third-straight year. Buchans defeated its arch rivals St. Bon’s in a best-of-three series. By then, a lot of the excitement of winning the Herder had worn off for the residents of Buchans, but the players of the Buchans team took a lot of pride in winning a prestigious provincial championship such as the Herder Memorial Trophy.
Buchans lost its hold on the Herder Memorial Trophy by losing to the Grand Falls team in 1953. The Grand Falls team was fast becoming a powerhouse in hockey and the arch rivals of the Buchans Miners. Taking this setback in stride, the Buchans team regrouped and entered a stronger team for the 1954 season.
The 1954 season ended with the Buchans Miners and the Grand Falls team playing off for the Herder. All games were played in Grand Falls. In the first game of the series, the Grand Falls team took Buchans by surprise. By the end of the first period, the score was 4-1 for Grand Falls. The teams entered the third period with Grand Falls leading by a 6-2 margin.
At the 47-second mark of the third period, Grand Falls scored to take a 7-2 lead. It appeared that Grand Falls was going to run away with the game, but Buchans, down by five goals, tenaciously fought back. By the 15:37 mark of the third period, Dan “Fox” McNeil had scored two goals and Hugh Wadden one to put the score at 7-5.
The Miners were then within striking distance, but Grand Falls scored again at 18:53 of the third period. Buchans did not give up and continued to press. With time running out, Wadden tipped in Bill Scott’s blue line shot. Buchans fell short by two goals after making a dramatic third-period comeback.
Buchans rebounded in the second game to win 8-2 and split the series. The Miners continued their strong two-way play from the third period of the first game. This time, the Miners were aided by the goaltending of Jim “Sham” McInnis. Buchans scored four goals in the first period and four more in the second. The Miners’ defence of Bowman, Bill Scott, Herb Pike and Bill Harris put up a stalwart defence in front of McInnis. The line of Hornell, Wadden and McNeil led the Miners’ attack. McNeil tallied three goals, Wadden picked up a goal and four assists, and Hornell had a goal and three assists. Roy Mullins and Tony Walsh also shared in the scoring.
A crowd of nearly 3,000 fans took in the third game as the Miners took a first-period lead of 2-1 before pulling ahead 3-1 after the second period. But Grand Falls fought back in the third period to tie the score 3-3 midway through the period. The checking was very close and the pace was very quick. Buchans’ goals were scored by Al Mullins on a pass from Gerry Casey at 9:03 of the first period. At 19:20 McNeil connected on a pass from Wadden and Scott.
In the second period, McNeil put the Miners up 3-1 on a pass from Wadden and Hornell at 3:15. Grand Falls started the third period with a solid two-way game of hockey resulting in two quick goals at 7:19 and again at 8:25 to tie the score. Both teams had excellent scoring chances, but the goaltending of McInnis for Buchans and Mun Pond for Grand Falls held each team in the game. At 18:13 of the third period, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Roy Mullins fired a shot at Pond that dropped in front of him. Then Gerry Casey shot the rebound across the goal line. The Buchans Miners had reclaimed the Herder Memorial Trophy for the fourth time. The Herder Trophy was presented to captain Bill Scott by Jim Herder. Jim “Sham” McInnis of Buchans and Jim MacDonald of Grand Falls were chosen the most valuable players for their teams in the series. Dan McNeil won the Sherwood Award as leading scorer in the series. Once again the Herder Memorial Trophy traveled on the railway back to the mining town of Buchans.
The Buchans Miners’ 1954 team included goaltenders Jim “Sham” MacInnis and Ron Mullins, defencemen Bill Scott, Herb Pike, Frank Bowman (coach), Bill Harris, and Tom Loder, centers Hugh Wadden, Pat Kennedy, Tubby St. George, and Gerry Casey, left-wingers Dan “Fox” McNeil, Jack Cooper, and Alan Mullins, right-wingers Jimmy Hornell and Roy Mullins, forwards Tony Walsh and Lloyd Soper, and manager Gus Soper.
The 1954 Herder win was to be the last for some time. Although the Miners could ice a strong team, they could never regain the All-Newfoundland championship. A lot of the import players and local players came and went, but the team still had a good hockey club. Jimmy Hornell, Hugh Wadden, Bill Scott, the Mullins brothers, Bill Harris, Tom Loder, Pat Kennedy, and Tubby St. George were all still capable of playing a good game of hockey. The import players were coming and going on a regular basis. In 1955, Frank Walker, Tommy Kaufman and Greg Floyd were some of the notable players to skate for the Buchans Miners. In the next two years, Buchans would make it to the finals of the Herder playoffs, losing to the then arch rivals Grand Falls. In 1955, Grand Falls defeated Buchans 3-1 in a best-of-five series, and Buchans was the runner up again in 1956 after losing a best-of-five series 3-0 to Grand Falls. It would be nine long years before the Buchans Miners would win the Herder again. All through this period, the Miners were always in the thick of the race for the Herder, at times coming close but never making it to the final.
The Buchans Miners appeared in the 15 provincial finals for the Herder Memorial Trophy, winning the Herder in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1963. Buchans earned a berth in the finals for nine-consecutive seasons from 1948 to 1956.
