A HISTORY OF THE ST. THOMAS STARS

A History of the St. Thomas Stars – by C. Scott Holland 

St. Thomas’ foray into Junior hockey began in 1949/50 when they entered a team in the OHA Jr. B loop. That team was sponsored by and were known as the Kinsmen. The club had no home rink and competed against four other teams – Sarnia, London, Wallaceburg and Chatham. They finished the season in fourth, did not make the playoffs and folded.   

By 1960 Jr. B hockey was growing. Prior to the 1961/62 season the Western Jr. B added two new franchises to leave the conference with eight teams. Woodstock and St. Thomas were the two new entities and the St. Thomas franchise became known as the Barons and played out of the newly erected St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Centre which seated 2,600 and had a rink with dimensions of 80 by 180 feet. 

Under head coach Keith Kewley, the new St. Thomas Jr. B team finished in first-place and went on to win the playoff title 4-1 over Sarnia. The Barons would go on to play in six consecutive finals and would win another playoff crown in 1966/67 when they once again topped Sarnia 4-3. They played Jr. B one more season before joining a number of disgruntled teams which left to form an outlaw Jr. A league in 1968/69. 

When the OHA re-aligned the province’s Jr. B leagues for the 1978/79 season, St. Thomas rejoined what became the Western Jr. B. Renamed the Colonels, the franchise struggled to be competitive for four seasons – they finished in the basement in three of those years. The Colonels name was ditched in 1980 and the team became known as the Pests. But even with the name change the team could not get out of the basement. By 1984/85 they became the Stars and have carried that moniker ever since.  

With the  new name, the Stars fortunes surged in the mid-1980s. Under coach Skip Cummins, they won back-to back playoff titles in 1985/86 and 1986/87. They continued to be a top contender through the 1990s and nearly a decade after winning consecutive playoff titles they repeated the feat by winning in 1994/95 and 1995/96.They would play in two more finals that decade but did not succeed in gaining a title.

After some rebuilding, they would vie again in 2004/05 and then had another crack in 2009/10 before making history the next season when they captured the playoff crown as a seventh seed – the lowest seed to ever win the championship.

 Throughout the years, the Stars have had some notable NHL players.:  Greg Campbell (Florida, Boston), Dan Cloutier (NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, L.A.), Logan Couture (San Jose), Cory Emmerton (Detroit), Drew Fata (NY Islanders), Matt Hackett (Minnesota), Joe Thornton (Boston, San Jose) and Brian Willsie (Colorado, Washington, L.A.). 

When it comes to longevity with Jr. B teams a couple of the Stars’ past players are among the career leaders. Forward Drew Colinson (2008/09-2013/14) holds team records for 239 games played, 262 points, 106 goals, 156 assists while goaltender Paul Gibson,(2001/02-2007/08)  a current a/coach played 132 games with 66 wins and losses and 2,978 saves.

Several of Joe Thornton’s scoring records still stand today. His 64 assists and 104 points are not only team records but are records for the West Conference as well. Wes Goldie whose rookie year followed Thornton’s tabbed 51 goals to set the team and conference record.

Two of the Stars more recent coaches – Ron Horvat a former Stars’ player, who won consecutive league MVP titles, and Dan Rose are in the top 10 in career coaching wins. Rose sits third with 250 victories.

(photo – Stars hoist Sutherland Cup 1987)

It has been a long roller coaster ride for the team since Wally Chase planted the team’s very first goal on Nov, 2, 1961 in a game vs the Tillsonburg Mavericks and the first win of 8-7 over the Goderich Siftos the next night. There have been three chances at a Sutherland Cup and one victory in 1986/87. Long stretches of wins and losses including a 27 game win-streak in their inaugural season and winning 14 consecutive home games in 2009/10. At the present they appear to be on another upswing. More records are bound to broken and their all-time best mark of 37 wins, 17 losses and four overtime losses may soon be in jeopardy.

Only time will tell just how much more the Stars can shine.

Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and writes occasional articles for the Southpoint Sun and the Strathroy Age Dispatch. Among the books he has authored are:  75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West, Mid-West and Golden Horseshoe Conference and GOJHL Record Books and Playoff Record Books  He has been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 28 years and has served many years as a board member, statistician, in the press box as an announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington.

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