By Liam Kishinevsky
Please note, the following blog post draws from and builds on Murray Kelsey’s extensive 40 page article, “Hockey in Napanee, and Napanee District Minor Hockey” (March-October 2023), a copy of which is at the Archives of Lennox and Addington. Please contact the Archives for more.
Athletics in Napanee
It is a mystery as to when Napanee’s District Minor Hockey Association was formed, however, hockey and skating were local pastimes long before its creation, as frozen ponds and the Napanee River facilitated day-long ventures of skating and winter sports. Sports were an important facet of life in Napanee, with the Archives of Lennox and Addington referencing an early curling rink in 1914, the Napanee Snow Shoe Club in 1885, a tobogganing club in 1886, the Napanee Tennis Club in 1889, the Napanee Cricket Club in 1900, the Napanee Golf Club in 1908, the Napanee Hockey Team in 1914-15, and Gibbard’s Hockey Team in 1916.
[Above featured photo: Courtesy of the Archives of Lennox and Addington, A1977.P0511 – A photo of the Enterprise Hockey Team, showing an early example of recreational hockey being played on local ponds and rivers.]
The Origin of Hockey in Napanee
In 1913, the Napanee Beaver highlighted the Napanee Collegiate Hockey team, which played in the Quinte High School League (though it is unclear where they played their home games). Organized Junior hockey had its roots in the 1960’s with teams like the Comets, the Napanee Red Wings, the Kelly Tiremen, and the Warriors. However, the Napanee Beaver references games played earlier by an Intermediate B-OHA team, with a team from Napanee playing at Queen’s University in the 1940s. The Napanee Comets played at the A-Level in 1955, but found greater success at the intermediate C-Level from 1958-60, as they were able to import players, and ended up winning three titles. Further, player and coach Walt Gerow was an excellent scout, able to find players that would help Napanee against the World Champion Whitby Dunlops, only losing to them by one point (10-9). Their success showed, and in 1959, when Napanee’s population was only around 4000, the Comets drew a crowd of around 1800 people.
The Changing Nature of Napanee's Hockey Teams
From 1960-65, the Napanee Red Wings led the way in Junior C hockey (changing their name to the Kelly Tiremen in 1966-79 while playing in the Eastern League). In 1980-86, they became known as the Warriors, with sponsorships from Chapmans, as well as Napanee Brick and Tile. However, due to league changes, there was nowhere to play until 1990. When locals in Napanee got a deal on some Raiders sweaters, and were then known as the Napanee Raiders, playing in the newly re-formed Eastern Ontario Junior C League (with the league becoming known as Empire B in 1997, and then the Tod Division of the Provincial League in 2016). A moment of glory came in 1993, as Napanee won the championship by beating Hanover in the finals.
Hockey in Napanee was slow to embrace the technological age, with the first digital master Registry List of players created in the 1990s (on a ‘floppy disc’). Agendas and minutes of meetings were printed as hard copies, and not usually filed for later reference. Timekeeping and scoring were done on paper, containing information about standings, playoff pairings, and other pertinent information. Files would eventually become electronic, and by 2019, time keeping and scoring using ‘iPads,’ as well as other tablets, brought technology to the forefront of hockey in Napanee. Another noticeable change from the 1990s-2000s was the emergence of infrastructure geared towards women’s hockey, as the opening of a new arena in 2004 saw the rise of the Napanee Crunch Organization (created solely for women players). This did, in turn, leave some Napanee men’s teams lacking a highly talented female player (as up until this point, women would play on men’s teams, though in numbers that often misrepresented their importance).
Hockey During the pandemic
Like most of Canada, hockey in Napanee would be affected and halted by the Covid Pandemic. The Finals for the 2020 series were not held, only reconvening in 2021, as the OMHA Championship was initiated for regional winners to play for the championship title. With the World Junior Championships having just happened, one can only hope to see the same excitement and sportsmanship that hockey has facilitated in Napanee over the previous century.
Source: Kelsey, Murray. “Hockey in Napanee, and Napanee District Minor Hockey.” The Archives of Lennox and Addington (March-October 2023): Pp. 1-40.