June 15, 2012

Canada's link to the Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup this week, and that made me think how Timmins, my home town in Northern Ontario, played a key role in making that happen.

This summer, Timmins is celebrating the centennial of its “founding” as a more or less permanent gold mining camp. To mark the occasion, a local weekly newspaper conducted a poll asking the question: Who is the most notable person ever from Timmins?

Not surprisingly, country-music superstar Shania Twain topped the list by a long shot. No surprise either that a pair of hockey stars from different eras — Steve Sullivan, currently with Pittsburgh, and Frank Mahovlich, a legend in Toronto, Detroit and Montreal — should make the list. (A local Croatian Catholic church has installed stained-glass windows in tribute to Frank and brother Peter, also a hockey star).

What is surprising is that after all these years, the poll flushed out an enduring collective memory of one Jack Kent Cooke, the man who brought the National Hockey League to Los Angeles. Even though it’s been more than 60 years since Cooke, who died in 1997 at age 84, set foot in Timmins, his passage in the town was such a turning point for the business world that folks back home still remember him.

The signal moment in Cooke’s amazing rise in the media, sports and entertainment worlds came in 1936, when he was a hustling young toiletries-product salesman in the wilds of Northern Ontario, traveling from one Depression-stricken town to another, his pregnant wife, Jean, in tow. Harboring an interest in the then-budding business of radio, he decided to pay a visit to another man who would become a global media titan.

Cooke drove to Timmins to meet Roy Thomson, who by then had acquired a few radio stations and newspapers in Northern Ontario. As legend has it, Cooke so impressed Thomson with his energy, charm and salesmanship that the elder businessman agreed to hire him to run one of his struggling radio stations in southern Ontario. Thus began a partnership that would strengthen and expand on the basis of a Timmins-centred radio and newspaper enterprise.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Trench warfare in Quebec elections

    I've seen many a Quebec election in my day (I'll skip the "by cracky"), writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Dr. Phil's election prescription Philippe Couillard is a brain surgeon, not a psychiatrist, so his expertise is not necessarily understanding the collective mind of Quebecers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Party's charter flight to majority

    It's not surprising the political maneuvering in recent weeks in Quebec City has been dubbed the "winter games," writes Canadian columnist Peter Black

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Joe Ryan's mountain vision

    Eventually someone surely would have taken the initiative to turn what the Algonquins called Manitonga Soutana and the locals called Mont Tremblant into a popular outdoor recreational destination, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Montreal's Genie on the courts

    In a land where raquettes de neige (snowshoes) are more popular than raquets (tennis), a young Canadian with classic California surfer girl looks is turning heads on the court.

    January 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Columnist's Canada in 1954

    I will depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian, writes columnist Peter Black.

    January 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Prime minister's hockey history

    By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Quebec City displays Holy Door

    It's the first and only such thing in North America: a Holy Door, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 13, 2013 1 Photo