Thunder Bay·Audio

Port Arthur and Fort William rivalry was fuel to strong Thunder Bay sports teams

Amalgamation combined two cities, but it also combined sports teams. The Thunder Bay Twins was a hockey team that formed as a result of amalgamation, and would go one to win five Allan Cup Championship titles.

Amalgamation 'set in motion a true dynasty' when it came to Thunder Bay Twins

Thunder Bay Twins took home the Allan Cup in 1975. The city went on to hold the record for winning the most Allan Cups. (Submitted by Diane Imrie)

When Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated 50 years ago to create Thunder Bay, a lot of changes had to take place in order to get the two cities functioning as one, even in the sports community. 

Diane Imrie, Executive Director of the Northwestern Ontario Sport Hall of Fame, said the amalgamation was an interesting time for the sports teams, since there was such a rivalry between the neighbouring cities. 

"They always said we had such great teams because of the rivalry between them," she said in an interview with CBC. "So if you think about joining them together...the powerful force that they became."

Puck drops for Thunder Bay Twins in 1970

Imrie uses the example of the joining of the Port Arthur Bearcats and the Fort William Beavers, who became the Thunder Bay Twins in June of 1970.

Imrie said the Thunder Bay Hockey Club held tryouts in September of 1970, which saw a huge turnout of nearly 100 people. 

"The enthusiasm of people wanting to play for them was big," she said.

October 16, 1970 marked the opening game for the Thunder Bay Twins at the Fort William Gardens, where they defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Canadians.

"That set in motion a true dynasty," she said.

Imrie said 41,000 fans cheered on the Thunder Bay Twins in their first year, cementing part of Thunder Bay's identity as being known a hockey town. 

In 1975, the Thunder Bay Twins won their first of what would go on to be five Allan Cups. 

The Allan Cup victories don't stop there, Thunder Bay went on to hold the record for winning the most Allan Cup Championship titles. 

Imrie says the Thunder Bay Kings and Thunder Bay Queens are examples of how Thunder Bay has upheld their dominance in the hockey world. 

This story is a part of CBC Thunder Bay's 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Stories series marking the 50th anniversary of the amalgamation of Fort William and Port Arthur to become Thunder Bay. 

How did teams from two towns come together? And what were the highlights of Thunder Bay's first decade of sport... We'll get the lowdown from Diane Imrie from the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. 9:04