It is no secret that Canadians love their hockey, and the city of Cornwall, Ontario, is no different. Hockey is in the blood of every Cornwall resident, which is not surprising when one considers the city’s long history of producing star pliers who enjoyed careers in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Don Smith was one of the first professional hockey players, playing professionally during the first decade of the 1900s. Born in Cornwall in 1887, Smith began playing hockey for the Cornwall Hockey Club during the 1904-05 season. He played for the Montreal Canadiens, who were part of the National Hockey Association (NHA) back in 1910. Smith ended his career with Canadiens, making 12 appearances in the then newly formed NHL.
The Fantastic Denneny Brothers
Corbett Denneny was one of the first Cornwall natives to get his hands on hockey’s Stanley Cup. Denneny actually won the Stanley Cup twice, in 1918 and 1922, with the Toronto Arenas, the original Toronto franchise. Today, the franchise has appeared in 21 Stanley Cups and won 13 of them, the second-most in NHL history, and are consistently among the favorites for NHL glory each season.
Denneny played 176 games in the NHL, made 42 assists, and scored 103 goals from the center position. He had a younger brother called Cyril “Cy” Denneny, who was born at Farran’s Point near Cornwall. Cy Denneny won the Stanley Cup in 1920, 1921, 1923, and 1927 and was the NHL’s leading scorer in 1924. He scored 247 goals and 85 assists in 329 NHL games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1957.
Both John Wensink and Blair MacDonald enjoyed fruitful NHL careers during the 1970s and 1980s, with Wensink playing more than 400 games with the likes of the St.Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Rockies, and New Jersey Devils. MacDonald turned out more than 200 times in the NHL and is best-known for his spell with the Edmonton Oilers, where he played alongside the legendary Wayne Gretzky at the start of Gretzky’s career.
Cornwall Players Battling On The Ice in the 2000s
Three Cornwall natives continued playing in the NHL into the early 2000s. Steve Poapst began his career playing college hockey for the Colgate Red Raiders. The defenceman went undrafted in the NHL Draft yet still played seven seasons in hockey’s best league, turning out for the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues. He hung up his blades at the end of the 2005-06 season.
Left-winger Scott Pearson made a name for himself, recording 228 points via 107 goals and 121 assists for the Kingston Canadians, Kingston Raiders, and Niagara Falls Thunder in the OHL between 1985-89. Pearson racked up those impressive figures in 216 games. His evident attacking ability saw Pearson put himself forward for the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, and the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him sixth overall.
Pearson only played nine games for the Maple Leafs before spending his time darting between NHL and AHL teams. He enjoyed a fruitful spell at the Edmonton Oilers in 1993-94, but he never lived up to the hype of his OHL days. Pearson called time on his NHL career in 1999-2000.
Chad Kilger is the last Cornwall man to have played in the NHL. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted Kilger fourth overall in 1995, but he only played 45 games before being traded to the Winnipeg Jets. Kilger went on to play 690 NHL games for teams including the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the latter where he ended his career in 2008.
Kilger was known for having one of the hardest shots in the NHL. He recorded a shot at 106.6 mph in December 2006, a record that stood until Sheldon Souray recorded 106.7 mph at a skills competition in 2009.