The 1932 Northern Ontario Curling Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to share a different kind of mystery from 1932, one focusing on the winter edition, held in Lake Placid, rather than the summer. It concerns the curling demonstration event, the “Northern Ontario” team that won two of its games and lost another two, and one mystery competitor.

(Coverage of the 1932 curling demonstration event from Vancouver’s The Province, February 5, 1932, pg. 18)

We place “Northern Ontario” in quotations because while that was the team’s official designation, research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has demonstrated that none of the members were actually from that region of the province. Cecil George was a member of the Orillia Curling Club, while Johnny Walker and Peter Lyall were from Montreal. It is with the fourth competitor, therefore, listed as W. W. Thompson, that the mystery lies.

(W.W. Thompson of Winnipeg, as pictured in the Annual Bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association – Vol 61 – 1949)

If his name were accurate, as listed in the Olympic Report, William Winfred “Wynn/Winn” Thompson of Winnipeg, born January 19, 1885 in Bethany, Ontario and died in 1957, would be the likely candidate. This Thompson was well-known in curling circles as a player and executive and became an honorary life member of the Manitoba Curling Association for his services in 1948. Given that none of the other players on the team were from Northern Ontario, his home base of Manitoba does not present too many concerns. Some sources, however, leave ambiguity to other important questions: did Thompson play in all four of the team’s matches? Did he even play at all?

(Clip about W. G. Allen from the February 5, 1932 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, pg. 17)

Winnipeg sportswriter William George Allen would have answered at least the first question as a “no”. Allen, born April 5, 1880 and died January 9, 1939, was well-known as a local sportswriter who claimed in a 1932 article that he had played in one of the Northern Ontario team’s matches in Lake Placid. This is supported by at least one contemporary report, from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, which notes that Allen and Lyall “filled in the gap” on the squad and competed in a match against a New York rink.

One additional source complicates matters even further. It suggests that the original lineup of the Northern Ontario team was a no-show, and that Cecil George and another Orillia curler, E. E. Webb, attended the Games as visitors, only to answer the call to help replace the Northern Ontario squad and actually compete in the event. With all of this, it seems that all we can say for certain at this point is that Lyall and George certainly competed, Walker (mentioned briefly in reports) almost certainly did, and Thompson and Webb may have taken part in at least one match each. To go back to the second question, however, it is possible that Thompson never actually took part, and that the Olympic Report was merely reflecting an outdated entry list.

That is what we have for today, but we intend to continue our look into the depression-era Olympics by returning to the absent Egyptian national delegation. We hope that you enjoyed today’s post and that you will join us next time as well!

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