A Brief History of the Thunder Bay Elks Hockey Association
Thunder Bay Elks Lodge #82 lays claim as the birthplace of peewee hockey! For many years the lodge #82 had operated Bantam, Midget and Juvenile teams in the Minor Hockey League, but with the forming of peewee hockey, all efforts were directed to this end. The year was 1947, and the first peewee hockey league was organized under the direction of the late Bro. Don McKenzie. Ever since then, the Thunder Bay Elks Lodge #82 has had the distinction of laying claim to “The Home of Pee Wee Hockey”. The title has never been contested, in spite of the fact that peewee hockey is played throughout the world.
In May of 1948, Don McKenzie was killed in a tragic auto accident. Although he never saw the fruits of his labour, for many years his name lived on as each year the “Don McKenzie Memorial Trophy”, which was emblematic of the Elks peewee hockey supremacy, was awarded to the winning team.
In 1961 the Tom Thumb league was formed and consisted of boys 7 and 8 years of age. While there is some doubt in the minds of all concerned as to just who first suggested that this league be formed, Bert Salo was the first chairman of Tom Thumb hockey.
Dignitaries from our past, such as the late Hubert Badanai, former M.P., and the late Ted Freeman, former M.P.P., who was also a past Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge of Canada have had the pleasure of seeing Elks kids playing our brand of hockey. On October 11, 1956, Foster Hewitt made a special trip to meet the executive of the league. In the spring of 1957 a crew of CBC TV specialists came from Toronto to film the youngsters in action. Maurice (Rocket) Richard visited in 1961 on an invitation from the lodge to attend the Booster Night show. Members of Federal and Provincial Parliaments, Mayors of many cities, sports figures and the Sports Director of WDSM TV in Duluth, Minnesota, the late Bob Junkert, added an International note.
Soon the enthusiasm spread until District lodges began to form their own leagues and this led to inter-lodge competition. The first International Peewee Hockey Tournament, under the direction of Bro. Don Kells, started on April 21, 1965 at the Port Arthur Arena . It lasted four days and saw 24 teams compete for the Elks lodge trophy. Later the name was changed to the Central Canada Peewee Hockey Tournament, and it stayed that way for many years. With the addition of Bantam and Midget hockey to the tournament the name was shortened to the Elks Central Canada Tournament. In 1972 the Elks saw fit to host another tournament for players 7 to 10 years of age, thus the Tom Thumb/Atom Hockey Tournament, chaired by Jim Martinson, was underway. Although the Tom Thumb division has since been changed to Novice we have kept the name and kept the history. The Elks TTAT, as it is called for short, now has over 60 teams participating in 3 different age groups, IP1 (4-6 year olds), Novice (7-8 year olds), and Atom (9-10 year olds)
As long as boys and girls have the desire to play the game, the Thunder Bay Elks Hockey Association will always have a place in minor hockey. Girls and boys today can enjoy playing as an Elk because of the work that has been done in the lodge's formative years by men now deceased, who have given of their abilities and knowledge. Odie Goodsell, Alec Tarbet, Percy Nickols, Bob Elvish; these are some of the stalwarts who have passed the job on to others. There faith and ideals are being upheld by the capable, dedicated men and women now in charge.