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Friday, January 30, 2015

5 Fascinating Facts about the Vancouver Millionaires: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Vancouver's Stanley Cup Win

As a lifelong Canucks fan and someone who was alive for all three of their Stanley Cup runs, it gives me some solace and excitement  to know that the city ( and thus the province) has indeed won a Stanley Cup – though it was long ago and with another team. March 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of that Stanley Cup win by the legendary Vancouver Millionaires. To celebrate here are 5 fascinating facts:

#1 Team Origins

Frank and Patrick Lester had played for the Renfrew Millionaires in Ontario in 1910 but then moved out west to Nelson, BC where their father, Joe, had a successful lumber company. After the sale of that company in 1911, the brothers began talking about forming a professional ice hockey league in the North West – thus was the Pacific Coast Hockey Association born. 

The new league would eventually consist of the Victoria Cougars, the New Westminster Royals, the Seattle Metropolitans, the Portland Rosebuds (who replaced the Royals) and, of course, the Vancouver Millionaires. The Patricks began raiding the NHA, the main league in the East and the forerunner of the NHL, and ended up signing such notable players as Newsy Lalonde, Cyclone Taylor, Jack Adams and Didier Pitre. Eventually in 1914 the NHA agreed to a special agreement with the PCHA that would see the champions of each league play each other for the Stanley Cup – many called it “The World Series of Hockey”.

Lester Patrick
Frank Patrick

#2 The Players

Although hockey legends such as Newsy Lalonde and Jack Adams would at one time or another play for the Millionaires, the year they won the Stanley Cup their roster would include other legends:

Hugh Lehman (Goalie)
Si Griffiths (Captain & Defenseman)
Frank Patrick (Manager, Coach & Defenseman)
Lloyd Cook (Defenseman)
Cyclone Taylor (Rover)
Mickey MacKay (Centre)
Frank Nighbor (Right Wing)
Barney Stanley (Left Wing)
Ken Mallen (Spare)
Johnny Matz (Spare)
Jim Seaborn (Spare)
Lester Patrick ( non-playing Coach) 

Of these 11 great players and 1 coach no less than 8 would eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame! 

#3 The Arena

In the quest to form the PCHA, the Patrick brothers used their considerable fortune to build two indoor rinks; one in Victoria and one in Vancouver. The Denman Arena in Vancouver ( located at the corner of Denman and West Georgia) would seat 10,000 people and lay claim to the first artificial ice surface in Canada and one of the very largest indoor rinks in the world.  

The arena was the first place west of Winnipeg that had ever hosted a Stanley Cup series and would go on to host three more. It was later used as a military barracks during WW1, it hosted an address by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and became home to the first radio broadcast of a hockey game in the province. Sadly, the Denman arena burned down in 1936. 

Inside Denman Arean

#4 The Games

The winner of the Stanley Cup would be determined by a best of 5 series between the Vancouver Millionaires and the NHA (Eastern) champion Ottawa Senators. Its important to understand that the West and the East had some significantly different rules for playing the game. Each game would be alternately played with a different set of rules, the western rules guiding the first game. First and foremost among the different rules was that the West still played with 7 men while the East had begun playing with only a 6 man roster (as it is today).  The West however had adopted the forward pass. The forward pass is something we take for granted today but for many years it could only be passed laterally or behind - similar to rugby. 

Si Griffiths would unfortunately miss the series with a broken ankle but the Millionaires were still a formidable force. The Senators were rather cocky, leaving the Stanley Cup behind in Ottawa ( not imagining they would lose) and refusing to sub their players during the series. It took only 3 games to decide the series played on March 22nd (score of 6-2) , 24th (score of 8-3) and 26th  (score of 12-3) . 

Senator’s coach Alf Smith complained of the forward pass as a “farce” but even under Eastern rules in the second game Ottawa was beaten by 5 goals! Vancouver author, Craig Bowlsby, credits the Patrick brothers for their strategy and also calls Cyclone Taylor the star of the series. 

Cyclone Taylor

#5 The Legacy of the Vancouver Millionaires 

The Vancouver Millionaires (they would later be called the Maroons)  would go on to appear in another three Stanley Cup finals but this would be there only win. It was decisive and historic. Craig Bowlsby comments, “This was a contest of the two best teams in the world, and one of those teams was far above the other” and back in 1915 the Toronto Star reported that “The Stanley Cup is going West… the Westerners have beaten them so decisively that they must accept defeat as gracefully as possible.”

Frank Patrick fathered 22 rules that have molded the game into what it is today. The epic Stanley Cup win by the Vancouver Millionaires had given such credibility to the style of the Western game that it would forever change hockey across the country.  Hockey blogger, Joe Pelletier, states that “…hockey as we know it today was cemented by the Vancouver Millionaires Stanley Cup win of 1915.”

