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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

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