Joe Turner, The Turner Cup, and the International Hockey League

Joe Turner was an athlete turned soldier during World War 2. The son of immigrant parents, he was born to James and Gurtrude Turner on March 28th 1919 in Windsor Ontario. Joe grew up on Gladstone in Windsor’s Walkerville area. He was a hockey player, and a standout goalie from a young age. Mr. Turner also had a sister, though records differ as to her name (which was either Pruda, or Gertrude.)

During the 1936-37 season, he made his first semi-professional appearance as part of the Windsor Bulldogs. A top prospect of the Detroit Red Wings, he led the Ontario Hockey Association in goals-against average in 1937-38. His success there led to him joining the Detroit Holzbaugh-Fords for their 1939-40, and 1940-41 seasons. The following season would be the highlight of his career, as his stellar play with the local Holzbaugh-Fords led to him being assigned to the Detroit Red Wings minor league affiliate – the Indianapolis Capitals whom he led to a league championship. He would also play in the AHL all-star game that season, and as a 22 year old made his NHL debut and only appearance – a tie for his Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unfortunately, Joe Turner played his last game that year as well as when the 1941-42 season ended he enrolled in the United States army on July 1st 1942. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in Company K, 311th Infantry, 78th Division. Mr. Turner served until 1944, when he was declared missing and eventually declared Killed In Action during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Approximately 33,000 Allied Troops were killed or incapacitated during that battle, and Joe was one of them. Though he was wounded in the initial assault, Mr. Turner and a friend heard the cries of a wounded compatriot. They left their group to rescue their friend, and were never seen alive again. Originally buried in Belgium at the age of 25, Mr. Turner was later transferred to the Victoria Memorial Cemetery in Windsor. Turner was one of only 2 NHL’ers to die in combat during World War 2, the other being Dudley Garrett of the New York Rangers.

Joe Turner garnered attention in the Michigan-Ontario Semi-professional league, which disbanded in 1942 due to a lack of players. With World War 2 ongoing, sports leagues around the world simply had a hard time operating.

After the war, the original six NHL continued but there was a need for developmental teams and more talented players that could fit on the rosters of the existing professional teams. With a sudden influx of available players and nowhere to put them, a meeting was held December 5th, 1945 at the Norton Palmer Hotel in Windsor. The meeting took place between hockey legend Jack Adams of the Detroit Red Wings, several other Red Wings officials, and other professionally non-affiliated local hockey supporters including Gerald McHugh – a Windsor lawyer who would become the league’s first commissioner. This meeting produced what grew into the IHL. The league was initially created to provide opportunities for local hockey players returning home from the war to play, with thought that it could eventually expand beyond Windsor-Detroit.

The first four teams in the league that would eventually spread across North America included the Detroit Auto Club, Detroit Bright’s Goodyear, the Windsor Spitfires, and the Windsor Gotfredsons. The Windsor based clubs played their home games at Windsor Arena. With a league heavy on players from Windsor and Detroit and meant to provide an opportunity for veterans, it was a natural fit that the trophy for league champion would be named after Joe Turner. “Jack Adams thought the world of him” said hockey Hall of Fame member Sid Abel who “just expected” he would go on to play goal for the Wings.[1] The Turner Cup would go on to be contested from 1945-2001, and the Joe Turner Trophy is now housed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

While the original Turner Cup is no longer awarded, the name lives on in a new trophy for the Central Hockey Association. In 2010, on of its conferences was named the Turner Conference, and annually the conference champion is given the (new) Turner Cup.

Sources: (1950.)Turner, Joe – Application for Headstone or Marker.

[1] 100 Things Red Wings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (2014). Duff, Bob. Allen, Kevin. Available Via Hoopla:

The IHL (webpage now defunct.)


Joe Turner – HockeyDB page:

The Windsor Star Obituaries – Turner, James – Mar 22 1946.