On October 1, 2010 the parent company of the Vancouver Canucks purchased the rights to the Vancouver Millionaires logo and the NHL team has since worn the famed jerseys twice in regular season games including a 100 year celebration of the advent of the first professional hockey club in Vancouver. And maybe, just maybe, one day we will see the Cup come again to our beautiful province under the banner of the Canucks...

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable". 1 Corinthians 9:25

Sources and Further Reading: 

Stanley Cup: 120 Years of Hockey Supremacy by Eric Zweig 

Vancouver Tourism "History"  Here

The Story of the Vancouver Millionaires, The Patrick Brothers, and their 1915 Stanley Cup Conquest Here

Vancouver Province Blog Here

Greatest Hockey Legends Here

Friday, January 16, 2015

7 Fascinating Facts About Mike Gartner: National Hockey League 700 Goal Scorer & Hall of Famer

Consistency. If you had to pick one word to describe NHL Right Winger Mike Gartner it would be consistency.  My dad often spoke highly of Mike Gartner and I sort of brushed it off as his own personal bias for the guy. But then I did some research and found out more about the man, on and off the ice. And so it is with great admiration that I contribute this blog post in honour of one of the most consistent – and respected -  men in hockey history. 

#1 Beginnings

Michael Alfred Gartner was born October 29th, 1959 in Ottawa, Ontario but soon moved with his family to the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. It was here he would learn to skate and play hockey eventually playing junior in the QMJHL and OHA for the Niagara Falls Flyers. Mike and his family had originally wanted to play for Roger Neilson in Peterborough where he knew people but Hap Emms drafted him for Niagara anyways. 

Mike represented Canada at the 1978 World Junior Championships where he notched 6 points in a Bronze medal winning effort. Perhaps an even fonder memory for Mike though was travelling to Moscow not long after the legendary 1972 Summit Series and playing a 5 game championship there. 

#2 WHA Career

What many may not know about Gartner is that he started out as an 18 year old in the World Hockey Association playing alongside teammate Mark Messier ( then 17) for the Cincinnati Stingers. Mike recalls, “The WHA was a very good league; probably not as good as the NHL but just a small step down…. It was a great experience for an 18 year old kid…”

Remarkably Mike finished as runner up to none other than Wayne Gretzky for the Rookie of the Year award. 

#3 NHL Career 

When the WHA merged with the NHL the next year Mike was drafted 4th overall by the Washington Capitals. He noted “ When I went there, hockey was in no way the number one sport. In fact, it wasn’t number two, three or four either!” No doubt his career with the Caps helped lift the awareness and love of hockey in that city. In fact, his number 11 was retired by the organization in 2008. It was also in Washington where he would meet his good friend and mentor, Jean Pronovost. A fellow right winger, he would help mold Mike into the hockey player and man he became. 

Mike experienced the turbulence of being traded a number of times. Before he retired in 1998, He had played for the Capitals, the Minnesota North Stars, the New York Rangers, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs and finally the newly relocated Phoenix Coyotes. Mike played in the NHL All Star game 7 times including an MVP performance in 1993 and a record breaking “Fastest Skater” skills time of 13:38. A record not broken until 2012. 

#4 International Career 

If there was an upside to the Capitals being knocked out of the playoffs so often by the mighty Islanders or Flyers, it was that Gartner could play for Team Canada at the World Championships. Though we as Canadians don’t always put much stock in the WHC we always appreciate the player who is willing to continue his hockey season and put on the Maple Leaf for his country. He played in the WHC 4 times, scoring 21 points and winning 2 bronze medals.  

As was mentioned earlier Mike won a bronze for Canada in the 1978 World Junior Hockey League. He also earned the honour of playing on the 1984 and the famed 1987 Canada Cup team where he tallied 9 points and won both championships. Mike Gartner always answered the patriotic call of his country. 

#5 Stats, Records & The Hall of Fame

In 2001 Mike Gartner was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame. There are a few who still question if he was worthy of this honour. After a look at his stats, his speed, his consistency, his all-star and international appearances and his reputation there seems to be no doubt that he does indeed belong and that comfortably.

Gartner’s career stats are 708 goals and 627 assists for a total of 1,335 points in 1,432 regular season games. He is of course renowned for being a member of the NHL’s exclusive 700 goal club – occupied by only 6 other players in history. What is perhaps even more amazing is his 15 consecutive 30+ goal seasons, a record he now shares with Jaromir Jagr. It is significant, however, to note that his streak was interrupted only by a strike shortened season. After that season he had another two 30 + goal seasons which would essentially, and in all likelihood, put him at 18 consecutive 30 + goal seasons with 5 different teams. Even for the high scoring era in which that was accomplished it is utterly remarkable. 

Though Gartner never won a Stanley Cup (one of the biggest criticisms) it is rather gut-wrenching to realize that he was traded from the New York Rangers the very year they won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

#6 Off the Ice

After his retirement at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season Mike would become increasingly more involved in the NHLPA eventually becoming its president. He held position on numerous boards and committees in the NHLPA including chairman of the Goals and Dreams Fund – a hockey initiative that has given millions to grassroots hockey all over the North America. He also volunteered heavily in many youth hockey camps. 

