The Ottawa Valley's love affair with the game of hockey began at the turn of the 20th century. Teams began popping up throughout the Valley but none were more successful than the Renfrew Millionaires. The Millionaires, a creation of lumber baron M.J. O'Brien, was a small-town professional hockey team that won the league championship in 1910. Ottawa and the Valley are also the home of such outstanding players as Frank Nighbor, Aurel Joliat, Frank "King" Clancy, Frank Boucher and Denis Potvin; the latter was the star defenceman of the New York Islanders dynasty of the late 1970s.
The Renfrew Millionaires were originally called the Renfrew Creamery Kings, and were a small hockey team playing in the Upper Ottawa Valley League. Dreaming of having their hockey team win the Stanley Cup, the O'Brien's fought to have the team recognized by the Eastern Canadian Hockey Association, which would later become the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA).
After numerous rejections and snubs, the O'Briens finally created their own League, and called it the National Hockey Association (NHA). O'Brien financed four teams in the League: the Renfrew Creamery Kings which became the Renfrew Millionaires, Cobalt, Haileybury and Les Candiens du Montreal. Within a month the Montreal Wanderers also joined to become the fifth team.
O'Brien paid huge cash salaries for a team of the best talent. Many of the players on the team were paid $2,000 to $3,000 a season. Frank "Cyclone" Taylor became the highest paid athlete in the world when he joined the Renfrew Millionaires for $5,250 a year.
In the 1910 - 1911 season, the Ottawa Senators left the larger Canadian Hockey League taking the Cup with them, joining O'Brien's NHA League. Although the league dismantled after the second season the impact of O'Brien is still felt. One of the two original teams eventually became the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1928 and another became the Montreal Canadiens.
The NHA/NHL Birthplace Museum in Renfrew is now open and located at 249 Raglan Street. Visit the museum online: www.nhlbirthplace.ca
Pembroke hosts the regional level Silver Sticks tournament each year. The International Silver Sticks tournament created in 1956 aims at helping children develop “Citizenship and International Goodwill through hockey" and develops relationships with teams in the United States.