By C. Scott Holland
Back in the mid-1950s, it was a pipe dream to create a junior franchise in a small community. But for a handful of die hard hockey fans around the St. Marys region that dream was alive. Not one of them ever considered that their hockey club would become one of the longest continually running entities in all of Canada.
The birth of the St. Marys Lincolns is a story in itself. Their name derived from a Lincoln automobile which they raffled off to raise funds to help get the team going. Their uniforms would eventually bear the Lincoln crest which still remains today albeit modified along with their sweaters in the intervening years, Under the leadership of St. Marys recreation direction Stan Moore who along with Kelly Hearn, Earl Leslie, Harold Maxwell, Jack Murphy, Barry Nairn and Dave Stevens the group headed to an OHA Jr. B meeting held at New Hamburg in September 1956 to pitch a new franchise. With a well-prepared presentation the OHA accepted St. Marys as a new entity.
Pat Gardner became the team’s first coach and remained at the helm for half the 1956/57 season before giving Stan Moore the helm for the second half. The team won its very first game – an exhibition vs the Toronto Lakeshore Bruins which ended 9-8. They would gain their first victory on the road vs the Kitchener Greenshirtts on Nov. 8, 1956 and give their hometown fans something to cheer about on Nov. 26 when they topped the Woodstock Warriors 6-5.
During their existence the Lincoln have taken 10 first-place regular season finishes, been a finalist for the playoff title seven times won eight playoff titles and have been in three Sutherland Cup finals. The LIncolns have won two of their three Cup appearances.
The list of Lincs’ graduates is tremendous. Terry Crisp, Dan Bylsma, J.P. Parise, Mike Minard, Bob Boughner, Lonnie Loach, Steve Shields, Walt Tkaczuk, Jack Valiquette, Scott Driscoll, Don Luce, John Tripp, Rick McCann, Steve Shields, Nathan Perrott, Steve Miller, Dave MacQueen, Merlin Malinowski, Cal O’Reilly and Matt Read are among the stars who have made it to the NHL while dozens of others have went on to higher levels or obtained university scholarships.
The team has spend most of its time playing for the West, but shifted to the Central Jr. B from 196465 until 1968/69. Eventually, they became a founding member of the modern Western Jr. loop which was created in 1978/79..
Along the way the franchise has had many familiar and famous names in their lineup and given the league some of its best head coaches, too. They have amassed a record of 2,634 games played with 1,214 victories, 1,128 defeats while tying 128 contests. As well they have incurred 46 overtime losses and 42 shootout losses.
The team has set many league and franchise records and have had five players – Terry Crisp, Carl Hymers, Rick MCann, Rick Fifield and Nathan Peacock capture league scoring titles. Other honours bestowed upon the team are three coaches of the year awards (1983/84, 1992/93 and 2004/05) and trainer longtime trainer Mike Bannerman receiving the coveted Volunteer of Year award in 1999/2000.
There is no shortage of highlights. The Lincs were an Ontario Winter Games representative in both 1970/71 and 1971/72 and they have competed with the Stratford Warriors and Cullitons for the H. W. Maxwell trophy since the 1960s.
One of the greatest days for the town and the team occurred on June 22, 1974 when it was declared Terry Crisp Day.
During the course of the last 60 years there has been heartaches and celebrations galore – one almost seems to come on the other’s heels. Triumphs and pitfalls. The team has survived almost every imaginable situation. But the one constant throughout their 60 years of action is that they have never surrendered. Even with the troubles and hard times of the last couple seasons, they remain one of the few remaining community-owned teams left in the province, They have maintained a hard working core of dedicated men and women who seek nothing more than to provide St. Marys with entertaining, competitive Jr. B hockey and a place where young players can hone their skills.
Junior hockey offers them the best of luck during their celebration of 60 years as a franchise and a salute to them hoping there are many more prosper years ahead.