|Thunder Bay Twins|
|City||Thunder Bay, Ontario|
|Home arena||Fort William Gardens|
|Colors||Green, Yellow, and White|
|Head coach||Joe Wirkkunen, Lee Fogolin, Dave Siciliano|
|Previous franchise history|
|19xx-1970||Fort William Beavers|
|1946-1970||Port Arthur Bearcats|
The Port Arthur Bearcats and the Fort William Beavers were a pair of Senior "A" teams in Northwestern Ontario's Thunder Bay Senior A Hockey League. Very often, these two teams were the only actual teams in the league.
The Beavers dated back to at least the 1950s. In 1955, the Beavers travelled to Kitchener, Ontario to challenge the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen for the Allan Cup. The Dutchmen won game one 3-2 and the Beavers evened the series in game two with a 6-4 win. From that point on the series was controlled by the Dutchmen as they took the next three straight with 6-2, 7-6, and 5-3 victories.
The Bearcats were the namesake of a team that once challenged for the Stanley Cup and were founded in 1946. Prior to this, the Port Arthur Shipbuilders challenged for the 1944 Allan Cup. In Quebec City, Quebec, the Shipbuilders challenged the Quebec City Aces but were defeated three-games-straight by scores of 6-1, 15-4, and 9-6.
In 1970, the towns of Fort William and Port Arthur amalgamated and became Thunder Bay. The decision was made to merge the two senior teams as well, resulting in the folding of the Thunder Bay Senior A Hockey League and the creation of the Thunder Bay Twins.
After their final season with the USHL in 1975, the Twins challenged and won the Western Canadian Senior "A" Championship and earned a chance to play for the Allan Cup. The Allan Cup is awarded to the National Senior Championship. The Eastern champion and their opponent was the Barrie Flyers of the OHA Senior A Hockey League. The Flyers got a foot up on the Twins in game one in Barrie, winning 8-5. In game two, the Twins evened the series 7-2, just to fall back a game in game three with a 7-4 loss -- both in Barrie. The series then moved up to Thunder Bay and the Twins caught fire, winning the next three games at home 8-2, 5-2, and 8-4 respectively to win their first national championship.
In 1975, the Thunder Bay Twins decided to join the OHA Senior A Hockey League. The played in the OSAHL until 1979. In that time, the Twins won two regular season championships and one league playoff title.
From 1979 until 1986, the Twins played in the Manitoba Senior A Hockey League. In 1981, the Twins hosted a round robin tournament to determine an Allan Cup champion. The Twins started off the tournament against the Petrolia Squires, defeating them 8-3. In game two, they faced the Grand Falls Cataracts and defeated them 9-4. In the third and final game of the round robin, the Twins met the St. Boniface Mohawks and beat them 5-4 in overtime to clinch first place in the round robin. In the tournament semi-final, something went wrong for the twins. In their second straight game against the Mohawks, the Twins were shocked 4-3 and eliminated from the tournament despite a 3-1 record. The Petrolia Squires won the 1981 Allan Cup.
In 1984, the Twins were again Manitoba and Western Canadian champions. They played host to the Cambridge Hornets at the Fort Williams Gardens in a best-of-seven series. The Twins opened the series squeezing out a 3-2 victory over the Hornets. Cambridge came back in game two and rocked the Twins 7-3. After this, the Twins battened down the hatches and fought through a pair of tight wins (5-3, 6-5) to clinch the series in game five with a convincing 6-1 win to clinch the team's second Allan Cup.
In 1985, the Twins repeated as Manitoba and Western champions and found themselves in a best-of-seven marathon with the Corner Brook Royals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. So far from home, the Twins may have accomplished one of the greatest feats in amateur hockey history. The Corner Brook Royals crushed the jet lagged Twins 9-5 in game one. Game two went a little better for the Twins, as they forced overtime but were overpowered by the Royals 3-2. Game three needed to be won by the Twins, but again they were embarrassed by the Eastern champions 9-5. With their back against the wall down 3-games-to-none, the Twins began their trek back. Game four ended with a 4-2 nail biter of a win for the Twins. Game five saw the Twins embarrass a seemingly deflated Royals squad 8-3. The twin took game six 2-0 and then finished the comeback with an unbearably close 5-4 victory. With their third Allan Cup victory, the Twins became the only team in Allan Cup history to comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win the Allan Cup. As the tournament is now in a round robin format and a revert to best-of-sevens are very unlikely, the feat may never be repeated.
In 1986, the Twins moved to the four-team OHA Senior A Hockey League. After one lackluster season for the Twins, the league folded and the Twins returned to the Manitoba Senior A Hockey League.
The 1987-88 season had the Twins win the Manitoba and Western titles and find themselves in the Allan Cup final again. Playing at home in the Gardens, the Twins found themselves against a starkly lesser opponent. The Eastern champions in 1988 were the Charlottetown Islanders. The Twins easily swept the Islanders by scores of 7-4, 10-2, 9-3, and 7-1 respectively to win their fourth ever Allan Cup.
The 1989 Allan Cup brought a significant challenge to the Twins. League champions again, the Twins found themselves in a Allan Cup round robin with three other teams. In game one of the round robin, the Twins met an old rival in the St. Boniface Mohawks and lost 5-3. In game two, the Twins met the Montreal Team Chomedey and defeated them 6-3. In the final game of the round robin, the Twins met the Bassano Hawks and defeated soundly 7-1 to clinch second place. Thunder Bay found themselves in a sudden death semi-final against Montreal for the right to play in the final. The Twins beat Chomedey 6-3. The final was set up as a best-of-three games set and was against St. Boniface. The Twins avenged the 1981 Allan Cup semi-final loss to the Mohawks by defeating them 2-0 and then 4-2 to win their fifth Allan Cup championship.
After winning the 1990-91 Manitoba title and the Western Canadian championship, the Twins found themselves yet again in the Allan Cup final. The Eastern champion was the Charlottetown Islanders, a team that the Twins had embarrassed in 1988 in a lopsided four-game-sweep. This time the Islanders came out to return the favour in their own home rink in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The Islanders won four straight games (5-3, 5-2, 5-4, and 5-4 in overtime) to kill the Twins dream of a sixth Allan Cup.
That summer, the Colonial Hockey League announced plans to expand to the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Twins made way for the Semi-Professional Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks who began play in the 1991-92 season. Senior glory would not return to the city of Thunder Bay until the creation of the Thunder Bay Bombers many years later.
The 1974-75 Thunder Bay Twins were inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.