It is worth noting that Mike’s personal priorities and worldview led him to retire even though he was only 10 goals shy of passing Phil Esposito on the all-time NHL goals list and only 23 short of passing Marcel Dionne. Since then Brett Hull has reached a formidable 741 goals but at the time Gartner could have secured his name in a trio with Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe – pretty elite company. However, Mike put faith and family over personal glory and has never regretted it. 

#7 Faith 

To quote Mike directly, “ Professional hockey players are in the limelight because of the level at which we compete. However, after the glaring arena lights shut down and we’ve left the ice, we face the same challenges and questions and have the same needs and desires as anyone else.” 

It was in 1980 that Jean Pronovost joined the Washington Capitals and soon became friends with Mike Gartner. Jean and his wife, Diane, eventually invited Mike, along with some other Caps players ( such as Ryan Walter and Wes Jarvis) , to their house for informal Bible studies. During a road trip on which Mike had a particularly insightful discussion with Pronovost, he recalls that “In the quietness of my hotel room, I got on my knees and said. ‘ Lord if you are real, come into my life now and change me’.” 

He goes on to say, “ I found...a peace that profoundly impacted the rest of my life…. My faith (in Jesus) helped me to handle the highs and lows of the game – the injuries and trades, the scoring sprees and the slumps… I knew that God had a plan for my life.”
Mike summed it up nicely when he said, “I came to realize that God is not necessarily interested in the outcome of sports – He is interested in people who play sports.” 

In concluding, Kevin Shea, Editor for the Hockey Hall of Fame said this of Gartner:  “An outstanding performer on the ice and as trusted as anyone in hockey off the ice, Mike Gartner employed blazing speed, outstanding skill and great intelligence into a remarkably consistent and productive Hall of Fame career.”  The Hall of Fame website also calls him “…perhaps the most consistent and unnoticed scorer the game has ever seen.”


Kevin Shea, Hockey Hall of Fame

Legends of Hockey

The Edge by Sigmund Brouwer / Countryman Publishers

Toward the Goal by Cathy Ellis / Hockey Ministries International


Friday, January 9, 2015

A Bio-Sketch of Maurice of Thebes: The Legionnaire Who Died for Christ

The pleasure seekers and jet setters that visit the Swiss resort town of St Moritz, Switzerland are most likely unaware of its namesake – an Egyptian-born Legionnaire of the Roman Army. 

St. Moritz or rather, Maurice, was born in A.D. 250 in Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city. He joined the Roman army and was eventually made leader of what was known as the Thebian Legion ( that is 6,600 soldiers). The thing that was different about Maurice was that he was a known Christian in what was then a decidedly non-Christian society under Diocletian. It is even said that his entire legion were Christians. 

A statue of St. Maurice placed next to the grave of Otto I of Germany

According to the letter of Eucherius to Salvius, a fellow bishop, Maurice’s legion was eventually summoned by Maximian one of the Tetrarch Roman Emperors under Diocletian. His orders were to travel to Gaul in order to help squash an uprising of the bagaudae ( a group of peasant insurgents) - and this is where the story really begins. Although there is some debate as to the particulars, it seems clear that it was on their way to Gaul, near the present site of St. Moritz, that Maurice was martyred for his adherence to his faith in Christ.

Eucherius tells us that when Maurice and his legion were ordered to persecute some Christians in the area they steadfastly refused and were thus “decimated”, a Roman military punishment that involved the killing of every tenth man. As they continued to disobey the order, eventually all were killed.

This letter may contain some exaggeration as decimation had not been practiced for centuries. Other accounts record only a small portion of the Thebian Legion being killed which may be more accurate. It is worth noting Donald F. O’Reilly’s work pointing to four main pieces of historical evidence though to confirm that the Thebian Legion did exist and that its leader was Maurice. See Wikipedia’s summary of this.  

Maurice was often depicted as a Black man in art. If accurate, this would make him the first Black saint
 canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

In his book “How Shall We Then Live” renowned Christian theologian and philosopher, Francis A. Schaeffer, uses the events at St. Moritz as an example of how a Christian should balance their loyalties to Church and State. 

“During the persecutions of the Christians under the Roman emperors, the action of the Roman military commander Maurice is a good example of a possible response. When he received an order to direct a persecution of Christians, he handed his insignia to his assistant in order to join the Christians and be killed as a fellow believer.” 

It is noteworthy and admirable that Maurice did not fight back and war “in the name of Christ”, as a soldier might and as some countries erroneously have, but rather laid down the proverbial sword and followed the example of his Saviour only centuries earlier. 

“And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:51

Ours is truly a spiritual battle that will one day end in perfect peace, not a physical or political one to be fought over and over again to no end - and Maurice understood that.