The Ri nk Master s

For a small town, Tillsonburg has produced a surprising number of hockey legends

I n the late 1800s, hockey was a strictly outdoor activity. If you wanted to play a game of shinny, you layered on your woolies and headed over to Lake Lisgar. That is, until the turn of the century when Frank and William Barkey, proprietors of the Tillsonburg Electric Light Plant, had an idea. Why not build an outdoor rink? They could even install lights to enable night-time skating. And so the Barkey Brothers Electric Rink was born. Opening on January 1, 1902, the new rink was a marvel. Located where Canadian Tire is to- day, the rink had the largest play- ing area in the province (70 x 170 ft) and could reportedly accommodate crowds of up to 2000 people in its heyday. Though it was originally constructed as an open air rink, the facility later gained a roof, walls and even live music performed by Frank’s own band. Photographs of Frank reveal a most unlikely sports hero if ever there was one. And yet, without this larger-than-life man and his brother, it’s fair to say that Tillsonburg might have remained a hockey backwater

Eddie Oatman Born in 1889 in Springford, Edward Cole “Eddie” Oatman was 18 years old when he joined the Tillsonburg Pan Drieds, the local Ontario Hock- ey Association (OHA) team named for E.D. Tillson’s famous oats. In 1909, Eddie turned professional and two years later, won a Stanley Cup with the Quebec Bulldogs (NHA). Following the win, Oatman joined

forever--a town known only for pro- ducing tobacco, and not the likes of NHL players Lloyd “Shrimp” An- drews and Russell Oatman—or their contemporaries, Colin and Gregory Campbell. As Tillsonburg gets ready to wel- come the Stanley Cup and the NHL Centennial Fan Arena this August, here’s a look back at some of our lo- cal hockey legends. The Barkey Brothers Electric Rink opened in 1902 and was destroyed in a 1927 windstorm. Co-owner and local band leader Frank Barkey is shown at right. Tillsonburg would not have another ice arena until 1949, when Memorial Arena opened.


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