Hockey and Mining Rivalry Between Cobalt and Haileybury – Michael Barns

Every Canadian knows something of the NHL. The National Hockey League dominates Canadian sports culture. But few likely know of the National Hockey Association, the forerunner of the now famous league.

Teams in this genesis of the NHL included the Renfrew Millionaires, so called because after all their biggest sponsor, M.J.O’Brien, was a millionaire many times over, the Montreal Wanderers and a team that has made a comeback in recent years, the Ottawa Senators.

In the heyday of Cobalt when the town was rich and booming, all the mines had their own hockey teams. Both Haileybury and Cobalt had teams in the National Hockey Association and had no trouble finding corporate sponsors among the many big firms represented in both towns.

The silver town had a real Stanley Cup contender. This was the Cobalt Silver Kings. Although the players gave their all on the ice in association play, the fiercest battles were reserved for games with the Haileybury squad.

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Cobalt: A Mine was Something to Fall Back On for MJ – Michael Barnes

Most people have never heard of M J O’Brien- not in the north anyway. He died in Renfrew in 1940 and was one of Canada’s richest men. But in 1903 he made a deal at the King Edward hotel in Toronto which made him more money and created much work in the silver town of Cobalt.

O’Brien was born in the Ottawa Valley in 1851. He started off as a water boy on big construction projects and ended up owning countless big companies. He made his money through careful research and driving hard bargains. His real money came from railways and lumbering.

In 1903 the heavy set, black bearded magnate from Renfrew heeded some advice from his friend, Robert Borden, then leader of the Opposition in Pariament. Borden put him onto a lawyer who who had some business ideas.

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Some Kind of Damn Metal in Cobalt – Michael Barnes

When railway contractors found traces or ore along the tracks at mile 101 north of North Bay in 1903, they did not know what they had. Fred LaRose said it was some kind of damn metal. But what? They needed a rock doctor to figure it out.

In modern day Cobalt, just around the corner from the Lang Street hotel, on a dead end, there is a monument to the man who ‘read the story of the rocks’. Few people have heard the story of the moonlighting geologist it remembers, but without him, well, let’s just say Cobalt would have been a lot slower to develop.

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