The Buchans Miners played in the old rink up until 1961. In 1961, the Miners finally got their own artificial ice surface. After years of depending on Mother Nature and the forces of winter, they could now play hockey a lot earlier in the year and much longer into the spring. It was beginning to look up for the Buchans Miners, and everyone was looking forward to a bright future.
Prior to the coming of artificial ice, during the 1950s, the Miners often practiced on a pond near Rothemere Mine. Conditioning runs by players were usually taken on the Lake Road.
By 1963, the Miners were once again in quest of the Herder Memorial Trophy. Led by the stalwarts Wadden, Walker, Scott, Harris and St. George, along with newcomers Frank Finlayson, who came to play in Buchans in 1959, and import players Neil Amadio, Mort Verbiski and goaltender Terry Booth, the Miners were contenders once again. Added to the nucleus were top rated players such as Mike Kelly, Gordie Butler, Ed Kelly and Martin Craig, all from Bell Island. Local players such as Gerry Brockie, Tony Head, Ernie Leyte, Fred Pardy, Bill Lush and the perennial Gus Soper at the helm as manager, also helped to bolster the team. The Miners, with this array of talent, were about to attain the pinnacle of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League once again.
Buchans lost the first two games of the 1963 series in Corner Brook but, when they moved back to the confines of their brand new arena, they stormed back to take the next four games by scores of 6-4, 9-2, 7-1, and 6-4. In the final game, Buchans’ goals were scored by Frank Finlayson with two, Ed Kelly, Tubby St. George, Frank Walker and Mike Kelly.
Frank Walker was the leading scorer in the 1963 Herder finals against Corner Brook. Walker scored six goals and had seven assists for 13 points. Hugh Wadden was second in scoring with five goals and five assists for 10 points. Frank Finlayson, playing on a broken ankle that was frozen for the last four games, scored four goals and added one assist.
Buchans’ netminder Terry Booth played a strong series, stopping Corner Brook scorers Frank “Danky” Dorrington, Jake Critch, Bob Smith, Doug Hillman and Clobie Collins time after time.
Bill Scott was a stalwart on defence, playing his usual steady game. “Scottie” was a leader of the team both on and off the ice in the 1963 series.
The Buchans Miners’ Herder Memorial championship squad in 1963 included Mort Verbiski, Ernie Leyte, manager Gus Soper, Frank Finlayson, Tubby St. George, captain Hugh Wadden, Martin Craig, Mike Kelly, Tony Head, Bill Scott, Jerry Brockie, Frank Walker, Bill Harris, Fred Pardy, Ed Kelly, Terry Booth, Gordie Butler, coach Neil Amadio, Bill Lush and team doctor Dr. Adams.
The next year, Buchans played off for the Herder, losing to Corner Brook four games to two in a best-of-seven final. Buchans played off for the Herder again in 1968 with Corner Brook claiming the title in five games. In 1969, Gander defeated Buchans 4-0 in a best-of-seven series to win its first Herder. This was the last year that the ASARCO Mining Company supported the Buchans Miners’ hockey team. The Miners then withdrew from Newfoundland Senior Hockey League play for eight years. In 1977, without the aid of import players, the Buchans Miners re-entered the senior hockey league. The team played out the season and was disbanded after that year.
Many players went on to star with the Buchans Miners in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League. Most of the players only stayed in Buchans for a year or two, but Hugh Wadden, Frank Walker, Jimmy Hornell and Frank Finlayson settled in Buchans, married local girls and raised their families in this mining town.
Scott, Wadden, Walker, Finlayson and Mike Kelly have been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame as athletes, and T.A. Gus Soper has been inducted as a builder.
Buchans was the first team in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to bolster their line-up with import players from mainland Canada. Many critics believed that the import system was very beneficial to raising the calibre of the game in Newfoundland. Anyone who watched a Newfoundland Senior Hockey League game in the 1950s and 1960s when Newfoundland hockey was in its heyday, can attest to the high calibre of play and the skill level of the players in those days. This can be attributed to the import players helping to upgrade the game over the years. There have been many talented hockey player to come out of the Buchans’ minor hockey system who are thankful for the coaching they received from the many import players who came to Buchans over the years.
A local boy’s dream was to play for the Buchans Miners. Over the years, local players such as the Mullins brothers Al, Ron and Roy, Herb and George Pike, Jack and Allan “Junior” Cooper, Pat Kennedy, Bill Harris, Tubby St. George, Tom Loder, Tony Walsh, Wilson “Copper” Leyte and his brother Markie Leyte, Norm Higdon, Jerry Brockie and Tony Head all played for the Buchans Miners. While there were other local players who were proud to wear the colours of the Buchans Miners, they are far too many to mention by name.
The Buchans Miners’ team was one of the original teams to play for the Herder Memorial Trophy. It was a sad day for many fans in Buchans and all over Newfoundland when the famed Buchans Miners ceased to exist. The cheering has stopped for this great team. The Miners cheer was shouted at many a hockey game. Go Miners Go.